On Bukidnon’s centennial: Reflect on identity, history, development

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/24 May) – In celebrating the province of Bukidnon’s centennial, an award-winning novelist from the Higaonon tribe urged government and the public to reflect on the people’s identities, histories, and inclusive development.

Telesforo Sungkit Jr., two-time winner of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Writers’ Prize, said one challenge in the celebration is to check what has changed in the province over the years.

“Is the economy, politics, and culture still inclusive (like they used to)?” he said in his speech as guest of honor in the launching of the 1st Bukidnon Book Festival, and other Bukidnon centennial celebration-related initiatives of community news agency Bukidnon News.Net and partners on May 22 at the Bukidnon State University’s Ethno-cultural Museum.

He urged the audience, many of them participants of the 3rd Bukidnon News Malaybalay Youth Summer Workshops, to help correct errors in telling the stories on Bukidnon and to tell more good and true stories about the province and its peoples.

Sungkit, who hails from Malitbog, Bukidnon and author of Bukidnon’s first epic novel Batbat Hi Udan (The Story of Udan) and other award-winning books, said it is not real development if buildings rise and cars increase in number along the roads but people are hungry and begging in the streets.

Bukidnon’s poverty incidence rose to 43.3 percent in 2012 from 38.8 percent in 2009 and 40.4 percent in 2006, according to the “First Semester Per Capita Poverty Threshold and Poverty Incidence among Families, by Region and Province: 2006, 2009 and 2012” released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) last year.

In other words, 43 out of 100 families in the province are poor.

This placed Bukidnon as the 7th in Mindanao and the 13th in the country with the most number of families considered poor in 2012.

Bukidnon ranked 18th in 2006 and 20th in 2009 among the country’s 80 provinces in terms of poverty ranking.

“Development is when everyone can eat, no one will be hungry and be left behind… That’s the culture here. Development is development for all,” he added in the launching rites, which was held back-to-back with the closing rites of the 3rd Bukidnon News Malaybalay Youth Summer Workshops.

Sungkit cited the sad fate of Lumads (indigenous peoples), original inhabitants of the province, which he said was named “Bukidnon” by colonizers. He said they had been ill-treated and misunderstood.

He cited, for example, that Lumad ancestors and contemporaries have been blamed for the balding of Bukidnon’s forest through “kaingin” (slash and burn) farming.

“Legal logging, as espoused by many migrants, did,” he added.

“I don’t believe our ancestors destroyed the mountains. Before they came, trees used to be very big,” he added.

Sungkit said now the mountains and plains were converted to pineapple and banana plantations, or left as cogon grasslands, among others.

He noted that history and other writings on Bukidnon discriminate on the Lumads with the province’s name clearly referring to the discriminatory phrase “people from the mountains, backward people.”

He also explained why he refused to call the native language “Binukid,” because it is a remnant of colonizers’ reference to the Lumads as backward people.

“For the long time that it has been used, others learned to accept it (Binukid as name of the language),” he added.

He said “Bukidnon” and “Binukid” are not in the vocabulary of Bukidnon’s earlier inhabitants because it is an “invention of its colonizers,” referring to the Spanish term for people from the mountain as “monteses”. Online sites yield translations such as “wild” and “savage”.

He said some of the original names of the places were replaced by the foreigners such as Tangkulan, Maluku, and Kimambong. He cited that the original name of the place considered center during early days was called “Talugan ta Tagolowan.”

He urged the participants of the summer workshop and the launching to write books on Bukidnon about the people’s experiences to help fill the gaps or errors of history and faulty research works written by people who are not from Bukidnon or who do research and leave no copies of their work for validation in local libraries.

He cited for example that many researchers use the Lumads only as subjects of their stories without sharing to them the findings of their research.

Bukidnon News.Net is working with the Bukidnon State University – College of Arts and Science Social Sciences Department and the University Library for the 1st Bukidnon Book Festival, the main events of which are scheduled in time for the Bukidnon Centennial celebration (see related story).