In the end, after four hours of modern tele-conference technology, the participants — young Lumads themselves, learned they have something in common with the indigenous peoples from Luzon and Visayas: their world is shrinking everyday because of development aggression, mining and environmental degradation.
“I did not know that other tribes fared much worse than we did until I saw them on that screen,” says 18-year-old Bebie Rose Tacal, a Talaandig, whose ancestral lands are threatened by agricultural plantations in Talakag, Bukidnon.
“The sad thing is we realized that Lumads from all over the country are fast losing our ancestral lands to big business,” Nescelit Bandal, 19, a Subanen from Siay, Zamboanga de Sibugay, said.
The tele-conference, the first in the country courtesy of Assisi Development Foundation, a non-government organization, is the culmination of the five-day Kalindogan youth congress held in the campus of the University of Southern Philippines in Barangay Mintal, Davao City, last weekend.
The young participants came from 30 Lumad tribes in Mindanao. They spoke with their fellow Lumads representing seven tribes in Luzon.
During the congress, the young Lumads tackled indigenous people’s rights, mining, agricultural plantations and vanishing culture which are affecting their existence.
“I do not even know how to sing the songs of our tribe,” Gina Sangoc, a young Tagakaulo girl from Sta. Maria, Davao del Sur, said.
The participants aired their concerns in a two-page manifesto where they call on the government to impose a moratorium on mining and expansion of agricultural plantations.
The young lumads also asked the government to come up with an educational system for them and the establishment of an agency, Department of Indigenous Peoples.
They admonished the government for implementing projects without properly consulting the Lumad communities in the affected sites.
“The Lumads are not anti-development. They just want to be consulted before any project is constructed on their lands,” Benjamin Abadiano, president of the Assisi Foundation said.
He said the government is one of the worst offenders for not consulting Lumad communities every time a big project is implemented.
Abadiano said the entire tele-conference cost more than P300,000 but he says it was money very well-spent.
“It is time for the young Lumads to have a forum on their own to speak about their experiences,” he said.