Bukidnon hosts first ever national language summit

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 15 February) – Lordjane Caballero-Dordas from the Panay-Bukidnon tribe was pleased to get acquainted with other indigenous peoples (IPs) in the country.

Known in her tribe as Lagdungan (meaning “cannot be overshadowed”), the granddaughter of a “Binukot” (well-kept maiden) is just one of the hundreds of IPs from all over the Philippines who gathered here for the country’s first ever language summit.

Members of different ethno-linguistic tribes such as the Aeta, B’laan, Sama-Bajau, Panay-Bukidnon, Manobo, Tagakaolo, Higaonon, and Subanen, among others, were here for a three-day summit that tests the Filipino language as lingua franca in cross-cultural communication.


Students from the Bukidnon State University perform an indigenous peoples’ dance during a cultural show held inside the campus on Feb 13. (Photo contributed by Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino)

Delia Giron of the Ivatan tribe in Batanes said she appreciated the discussions in the open forum held on Feb. 13.

She said, “Naipalabas talaga ang mga hinaing ng mga katutubo…Very accommodating din ang mga guests (The IPs were really able to air their grievances…The guests speakers were also very accommodating).”

Arnold Reyes, a Buhid-Mangyan from Mindoro, echoed this, saying: “magandang pagkakataon ito para sa isang mapayapang usapan (The summit was a good opportunity for a peaceful dialogue).”

The open forum tackled IP issues such as the perceived exclusion of the Bajaus in RA 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the absence of IP mandatory representatives (IP-MR) in some LGUs, mining in areas without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Aetas in Pampanga, and IP scholarships.

The issues were addressed to a panel composed of Virgilio Almario, chair of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino; Leonor Oralde-Quintayo, chair of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP); Francisco Fernandez, undersecretary for Peace and Order at the Department of the Interior and Local Government; Datu Antonio Kinoc of the MILF peace panel; and Sukarno Tanggol, chancellor of the Mindanao State University- Iligan Institute of Technology.

Datu Hussayin Arpa, a Sama-Bajau and the president of the Philippine Council for Sama and Bajau, claimed they had been left out in the ancestral domain talks.

He said, “Nakalimutan na ang Sama-Bajau…Dahil ba sa dagat kami nakatira kaya di na kami kasali sa ancestral domain? (The Sama-Bajau had been forgotten. Is it because we live in the sea that we can’t claim our ancestral domain?)”

The Bajaus, also known as Sama Dilaut, is a Moro ethnic group of sea dwellers found in the Sulu Archipelago, Mindanao coastal areas as well as in Sabah, Malaysia.

NCIP’s Leonor Oralde-Quintayo responded that IPRA also recognizes ancestral waters. “May ancestral waters, ang problema ay kung paano mabibigyang diin ang right na ito,” she said.

Regarding the lack of IP representation in some LGUs, Quintayo said that “they avoid filing a writ of mandamus (a judicial order) but that they would see alternatives to push for its widespread implementation.”

The “National Guidelines for the Mandatory Representation of Indigenous Peoples in Local Legislative Councils” sets the policy for IP representation in the Sanggunians or local legislative councils.

Just like the IP-MR, FPIC was also mandated by the IPRA and that measures were being made to ensure their implementation.

Issues like these were discussed during the workshops on Feb. 15.

According to Dr. Jimmy Fong, KWF commissioner for Southern cultural communities, expected outputs in the workshops are peace pacts, position statements and resolutions concerning the use of language to forge a culture of peace.

The summit was also participated by students and teachers of different universities in the country such as the University of the Philippines, Mindanao State University, Palawan State University, Bukidnon State University and Central Mindanao University, among others.

The “Wika ng Kapayapaan: Pambansang Summit at Palihan” was conducted by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino using an undisclosed fund from the Department of Budget and Management and from Sen. Loren Legarda.

The KWF was created in 1991 to develop and enrich the Filipino language and to preserve the languages of the IPs.

The NCIP said in its website that the country has 110 ethno-linguistic groups with 11.3 million population, more than 10 percent of the country’s total population of 92 million per 2010 census. (April Rose Torion/ MindaNews)