OLANGUHON, Dalwangan, Malaybalay City (MindaNews/04 June) – The military vowed to seek free and prior informed consent from the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe the next time they will enter their ancestral domain in Mt. Kitanglad.
Col. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, made the promise in a ritual of reconciliation held on Sunday at the Mt. Kitanglad Cultural Heritage Center here following the protest from the tribe over the bombing conducted by the military in late April in parts of their territory.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines is also sensitive and we will abide with the customs and traditions of the IPs (indigenous peoples),” Gapuz, who came to the ritual with a platoon of soldiers in three military vehicles declared.
Tribal leaders from other towns, including Datu Magdaleno Mayda Pandian, the mandatory IP representative to the provincial board, attended the ritual.
Gapuz admitted that they need to educate their personnel about the need for FPIC if they enter the sacred grounds of the tribe’s ancestral domain.
He said they are also willing to declare the ancestral domain of the tribe as a peace zone, and accused the New People’s Army of allegedly violating it.
He said the sacred sites of the ancestral domain are peace zones because there are restrictions on entry.
Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, the tribe’s head claimant and spiritual leader earlier called the bombing “a violation of their culture and an affront to their ancestral territory.”
She wrote Gov. Alex Calingasan and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of Mt. Kitanglad to ask them to facilitate a meeting with the military and arrange for the ritual to appease the spirits.
Tarino is a member of the PAMB representing the indigenous peoples.
Mt. Kitanglad became a full-fledged protected area in November 2000 through Republic Act 8978, ten years after its proclamation as a national park. The Act explicitly recognizes the indigenous people’s right to exercise their culture in the protected area.
Gapuz agreed to provide the needs for the ritual, which the tribe said was meant as apology to the spirits for the destruction of portions of Mt. Dulangdulang, Sawaga River, and other sacred spaces during the bombing.
In the ritual, Tarino cut a multi-colored thread tied to the feet of a bloodstained chick and held on the other end by Gapuz, brigade commander, and dropped it into a hole in the ground.
She then took two coins from the bangkasu or altar of offerings, and wiped it with blood from the ritual animals before handing one to Gapuz. She said a prayer before they exchanged the coins which they dropped into the hole. They then covered the hole with soil.
Tarino said the ritual panastas ha panlubdas or the cutting of the thread signified that they cut the bad luck to end the dispute.
She explained to the congregation halfway through the ritual that they did so as they are ready to bury all bad luck and deeds brought by the bombing and reconcile after the misunderstanding.
The exchange of coins, she added, symbolized fairness so nobody would be disadvantaged after the ritual.
The ritual started and ended with Tarino sounding the gong to call the attention of all present. Among the participants, she said, were the spirit-stewards and the Bukidnon-Daraghuyans’ ancestors.
Another altar, adorned with four white cloths on each side, was offered exclusively to the ancestors who Tarino said “also have a right to be in the ritual as they used to lord it over their ancestral domain.”
A third altar, the smallest and which only had one foundation, was offered to the bad spirits. The elders placed nine eggs and coins on it.
“We asked them to give us time to settle, to talk that they may no longer cast destruction, bad luck, and conflict,” Tarino said.
She said the ritual was inclusive, as it included even the spirits who “took care of all life forms.”
She said the elders would offer prayers so that everyone present will be blessed and will enjoy protection.
“But you have to say your own prayers too. It will be more effective,” she added.
Tarino stressed that it was important to hold the dialogue as prayers alone will not resolve the conflict.
While the meat of the sacrificial animals was being cooked, Tarino gathered all participants inside the heritage center where she introduced the boundaries of the tribe’s ancestral domain as shown in its Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title. She then asked those who came to introduce themselves and some of the elders to express their sentiments on the event.
The tribe’s youth also showcased their dances which imitated the movements of the eagle, money and snake.
Gapuz told MindaNews after the ritual that they will secure FPIC from the tribe before any operation in the area.
He said pursing the rebels and attending the ritual of the community are part of their job to “secure the communities.”
Tarino told MindaNews earlier that the rebels are not exempted from the tribe’s FPIC process.
Ma. Easterluna Canoy, executive director of Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, one of the groups supporting the tribe said the Bukidnon-Daraghuyans are among the leading protectors of Bukidnon’s forests.
A representative from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples said it was high time the tribe worked on its own Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan.
Canoy said a representative from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process did not make it to the event.
The National Democratic Front, she added, was also invited but did not respond to the invitation.
Salvacion Dedicatoria, chief of the Provincial Planning and Development Office, who represented Calingasan, said the tribe must learn to stand on its own and not allow itself to be used. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)