Tribal leaders spurn caroling by Lumads

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 December) — Tribal leaders have disapproved of what has become the practice of Lumads to come down from the mountains for Christmas and do some caroling in the city, a city official said.

Ma. Lourdes Bermudo, chief of the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO), said tribal leaders and deputy mayors have expressed this sentiment during the November 12 contingency meeting in the city to prepare for the influx of Lumads this Christmas season.

Bermudo said the tribal leaders said they felt insulted by the practice.

”They said it (Christmas caroling) has never been part of their tradition and that they feel insulted by it,” she said.

Tribal leaders Datu Manbo-os in Paquibato, Herminia Ortiz in Tugbok, Calinan district, Atanawe Tribe Datu Roel Arthur Lali, also in Paquibato, and Datu Carlito Guinto in Marilog  urged the city government to just let the Lumads stay where they live and that, if they wish, the city should only visit them there.

Bermudo also said that although the former mayor prepared accommodations to ensure their safety, the city government has not encouraged Lumads to come during Christmastime.

”What started out as a gesture of gift-giving has encouraged more Lumads not only in Davao city but also in surrounding areas, to come down the city for Christmas each year,” she said.

From only a few Lumads in 2000, the number reached 9,300 last year as those living in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur also came.

Bermudo said that each year, the CSSDO has been preparing a contingency plan to accommodate the Lumads but that their number kept growing.

She, however, said that only 2,023 Lumads have arrived, a whopping 71.79-percent decrease from the 9,300 who came to the city last year.

The lumads and their dependents are housed in the city’s eight barangay gyms.

”We would like to correct the impression that the city has been inviting them, we have not, although the past administration also made it a point not to shoo them away by preparing for them and receiving them warmly,” Bermudo said, adding, ”it was done in the spirit of the yuletide gift-giving.”

She said she hopes that next year, the Lumads will no longer leave their villages for Christmas.

Tribal leaders also complained that spending the entire time away from their homes have also brought along several problems to the communities when the Lumads come back.

”A lot of them (tribal datus) have to settle misunderstandings between husbands and wives,” Bermudo said.

”The situation also exposed the Lumads to illegal recruiters and the danger of human trafficking and people who take advantage of them,” Bermudo, quoting the tribal leaders, said.

She refused to call the city’s gift-giving a ”dole out” because it only happens during Christmas season.

Lumads from as far as Agusan and Surigao del Sur have been coming to the city, enticed by the prospect of gifts. This year, however, Bermudo said, those coming from other areas were earlier forced to go home because the city has not prepared the facilities yet.

For this year, the city tapped the existing gyms in barangay 5-A, Matina Aplaya, Buhangin, Bunawan, Mintal, Tugbok, Calinan and Toril to house the Lumad visitors.

The city distributes [to the Lumads] packed dinners at 4 to 5 pm, administered by social workers who also do some food tasting to ensure that the food they distribute are safe.  She said she heard four or five of them complain of upset stomach and alerted the caterer about it. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)