DAVAO CITY – They slept by day. At night, they left. Following the trail of the river, they walked, crawled, and stumbled. Datu Tungig Mansumuy-at didn’t use flashlights so that they won’t be seen. They first carried their children then went back for the ill.
On the 29th day of April, the entire village of Talaingod evacuated here again due to heightened military activities and alleged abuses against civilians in their area.
It was getting dark at UCCP (United Church of Christ of the Philippines) when Manobo tribal Datu Tungig Mansumuy-at, wearing a blue shirt and purple drawstring pants, led his son by hand to a nearby bench, where there was light.
Mansumuy-at is one of the leaders of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, a group that Manobos in Talaingod formed to defend their land from investors.
Upon taking his seat, he narrated what happened back then.
In 1993, C. Alcantara and Sons Inc. (CASI, formerly Alsons) was awarded an Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The agreement granted 20,000 hectares of land CASI to develop into an industrial tree plantation.
In 1994, armed with bows and arrows, bolos, and spears, the tribal baganis, their warriors, led by Chieftain Datu Guibang Apoga waged a bush war for their land. They used booby traps called batik wherein a sharpened bamboo is tied with a rope in such a way that when someone trips over the rope, the bamboo hits him with a fatal blow.
It was a while before the government military was able to understand their battle tactics, Datu Mansumuy-at said, because their weapons do not bang like guns do. Then they decided to evacuate to the city.
The Manobos are traditionally nomadic in culture. For food, they constantly search for land to till. They look for another place to live in if a family member dies in their house. In believing that god as creator makes him the rightful owner of land, they do not claim absolute ownership of it. Benefiting from properties not theirs is a practice called usufruct. In return, they take care of it.
But now the nomadic culture can no longer be practiced, for they no longer have land to go to. And in grievous circumstances, they staged a pangayaw, a tribal war.
Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon is a Manobo term for “the land we will not give to the foreign capitalists.”
In 1997, the government passed the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) whose aim was to recognize, protect, and promote the rights of the Indigenous Peoples. However, there are sections that seem to contradict its goal.
Section 55 states that communal rights over ancestral domains should not be confused with coownership as in the R.A 386 (New Civil Code).
Also, section 56 provides that property rights in ancestral domains existing upon effectivity of said act shall be recognized and respected.
It was in 1993 that IFMA was formed. Two years after, the DAO 96-40 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995) was passed, which tribal communities in many mountain communities in Mindanao have voiced out their disagreement.
The Manobos of Talaingod like Datu Tungig wonder what law they can use to uphold their rights.
Now 20 years later, the Matigtalomo-Manobo have evacuated again in the ensuing fight between the NPA and the military. They had to leave, Datu Mansumuy-at said, to speak of their plight and to be helped.
Fearing for their safety, they decided to evacuate to the city again.
In the eyes of a Manobo, Datu Mansumuy-at wondered why people have no homes to sleep in when the land was so wide. “Why do people eat garbage when in the city, food is so abundant? Why is fish and wood being sold? Why do the land and the seas have to be divided? Why is no one helping those sleeping outside and eating garbage?”
The people from support groups helping them were how all leaders should be, said Datu, for they all ate the same food. If the evacuees only had gabi/taro, the support group members ate that as well. A hungry people’s leader should be hungry too, he said, then added, when they think, they don’t think for themselves only, but for everyone.
“I am called Datu by my people, but I am not different from them. If they’re hungry, I’m hungry too. If they worry, I worry more.” (davaotoday.com)