I was asked to talk about love. I will not talk about the love of one person to another. You are the experts on that. Allow me to talk about ‘altruistic love.’

What is altruism? ‘Ethical altruism’ is a philosophical doctrine of living for others than oneself. In simple terms, one’s action for the good of others is out of generosity rather than self-interest. In its highest form, it is expressed when you sing the final line of Lupang Hinirang… “ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo.”

A person cannot be said to love unconditionally without being altruistic, nor can a person be altruistic without loving unconditionally. Unconditional love is a concept comparable to true love (Akdemirci, 2010).

Loving people we know, we interact with every day is not hard to understand. The tough act to follow is the liberating love as demonstrated by Jesus in the Bible. If we take a look at His life, everything was about social justice. He was opposed to all forms of marginalization. There are many words we can be applied for marginalization: discrimination, stigmatization, deprivation, oppression, exploitation.

Aside from opposing all forms is marginalization, Christ demonstrated inclusivity. He never excluded, isolated or turned a person away.

How is the situation of the marginalized majority today and how have we responded as a community? I have seen a lot of initiatives. We created programs to make our quality services accessible to our patients. We served our patients well because we always acknowledged that health is a basic human right. We also acknowledged that there is such a thing as collective rights. We may address individual health needs but we also do community approach — we gathered people with the same health conditions that we may come up with a program.

Most of the time, we serve our communities who live in stable conditions. But how about the communities under constant threat like the Lumad people? Do we see them as part of that humanity we promise to serve? You must have heard of the arson incident in the UCCP Haran evacuation center? Under that condition, how many people in this room would dare help the Lumad?

In the late 1990s, they were provided sanctuary in Haran and we treated those who were sick. I remember one man with a bamboo stick stuck in his leg. It was there for several days and he was lucky we saw him before he could have acquired tetanus infection. While the Lumad were staying at Haran, they planted some trees. The trees have grown tall now. I am grateful our compound will never get flooded. I have seen medical consultants and resident physicians providing them free medical consultations and facilitate referrals to a government facility when they needed hospitalization.

But can we love this community enough to be advocates for them? Can we ever measure up to their altruistic love? How many are aware that the Lumad people who seek sanctuary in Haran are from various parts of Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and other provinces? How many are aware that Talaingod indigenous people are targets because the Pantaron Range is an interest for mining corporations? The Lumad people have resisted corporations from further deforestation. Their defense of the remaining forests in the Pantaron range benefits us lowlanders. The Pantaron range is the source of headwaters that supply the major cities in Mindanao including Davao City.

The mining concessions all over the Philippines have left more than 50 dead rivers. But because of the altruism demonstrated by the Talaingod Manobos and other Lumad communities, we can still drink our water. What they have done is a demonstration of altruistic love. It is unconditional. It benefits us, including those who vilify them.

But what do we give them in return? We label them as members of the New People’s Army or NPA sympathizers so that all kinds of aggression being done to them are justified. The killing of the Lumad people is mostly done by state agents. The paramilitary group like the Alamara can be considered a non-state agent, but because they are being given state power to protect the interest of the corporations operating in the area, their anti-people actions are still considered human rights violations. Given the concrete experiences, the Lumad find it easier to see the link between neoliberalism and human rights violations than us who received education from traditional institutions.

I have helped Lumad communities for more than 30 years. When I was just a medical intern, they were in a cyclical displacement. They were called internal refugees or IDPs (internally displaced people) in the 1980s. The massive evacuation created new forms of dependence. We cracked our brains thinking how they could get out of that dependent situation.

Just imagine that without those clearing operations they were by themselves, neglected. But now on top of neglect, their survival rights are being threatened. But despite decades-long cyclical evacuation, they were able to establish schools in partnership with nongovernment organizations, civil society groups, and individuals. Their assertion for self-development made it easier for us health workers to promote health programs. They did this as part of self-determination. This is inclusivity. We should welcome this development. Why are we scared to share power and resources with the Lumads?

It is the lack of this kind of inclusivity that our nation is unable to achieve a good performance in terms of the Inclusive Development Index as well as the Sustainable Development. This call for inclusion is compatible with the biblical “least of your brothers and sisters.”

The economically advanced countries have governments that are secular yet they seem to have a more compassionate society. They love their citizens. They lead in the measure of the Inclusive Development Index. The Philippines, on the other hand, may be a Christian country but apparently, the government created does not demonstrate altruistic love for its citizens. We shun the idea of our government promoting land reform. We shun the idea of the government providing housing. We rather want to feed the greed of corporations that wreak havoc on the lives of the workers, farmers, Lumad, Moro people, women, children.

These companies are foreign-owned and partner with local politicians cum businesspeople. They extract our resources, exploit local workers then leave our environment in devastation. They do not pay proper taxes because the government is supposed to subscribe to free trade and liberalization.

The countries with advanced development like Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland enjoy the positive consequences of altruistic love for their citizens. Altruistic love definitely has its reward.

My experiences of the outpouring of prayers, kind words, food, money while I was admitted to the hospital proved that altruistic love has rewards. The more we give altruistic love by advocacy, state policy changes the more it uplifts us as a nation. The least we can do is not to marginalize certain communities. We must remember that they are poor because of the institutionalization of poverty. We have yet to see the institutionalization of inclusivity.

May this month of love be spent reflecting on altruistic love and taking concrete actions as individuals and as communities.

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