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Bangsamoro and Lumads Renew Kinship

By: Emmanuel Roldan

IT was a few minutes past 11:00 in the morning of March 7 when we went onboard the white MindaNews van for a long trip to the Municipality of Lantapan, Bukidnon, more than 200 kilometers west of Davao City.  The simmering heat of the sun did not deter us eight journalists from Davao City to cover the historic event to “reaffirm the kinship ceremony between the Bangsamoro and Indigenous Peoples (Lumads)” as part of the peace process.  I was invited by the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) to cover and to witness the event together with other media persons from MindaNews, Manila Bulletin, Press Photographers of the Philippines, Inquirer and from other media outfits all over the country.  The youthful group of Bryon Pantoja of the Peacebuilding Community and originator of the Coffee for Peace Movement was also there for a full coverage of the event. It was indeed heartwarming to see young people joining the quest for peace in Mindanao.

At about 4:00 p.m. our van hit the rough strip from Davao-Malaybalay highway towards the hinterland of Bukidnon. On both sides of the road were laid colorful cloth banners with markings of different tribes of Lumads and Bangsamoro people signaling that we were near the ritual site called Sungku, Lantapan, located at the foothills of the serene Mt. Kitanglad. The sounds of “tambol” (native drums) from not so distant place drove away our long slumber as we finally entered the territory and ancestral domain of the Talaandig tribe headed by Datu Victorino Migketay Saway The two-day activity which started at noon that day was greeted by a heavy downpour, a “good omen” said Datu Makugihon of the Higaonon tribe in Malaybalay.  The soil was heavy and slippery making our stride difficult as if reminding us settlers/visitors to be grounded to our mother earth as we enter the sacred place of our ancestors.

 The afternoon program continued as we entered the large “Hall of Peace” to find our quarters for the night.  About 400 people converged the clearing in front of a stage where leaders of delegates from 13 Bangsamoro and 18 indigenous people’s tribes made short speeches about the occasion interrupted only by the secretariat giving instructions to delegates, members of the media and visitors and announcing the coming of new delegates. It was the first gathering of the Bangsamoro and Lumads after 492 years so everybody was awed by the relevance of the event that would be witnessed the following day.


The night was cold and damp. The air was so fresh that those from the city like us had missed for so long. After egging ourselves in the food line of stewed beef and vegetable for supper, everyone converged again in front of the stage for a cultural presentation.  Delegates of each tribe, young and old, shared their talents to the delight of the media and settlers who had not witnessed such a grand display of authentic culture and tradition of the Bangsamoro and the Lumads.  A young delegate from the Cordillera Province shared an ethic song in solidarity with the Bangsamoro and Lumads whose historical roots, albeit being divided by centuries of exploitation, injustice and aggression, have forever become strong. The sound of the tambol, guitar, kubeng, agong, flute and other ethnic instruments continued to reverberate until the wee hours of the morning.  The free-flowing hot coffee made from Arabica beans and roasted corn grits made everyone awake and to survive the shivering cold wind that was softly blowing from the east.   



The next morning was the day that everyone in the crowd came here for.  Stressing the importance of the occasion, Prof. Rudy Rodil, a historian and a former chief of the Government Peace Negotiating Panel with the MILF said “We are writing a new chapter in the history of Mindanao.” The communication office of the Mindanao People’s Caucus issued that “For the first time in 492 years, 13 Bangsamoro tribes have come together with 18 indigenous tribes to reaffirm their shared ancestry and commit to the five pillars of Kinship established in the traditional peace pact of their ancestors: Co-operation, Mutual Sharing of Information, Mutual Protection of Life, Recognition and Respect, and Mutual Obligation to Help the Needy.  Despite the animosities and conflicts in the past, these tribes have chosen to come together today to not only acknowledge their shared ancestry, but commit themselves to respect and protect one another.” 


 Both representatives from the Bangsamoro People and the Lumads including some members of the MILF Peace Panel exchanged tales and gifts to each other to show their commitment to the pact. Finally the reaffirmation ritual was sealed by butchering a young carabao whose blood drenched into the land of the Talaandig, a tradition to cleanse and to honor the land of the ancestors. A stone statue of kinship was also unveiled in the site where the pact was conducted so that future generations might know the importance of the event.


Indeed the kinship ceremony at the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad, Sungku, Lantapan on March 8, 2012 marks a new chapter in Mindanao’s history and the struggle of the Bangsamoro and Lumads towards sustainable peace, independence and development.  It upholds the ancient kinship of their ancestors by way of traditional pacts made long before the colonial era.  It shows the commitment of the Bangsamoro and the Lumads for a sustainable and genuine peace in Mindanao which is anchored on respect, justice, cooperation and self-determination. We hope this pact will hasten the ongoing Peace Talks between the MILF and the Government of the Philippines. 





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