DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A few months after returning to their communities from evacuation the Ata-Manobos who have returned to their communities in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte province are rebuilding their homes and way of life.
However, when they returned from evacuation, the Lumad suffer hunger and a strain of sickness as well.
The Manobos of Talaingod fled their communities in April 2014 after experiencing harassment from the military and the paramilitary group Alamara.
Datu Gumbel Mansimuy-at, who heads the agriculture committee of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon, said that their farms were completely neglected since 2014 when they evacuated to Davao City. While not everyone joined the mass evacuation, those who remained behind could not tend to their farms for fear of their lives, he said.
However, Datu Gumbel said it may take them five to six months before they can be economically independent again. Their community practices communal farming, wherein a whole Sitio helps in tending a farm. The community plants root crops, corn and rice. Half of the produce will be shared among their members for consumption, while the other half will be sold, Datu Gumbel said.
Apart from relief packs, the residents also received sacks of rice paddy to kick-start their farming.
Datu Tungig Mansimuy-at, who heads the committee for health, said the many in the community were sick of fever, coughs, and diarrhea. Initial reports indicate that at least 28 were sick in Sitio Laslasakan, six of whom were already hospitalized in Kapalong. At least two children have died. As of writing health workers are still providing medical check up to the residents of Sitio Tibucag.
The distance between the many different communities and the difficulty in communication has made consolidation of data as well as providing relief, difficult, Datu Tungig said. However, the Salugpongan has been training health workers. As of the moment, there are already 30 active health workers in the communities, but the lack of available medicine has stymied their efforts.
“Wala kaayo’y tambal, herbal lang” (We don’t have a lot of medicines, we just make use of herbal remedies), Datu Tungig said.
Lumad leaders also said their community schools suffer from military attacks.
Committee head for Education Datu Benito Bay-ao said the continuing presence of the military in their communities hamper their education.
Community schools under the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Incorporated, were branded as rebel schools, said Bay-ao.
Sabel Laquina, the basic education curriculum coordinator of STTICLCI said that for as long as the military and the Alamara are present in the community, their operation and consequently, the education of the Lumad will be at “constant jeopardy.”
On Friday, Nov. 30, the community celebrated the 23rd founding anniversary of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon organization. The celebration highlighted their successes in defending their right to self-determination and ancestral domain.
The Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon was established by Datu Guibang Apoga in 1994 to resist the encroachment of big logging company C. Alcantara and Sons in the Lumad communities of Talaingod. Led by Datu Guibang, the Datus of Salugpongan declared a pangayaw (tribal war) against Alsons, killing and injuring their security guards. Datu Guibang has been in hiding ever since, but the remaining Datus of Salugpongan remain resolute in their fight for the rights of the Lumad.
“Atong dugang iduso ang pagbarug sa tawhanong katungod alang sa tinuod nga kaugalingong paghukom ug ipadayon ang diwang masuklanon” (Let us continue to stand for our right to self determination, and maintain the spirit of the struggle), the Salugpongan said in a statement. (davaotoday.com)