PHOTO ESSAY: DENR, Talaandig tribe hold ritual to end 20-year conflict

Datu Migketay Victorino Saway presides over the ritual and explains its purpose. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

Members of the Talaandig tribe and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office of Bukidnon held Thursday a ritual in Songco, Lantapan, Bukidnon marking the closure of a conflict between them that erupted over 20 years ago.

The conflict, which heightened after the tribe imposed a sala (cultural penalty) on 17 April 2001 against Felix S. Mirasol Jr., then the Protected Area Superintendent of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, and at least 10 other officials of DENR-Malaybalay.

The tribe accused the DENR officials and employees of implementing projects inside ancestral lands in Mt. Kitanglad without the consent of the concerned communities, destroying the unity of the tribe and their leadership, among others. They were told to settle the case within 15 days and comply with certain symbolic offerings, including pigs and other animals.

The “respondents” refused to submit to the sala process, citing their unfamiliarity with it. They also reasoned that they were only doing their job when they implemented the projects in Mt. Kitanglad. The failure of both parties to reach a compromise caused the conflict to drag on for years.

But on Thursday, July 14, the tribe accepted the gesture of the DENR to put closure to the conflict in a way that would be acceptable to the latter, hence the holding of the ritual. Called Salimpukaw hu Kagsabuwa (roughly a ritual to awaken solidarity), both parties vowed to resume their partnership for environmental protection and conservation. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)

Talaandig elder Leonarda Saway prepares buyo (betel leaves) and other materials for the ritual. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO
Elders of the Talaandig tribe, DENR personnel, as well as representatives from the municipal government attend the ritual which they hope would strengthen conservation efforts in Mount Kitanglad Range, a protected area and an ASEAN Heritage Park. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO
Tribal elders and other participants to the ritual utter prayers as Datu Makapukaw Saway thrusts a knife into the sacrificial pig as an offering to the spirits. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO
Chickens are offered to the spirits during the ritual. It is believed that sacrificing animals will appease the spirits and prevent bad luck to humans. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO
DENR personnel touch with their soles the blood of the slaughtered pig, an act which is believed to protect them from harm. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO
Merlita Tabamo, protected area superintendent of Mount Kitanglad Range, vows respect for indigenous culture in carrying out programs and activities within the tribe’s ancestral territory. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO
Female elders of the Talaandig tribe always wear their colorful ethnic attire during rituals and other occasions of significance to the community. MindaNews photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO