DAVAO CITY—Building on the rich customs and traditions of the Bangsamoro and Lumad peoples of Mindanao, some 200 leaders representing the 28 municipalities of North Cotabato gathered in Kidapawan City on April 15 to reassert their unity and present their collective agenda to political candidates in the upcoming May 10 elections.
Dubbed as “Cotabato Assembly of Tabunaway and Mamalu Descendants,” the two-day event held at the Guadalupe Convention Center in Balindog tackled issues being faced by the Bangsamoro and Lumad (indigenous) communities in Cotabato, such as war and displacement, civilian protection, environment, human rights and encroachment into our ancestral domain.
“It will be an opportunity for us the descendants of Tabunaway and Mamalu to collectively present our agenda before the political candidates while listening to their platforms of government,” said Bapa Jose Akmad, council member of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), the assembly organizer. “We will revisit out past and reassert our unity, being descendants of Tabunaway and Mamalu,” he added.
Bae Magdalena Herbilla, also a council of MPC, said leaders of the various tribes in North Cotabato are eager to know the positions of the candidates on the issues in the province and how they can address these if elected.
“One of the core issues the Lumads face is the encroachment of several corporations and personalities into our ancestral domain despite our strong opposition,” Herbilla said adding that “the electoral campaigns will provide us with a chance to exchange our views with the candidates and to know their stand on the Bangsamoro and Lumad peoples.”
According to oral literature, the two origins of indigenous inhabitants of Mindanao – t he Tabunaway and Mamalu –are brothers. Tabunaway later converted to Islam while Mamalu retained his ancestors’ beliefs. This explains why Mindanao has Lumad and Moro peoples, both indigenous and co-existing peacefully in this land.
Historically, while the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao were enjoying their political governance, they remained in close relation with their ‘brothers’ on the borders of Bukidnon, Cotabato, Sarangani. Boundaries of territories are negotiated and respected.
This oral narrative gives a glimpse of identity and living in harmony. It is an important reminder on the current confusion over identity and territoriality pertaining to the aborted Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (Moa-AD) in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). (RRF)