Mindanao Peoples Caucus chair passes away

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 February) – The founding chair of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) passed away on Thursday in a hospital in Kidapawan City. 

In a statement, the MPC announced that Bae Magdalena Suhat Herbilla passed on at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday “due to complications of her cancer in the stomach.”

“She was supposed to undergo surgery for her large intestine but she died before the operation scheduled this morning,” the MPC said in its February 16 statement. 

Bae Magdalena Suhat Herbilla of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus on February 8, 2023 in Cotabato City during a forum on Internally Displaced Persons and Civil Society Organizations. Photo courtesy of MPC

“I have worked with Bae Magda for the past 23 years. There is only deep gratitude, highest respect and total awe at how Bae Magda touched so many hearts and minds not only within her own tribe but the Moro and Christian communities all over Mindanao,” Member of Parliament Mary Ann M. Arnado, one of the founders of MPC, said. 

Bae Magda’s wake will first be held for three days at the Tribal Hall of Poblacion Arakan to allow leaders from various tribes to pay their final respect and farewell.  Thereafter, she will be brought to her ancestral land in Mt. Sumalili in Arakan. Interment is on February 28 as the family is still awaiting the arrival of her daughter who is working overseas.  

Bae Magdalena Suhat Herbilla, founding chair of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, in a forum on Internally Displaced Persons a few days before her death. Photo courtesy of MPC

The MPC describes Bae Magda as a “highly respected and recognized expert on Indigenous People’s knowledge, systems and practices.” She specializes on “tribal governance and leadership and is a widely recognized resource person on ancestral domain protection and management,” a practitioner of conflict management and reconciliation who facilitated “settlement of conflict among warring tribes and communities.” 

Bae Magda, it added, was a pioneer representative for IPs Council of Leaders in the province of North Cotabato and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 

The Lumad leader served as barangay captain of Kulaman Valley in Arakan from 1981 to 1983; member of the Initiatives for International Dialogue from 2000 to 2001; volunteer of Sulong Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law from 2008 to 2011; member of the Board of Trustees of the Federation of Matigsalug Manobo Tribal Council in  Sinuda, Kitaotao, Bukidnon  from 2008 to 2012; training officer of Bantay Ceasefire in Cotabato City from 2008 to 2014; Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative in Barangay Sumalili, Arakan from 2014 to 2020; and member of the Council of Ugnayang Pambansa para sa Katutubong Kaalaman at Talino (UPAKAT) from 2016 to 2020.

Bae Magdalena Suhat Herbilla of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (center) with Lumad leaders from Bukidnon led by Datu Migketay Vic Saway and MPC Executive Director Atty Mary Ann Arnado (beside Bae Magda) enter the Rizal Hall of Malacanan Palace for the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on Oct. 15, 2012. MindaNews file photo by KEITH BACONGCO

Before her death, she was a member of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute Incorporated, convenor of the IP Moro kinship Council in Cotabato City, member of the Council of Leaders in the Province of North Cotabato, chair of the Kulamanon Manobo Development Initiatives in Sumalili, Arakan and MPC chair. 

She was awarded by the Initiatives for International Dialogue as the Most Outstanding Community Mediator in 2008 and in 2010 was given a Tribal Chieftain citation by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Region 12. 

Bae Magda spent her final days with MPC in Cotabato City on February 7 to 10 where she convened a CSO Forum to facilitate the safe return of the IDPs in the SPMS Box back to their places of origin. She also attended a meeting with partners from Save the Children-Philippines and officiated a ritual for the blessing of the new office of the MPC.  

Bae Magda is not only the leader of the Kulamanon Manobo tribe but also the Bae of the Lumad, Moro and settlers of Mindanao.  Mindanao.  MPC will organize a Parangal (tribute) on February 27 to celebrate and honor the courageous life and work of Bae Magda. Interment is on February 28. (MindaNews)