SONGCO, Lantapan, Bukidnon (MindaNews/09 March) – Representatives of eight Moro tribes and most of the Lumad or non-Islamized tribes in Mindanao yesterday signed a five-point kinship covenant in a gathering here filled with festive remembrance of historical relationships and aspirations for peace and unity in the island.
Aside from signing the covenant, the participants also unveiled the monument marking the reaffirmation of their kinship, an event witnessed among others by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel and the International Monitoring Team.
The covenant, printed on white paper and etched in a plaque installed on the monument, cited mutual recognition and respect (kilalaha), mutual sharing of information (sayuda), cooperation (buliga), mutual
protection and preservation of life (uyaga), and mutual obligation to help the needy (pagbatunbatuna).
“The indigenous peoples and the Moro of Mindanao hereby acknowledge the following principles and doctrines of kinship as basis of their cooperation, understanding, and unity as descendants of the early
inhabitants in the island of Mindanao,” the declaration stated.
Before signing the covenant Lumad and Moro leaders exchanged accounts of shared history passed on for generations, mostly recalling a past that belonged to “one blood.” Their accounts differed in some respects but all of them cited peace pacts.
Among the stories the Lumad speakers shared was that of the brothers Mamalu and Tabunaway. The latter converted to Islam upon the arrival of Shariff Kabungsuan.
Moro representatives recalled stories of their ancestors’ interaction with the Lumads, including datus who shared portions of their ancestral domain to Moro people in their areas.
For their part, the Talaandigs offered their own version of the peopling of Mindanao. They said Apu Agbibilin was the grand ancestor of the Talaandig, Manobo, Maranao, and the Maguindanao.
Dr. Akmad Alonto, a Maranao, cited the Salsila, which contains accounts of a tampuda or peace pact between Lumad and Moro in Bukidnon.
He said that one more proof of kinship is belief in a creator, God.
The Maranao representatives asked the settlers, who they consider as brothers, not to be afraid of the reaffirmation of kinship “because it is good for everybody.”
Datu Ampuan Jeodoro Sulda, a Manobo leader from southern Bukidnon, however, called for the participants to set aside their tribal affiliations and differences, as the focus [of the gathering] was on their similarities.
“Each tribe has its own story. Let’s leave it at that. Let’s focus on the common (theme among those versions) that is our kinship,” he added.
Datu Migketay Victorino Saway, the host datu, presented to the participants and observers the members of the joint IP-Moro joint peace council, which Saway said, will help resolve conflicts between the Lumads and the Moro and address issues concerning the rights and development of the indigenous peoples.
Saway called the creation of the council “very important” to the peace efforts in Mindanao, adding it has “never been done before, anywhere.”
After the sharing of stories, the participants exchanged tokens.
Products like the kris (sword), tubao (scarf), kopya (cap), doldol (rice cakes) and replicas of agong and vinta from the Moro were exchanged with traditional dress, kalapi (sling bags), lambitan (sword), among others from the Lumad. Even personal stuff, like lipstick container with traditional motif and caps, were not spared.
When MILF peace panel member Abhoud Syed Lingga offered a tubao and kris as tokens to Datu Migketay symbolizing security, the Talaandig chieftain returned the favor with a lambitan saying it symbolizes mutual security.
Datu Sulda offered kalapi to Ali Rajahmuda, a Maranao, who offered dol-dol as a symbol of good relations.
Yan kapian or applause followed each gesture of appreciation.
The tulugan of the Talaandig tribe in Songco, at the foot of Mt. Kitanglad, had been home to big banquets but yesterday’s feast did not include pork, just beef, chicken, and vegetable.
The ritualists held a sumbali, a ritual where a carabao instead of a pig was offered, aside from chickens.
After the sumbali, Datu Migketay led a pabugwas, a cleansing rite performed by Lumad and Moro ritualists.
The most awaited part of the ceremony was the unveiling of the monument marking the kinship reaffirmation, which features a tibod or vessel crafted by Anak Tribu, the youth of the Talaandig tribe.
Anilao Inlantong Erwin Marte, an aide of Datu Migketay said the tibod symbolizes the vessel containing the customs and traditions left behind by Apu Agbibilin to Apu Saulana, the ancestor of the
Apu Saulana, he said, was a woman who served as peacemaker for her three brothers who used coconut oil to keep order. This was reenacted when the participants queued for Datu Migketay to place oil on the their forehead.
Saway said the reaffirmation of kinship is a baseline material for the GPH-MILF peace process, something that the tribes have worked on the ground.
But no representative from the government peace panel and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) was around.
Marte told MindaNews the OPAPP wrote the Mindanao People’s Caucus to beg off to avoid complications and allow the MILF panel to be the sole party in the background of the event initiated by the indigenous peoples with support from the civil society.
NCIP-10 regional director Pinky Pabelic and Bukidnon provincial administrator Provo Antipasado Jr., representing Gov. Alex Calingasan, along with other local officials, witnessed the event.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr, the only government official from Manila who was present, vowed support for the effort and pledged to pass a bill declaring March 8 as Mindanao Day to honor the event. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)