written by Michael L. Tan, Inquirer, 21 October 2016
“For a week now, UP Diliman has been hosting some 3,000 visiting scholars lecturing and interacting with students in their areas of expertise: history, anthropology, political science, the arts, literature, even engineering and architecture.
“But they are a different breed of scholars—not holders of academic degrees (some have never even been in formal schools), yet steeped in wisdom acquired from facing challenge and adversity in life. Listening to them, many of whom are even more articulate and eloquent than some of our faculty members, I wondered what it would have been like if they did go through formal schooling, and got the degrees to append to their names.
“The “Lakbayan ng mga Pambansang Minorya,” a caravan of national minorities, is unprecedented. Never in our history has there been such a gathering of so many delegates, from throughout the country: Cagayan Valley, the Cordillera, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon (including Mindoro), Panay Island, and the breadth of Mindanao. There was an assembly last weekend that formally convened Sandugo, a nationwide alliance of national minorities.
“ “National minorities” was the generic term chosen but the visitors had varying ways of calling themselves: Igorot (a generic term for many groups in the Cordillera), Aeta (actually various linguistic groups, stretching from Isabela down to Panay), lumad (for indigenous peoples from Mindanao), and Moro. “Katutubong Pilipino” is a favored term, but “pambansang minorya” and an abbreviated “natmin” are coming into use.
“The Diliman campus has come alive with sounds of ganza (gongs) and kudyapi (a string instrument), and women and men in colorful ethnic clothing. Security guards and janitors have come up to me with stories of what they learned from the visitors. I’d smile whenever the staff said, “Ang bait pala nila”—“bait” here not so much “kind” as “gentle,” so different from the stereotype of “natives”—that popular term for national minorities—as warlike.
“I thought, too, of how “bait” is sometimes used as the opposite of “salbahe” (derived from the Spanish “salvaje,” or savage. After the Spain colonization, the Christianized natives were the bait ones and those who resisted were, well, the salvajes.
“Our sense of being Filipino can never be complete without the natmin. Last Wednesday Marvin, a Dumagat from nearby Antipolo, spoke at one of my classes on how their very name refers to their origins as people of the sea. Now they have pushed into the Sierra Madre, which they do love, and have vowed to defend as ancestral land, but there was also a sense of nostalgia in his voice, for another ancestral land that his generation, maybe even his grandfather’s generation, had never seen.
“We are all like the Dumagat—somewhat lost, not quite sure who we are. We now wander the world, a people in diaspora. We long for a past that is glamorized through television, unaware that we can find our roots with our national minorities, and work toward building a common future.
“The visitors came to Manila largely at their own expense. They prepare their food and buy additional personal items from sari-sari stores in our communities. UP Diliman tries to help with their daily needs, with generous donors pitching in (for example, the Community Chest provided 3,000 kits with toiletries).
“But Bai Bibyaon, a revered 90-year-old lumad leader, said she was missing tobacco, as in raw tobacco leaves. I am fiercely anti-smoking, but I could not say no to Bai Bibyaon, who has become like a grandmother to me. I sent people to look in our sari-sari stores, and they returned empty-handed. Not even Bataang Matamis (a brand of unfiltered cigarettes)? I asked. No luck.
“One of my Muslim students volunteered to find the leaves in Culiat, a nearby barangay.
“I have apologized many times to the visitors for the accommodations, which we had promised to handle. Together with advance natmin parties, our architecture and engineering faculty and students had built a “Kampuhan” (camp)—a learning experience in itself. The structures were fine, but the rains came and converted the Kampuhan into a “kangkungan” (a water spinach farm, meaning very watery). We had to lodge our visitors in various auditoriums, but some of them chose to stay in the well ventilated Kampuhan.
“When night falls I worry about the rains, but am also comforted knowing that UP’s security forces, and the barangay tanod, are all on alert. I’ve told many of our visitors that at least they will have a few days of respite from the tense situations back in their homes. You are safe here in Manila, I assure them.
“It has been a hectic week that included “engagements”—small groups going out to publicize the natmin’s problems of losing their lands to mining and large business concerns, military operations, and outright killings. The engagements have brought them to as far as Makati, where mining firms have their offices, and to many government offices in Quezon City. They’ve gone to Congress as well, and observed a budget hearing.
“On Wednesday they went to “engage” the US Embassy; after all, many of the companies that have displaced them are American. Many, too, live in areas that have seen US-PH military exercises.
“Social media is now awash in documentary evidence of what transpired at the protest demonstration. Captured on a GMA-7 tape was ground commander Marcelino Pedroso Jr. practically goading his policemen to make arrests, complete with an expletive and then: “Ano bang mukhang maihaharap natin sa US Embassy?” He felt the police were losing face with the embassy people.
“Shortly after, even as the ralliers were wrapping up their activity, a police van mowed into the crowd, forward, backward, forward, backward. The driver, PO3 Franklin Kho, was caught later in another video moving toward a jeepney transporting the ralliers and grabbing a woman’s hair. His face appeared on the camera, full of rage and hate, as he spotted, and tried to attack, the videographer.
“After the police van’s rampage came tear gas, truncheoning, arrests. A total of 31 ralliers had to be taken to hospital, and even then the police tried to block the transport of the injured, even detaining the attending medical workers.
“I was at a press conference yesterday which ended with Pia Macliing Malayao, a Sandugo convener and a victim of the police attacks, emotionally describing what had happened, as other natmin visitors wept. She talked about how she woke up early in the morning in a hospital, still hearing the van’s engine and the dull thud of tires running over bodies.
“The national minorities are UP’s guests, so I cannot but feel UP was assaulted, too. And because UP is the national university, the assault, the betrayal, is against the nation as well. I also cannot help but think: Would we have witnessed such an affront if it had not been the US Embassy being defended, and if the ralliers were not national minorities?”
♥ ♥ ♥
… from a week ago:
written by : Michael L. Tan, published in the Inquirer, October 14, 2016
“Night had fallen and I was exhausted, so I sat on the steps and closed my eyes to unwind.
“But I perked up as my ears picked up different languages being spoken around me. There was of course Tagalog-based Filipino, albeit with varying accents, then several versions of Ilocano. I could pick up what linguists call nuclear Ilocano, meaning the Ilocano spoken in the Ilocos provinces, as well as several non-nuclear ones, with common words but different tones. Cordillera Ilocano seemed to dominate, with its strong consonants—for example, “tak-der,” to sit, with a strong “k” and a stretched out “der.”
“In the distance I could hear Cebuano or what people call Bisaya, but again there were different versions, mostly from Mindanao. And I could identify Ibanag, but the others were from various Cordillera groups.
“I was sitting on the steps of Quezon Hall in UP Diliman, Wednesday night, as I waited for the arrival of several hundred “Lakbayani” (from “Lakbayan,” to mean a traveling caravan)—representatives of more than 20 national minority groups. UP Diliman is their host for the next 10 days.
“Some of you will remember that around this time last year, UP Diliman hosted some 700 lumad, or indigenous people from Mindanao, who had come to Manila to air their plight: displacement from their ancestral lands, the entry of mining companies destroying their lands, and the assassination of their leaders.
“This time, the request was for UP Diliman to host “a few hundred more” people from throughout the country, notably from the Cordillera and, from Mindanao, Moro delegations. This time, they were using the term “national minorities” and the organizers explained to me that the Moros as well as some groups from the Cordillera do not consider themselves indigenous peoples.
“The distinctions are important, and sometimes have more to do with political correctness and “fashions” in terminologies. In the 1970s, when I first became aware of the minority groups, the term used was actually “national minorities” or “cultural minorities.” There was even a presidential assistant on national minorities, or Panamin, which made international headlines with the “discovery” of an alleged long-lost Stone Age tribe called the Tasaday.
“Panamin was controversial, sometimes referred to derisively as “Panamina” because it was suspected of being more interested in mining (“mina”) and logging than in the plight of the cultural minorities.
“Then the Catholic Church promoted the term “tribal Filipinos,” and to this day there is a reference to October as “Tribal Filipinos month.”
“But “tribal” has connotations of the exotic and “primitive.” Later, civil society groups adopted “indigenous peoples” (or IPs), which is the official term the United Nations used to refer to populations that preceded colonial invasions. IPs are found throughout the world, from the Australian aborigines to the First Nations of Canada. In the Philippines, IPs refer to the groups that resisted not just Spain and Catholicism but also Islam.
“Now we find ourselves returning to the term “national minorities,” which makes some sense. The term is used worldwide, including in the European Union. It is more inclusive, so in the Philippines it includes Muslims as well, and others who may not identify with the “IP” label.
“When you think about it, with so many ethnolinguistic groups we don’t really have one majority group—Tagalogs, say, or Cebuanos. But collectively, we could refer to a large Christian majority (“Christian” used loosely).
“ “National minorities” refers more to a process, to the way certain groups were pushed to the margins (or, in real geographical terms, to the mountains). The “minority” status is not just one of numbers but of a social situation, of people deprived of many basic rights, including the right to ancestral lands.
“National minorities also find their culture, including their mother tongue, under threat. It wasn’t surprising that Wednesday night to hear more of the Cordillera groups using Ilocano rather than, say, Kalinga.
“The national minorities find themselves under assault on all fronts, and their losses are all intertwined. When I asked one of the Cordillera leaders to tell me which national minority groups were coming to Diliman, he named them one by one—and their names told me where they were from (for example, Bontocs from Bontoc). But I was surprised when he said there was a big group of Ifugaos, not from Ifugao, but from Nueva Vizcaya. Then he gave more examples of groups that were being displaced from their original ancestral lands.
“Land and life
“When people are pushed out of their ancestral lands, they lose not merely geographical space but a whole heritage. It is not surprising that they talk about how their land is their life (“ang lupa ay buhay”), so different from how “lowlanders” look at land: a piece of real estate to be bought and sold, or a piece of land from which to extract minerals.
“Earlier on Wednesday I was conducting a graduate class, and a student mentioned how Maranao businesspeople who have settled in Manila or Cebu will send their children back to Mindanao to learn how to become Maranao again. This yearning to preserve one’s culture is found not just among national minorities; we Filipinos, when migrating to another country, also find ourselves worried about our children becoming “less” Filipino.
“The Lakbayan in UP Diliman is not complete yet, as we expect larger delegations to arrive from Mindanao. In the next week or so, there will be interactions between the visitors and students and faculty, as well as among the national minorities themselves.
“Discussions using “national minorities” as a term will be important in resolving the many conflicts that have arisen through the years. The term opens the door to recognizing autonomy and local development, even as we try to find common ground in our aspirations as a nation.
“It has not been easy preparing for this event, what with the rains inundating the camp site (kampuhan) and turning it into a swamp where greens grow (kangkungan). But the delegations are determined to stay the course. It will be a “slow” dialogue, stretched out across some 10 days, where we will all learn to listen to each other, and to discover how we are all minorities in search of nationhood.
“Come visit. Come support our national minorities. “
(published in the Inquirer Oct. 14, 2016).
(Updated with credits: photo credits: as stated and embedded in the photos: photo and images by Efren Ricalde of “Ricalde Photographie”; music, first two songs: Lyrics by Jose F. Lacaba, melody by Ding Achacoso… and…
third song: music, lyrics, and rendition by Joey Ayala)