Lumads displaced by quakes: for some, there may be no village to return to

MAKILALA, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 09 November) — Bagobo Tagabawa Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) living in the hinterland villages here are among thousands of residents who have evacuated to the town center following a series of four above-magnitude-6 earthquakes between October 16 and 31.

When they will return to their villages, no one can say for now. When they do go back, repairing their damaged houses or building new ones to replace those that collapsed, will take time. For a still undetermined number of Lumads, however, there may be no home and no village to return to.

Barangay Luayon, whose residents are predominantly Bagobo Tagabawa, is one of four villages that have been declared as “no build zones” among Makilala’s 38 barangays.

Kagawad Cornelio Damali, Indigenous Peoples (IP) Mandatory Representative, said 84% of 647 households of barangay Luayon, are Lumads (IPs).

Residents of the entire village are now staying in evacuation centers in the poblacion since the Magnitude 6.5 quake struck on Thursday, October 31.

Damali said they average five “gyera” (wars) a year between government forces and the new Peoples Army (NPA) but “dili mi maapektahan sa gyera” (we’re not affected by the wars). He meant they have not evacuated because of the “gyera.”

But the series of earthquakes forced them out of their homes and villages “kay wala na miy puluy-anan. Hugmak na tanan (because we have no more homes to return to. All have collapsed)

“Walay balay nabilin sa Luayon” (No house stands in Luayon), Datu Cornelio Damali, IP Mandatory Representative said of their village which has been declared as one of four ‘no build zones’ in Makilala’s 38 barangays. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

“Walay balay nabilin sa Luayon. Pati among barangay hall nga lig-on kaaayo naguba. Eskwelahan — elementary high school daycare, hurot. Hugmak. (No house stands in Luayon. Even our barangay hall which is a strong structure, was destroyed. The elementary, high school and day care schools, too), the Kagawad, also referred to as Datu and Pastor, said.

Four earthquakes above Magnitude 6 struck the area between October 16 and 31: Magnitude 6.3 on October 16, Magnitudes 6.6 and 6.1 on October 29 and Magnitude 6.5 on October 31.

A resident, Patricio Lumayon, was hit by “nagalupad na mga bato” (flying rocks) while tapping rubber when the Magnitude 6.6 struck on October 29. He was rushed to the hospital in the poblacion but died in the evening.

“Dili na mi pabalikon sa Luayon”

The residents of Luayon did not only lose their homes, they also lost their main source of livelihood: rubber tapping, and have just been told they have lost their village, too.

Barangays Luayon, Bato, Buhay and Cabilao have been declared no-build zones, their residents evacuated to the poblacion.

“Mao na ingon sa Phivolcs. Dili na mi pabalikon sa Luayon” (That’s what the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said. We cannot return to Luayon), Damali explained.

He said their mayor told them government will relocate Luayon’s 647 households, more than 500 of that Lumads.

Damali said they would negotiate to be allowed to still farm in Luayon even if they would be relocated elsewhere, explaining that’s where their lands are.

He describes the land ownership in Luayon as fair. “Walay adunahan, walay pobre. Halos tanan naay yuta” (No rich, no poor. Almost all have lands). The lands are planted mostly to rubber.

Damali said he asked Makilala Mayor Armando Quibod a question that has not been answered: if, for example they have are able to acquire five to 10 hectares of land in Barangay Malasila for a relocation site, “matawag pa ba nga Barangay Luayon” (can you still call it Luayon)?

Luayon comes from word “Luay,” a kind of grass that that grows in their village.

But will they still call their village Luayon if Luay does not grow in their relocation site, MindaNews asked.

“Magkambyo na mig pangalan” (We will change our name), he said.

Sheryl Orbita, municipal administrator of Makilala told MindaNews that the local government is looking for relocation for residents of the villages declared ‘no build zones.’

She said they have several options to choose from but they will have these checked by the Phivolcs and the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau.

In the areas declared as “no-build zones,” Orbita said Phivolcs informed them farming can still be done at daytime but not when it rains. Living there,, however, will not be allowed.

Waiting for verdict

At the Makilala Central Elementary School, Datu Bienvenido Makalos told MindaNews that all households in Barangay Batasan at the foothills of Mt. Apo had fled their villages starting Tuesday, October 29, when the magnitude 6.6 and 6.1 quakes struck.

Datu Bienvenido Makalos of Barangay Batasan at the foothills of Mt. Apo in Makilala, North Cotabato, at the evacuation center in Makilala Central Elementary School on Tuesday, 5 November 2019. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Of this number, around 200 households or about 1,000 individuals are Bagobo Tagabawa, but they have been dispersed to three areas – in Kisante, Flortam and the school grounds where around 60 families have pitched tents.

Makalos said they fled their village after the Magnitudes 6.6 and 61. quakes on Tuesday, October 29, because they were afraid a lake in their ancestral domain might give way when another strong quake happens. Another quake did happen two days later, on October 31, at Magnitude 6.5.

That quake killed their barangay captain when a beam in the barangay hall fell on him.

He said they will wait for the government to declare their area safe or unsafe for return.

But what he wants to know is, if the verdict is it is unsafe, “asa dapit ang among relocation area” (where will our relocation area be?)

Getting displaced does not mean only physically but also culturally.

Up in the mountains, Makalos said, is their ancestral domain. “Mas dako ang territory” (the territory is bigger). In the evacuation center and in the relocation area, if they will be relocated, the area is small. But Makalos said that no matter the difficulties and the limitations, they will continue observing their cultural practices “kay dili pwede makalimtan ang atong pagka-Lumad” (because we shouldn’t forget our being Lumad).

Donations are not endless

At the evacuation camp at the Makilala Institute of Science and Technology in Barangay Concepcion, Myrna Linao, IP Mandatory Representative of Barangay Buhay told MindaNews on Friday that 135 Bagobo Tagabawa families have sought temporary shelter here while two other families are staying with relatives in Kidapawan.

Myrna Linao, Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative in Barangay Buhay on Friday, November 8, 2019, calls on government to relocate them immediately if necessary. Barangay Buhay is one of four villages declared ‘no build zones’ among Makilala’s 38 barangays. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Like Barangay Luayon, Barangay Buhay is one of the four villages declared “no build zone” but Linao said it is not clear to them as yet.

But she adds that if they are to be relocated, relocation should be done immediately so they can settle down and start anew.

She also wants an investigation on the cause of the frequent earthquakes. If it were a natural cause, Linao said they would readily accept that that is God’s will but if the cause is man-made, then the perpetrators should be punished.

She said Buhay, since time immemorial, has been their ancestral domain and their ancestors had declared that place safe.

“Bisan tabunan pa mig daghang goods karon, ang amo gyud ginahangdum makabalik mi sa among yutang natawhan. Mao gyud na among panawagan” (Even if you cover all of us with relief goods now, what we really want is to return to our ancestral domain. That is our call), she said.

Until when, she asked, will government and other donors give them help? When the giving stops, “asa mi padulong ug asa mi sa among inadlawng panginabuhian” (where will we go and what will happen to our source of daily livelihood?), Linao asked, adding “among panginabuhian naa man gyud sa ancestral domain namo” (our livelihood is in our ancestral domain).

Linao acknowledges that donations are not endless but “sariling paningkamot” (self reliance) in order to survive is a never-ending struggle.


The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) North Cotabato office’s report on “partial data” from the field as of November 7 showed the total number of IP families affected by the quakes at 11,792 households, with Makilala having the most number at 5,129, followed by Kidapawan City at 3,450, Magpet at 1,843 and Tulunan at 1,370.

Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) from Barangay Batasan at the evacuation site in Makilala Central Elementary School on 05 November 2019 in Makilala, North Cotabato. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) Situation Report 15 as of 6 a.m. on November 7 said that in North Cotabato, a total of 31,969 families or 159,845 individuals in 138 barangays were affected by the quakes.

The NCIP’s partial data of 11,792 affected IP households represent 36.8% of the 31,969 affected in the NDRRMC data on North Cotabato.

Joey Bogay, Acting NCIP Provincial Director told MindaNews the NCIP is still consolidating data on the number of affected IP families who are staying inside evacuation centers or are being served outside evacuation centers. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)