Maranao participation in Bukidnon’s Indigenous Peoples’ Month celebration pushed

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/31 March) – A member of Bukidnon’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan is pushing for the Maranaos’ participation in the province’s Indigenous Peoples’ Month celebration scheduled in October.

Board member Rogelio Lago, a “Balik Islam” (Muslim convert) from Baungon town, said the Maranaos should be considered as part of the province since the Bukidnon residents have already accepted them in their communities.

“They should be included also for harmony, and for peace and order in the province,” Lago told MindaNews.

Lago chaired the board’s committee on peace and order from 2007 to 2010.

He said the Maranaos can be included in the cultural presentations. They should also be accommodated in the bazaars and other economic activities, he added.

Lago admitted, however, that he expects opposition from some members of the board.

“But I will defend this proposal to promote harmony and to help prevent peace and order problems,” he added.

In February, the community of Muslim traders in Malaybalay and neighboring Valencia City complained that the provincial government excluded them from displaying their products at the capitol grounds because it was reserved for the Lumad and the booths from the local government units.

Ma. Carmen Unabia, then provincial administrator, told reporters they were not excluded but were only relocated to the Plaza Rizal.

Mandangan Ali, vice president of the United Muslim Association, decried the decision as a disregard of the role of the Muslims in the economy and in maintaining peace in the city. He said they have been part of previous Kaamulan celebrations.

Ali denied they were threatening sabotage but admitted they might not be as cooperative anymore.

On Wednesday, the Bukidnon provincial board welcomed the idea of celebrating the indigenous peoples’ month in October, which is declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Last year the provincial board passed an ordinance declaring that the IP month will be observed with the celebration of the annual Kaamulan.

Russell Aquino, head of the Provincial Indigenous Cultural Communities Affairs Division (PICCAD), told the board members the councils of elders of the province’s seven ethnic tribes are holding consultations on what to do during the month-long celebration.

He told MindaNews the provincial board is contemplating on observing the IP month celebration back in October to give way to genuine observance of the province’s indigenous population.

Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr., author of the ordinance institutionalizing the Kaamulan in February to March every year, said the plan will still be subject to more deliberations. The board again invited Aquino, along with provincial tourism officer in charge Kennie Peralta, for next week’s meeting. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)