By Gabrielle O. Giner

I know that many schedules were disrupted and rearranged due to the rally organized by leftist and indigenous groups at the headquarters of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command. Anger and frustration also boiled up, reaching a point where social media was filled with complaints, grumbles, and gripes that bordered discrimination.

Such discrimination has no place in a country that prides itself of its ethnic and cultural diversity. These people whom we call “tagabukid” are demanding that their rights also be given recognition and legitimacy. Remember, recognition and legitimacy. We, the ethnic majority, often take our rights and privileges for granted since they are easily accessible to us.

And yet, when the minority exercises those same rights and privileges, we automatically complain, grumble, and gripe. For better or for worse, the ethnic minority we ever so complain, grumble, and gripe about are also human beings and citizens of the Philippines. Oftentimes we think about them on the periphery that we forget these people also have the same rights and privileges as we enjoy.

And so, what if they demand? They protest and rally and automatically, they have become an “inconvenience” us. But so what? True, businesses and their deliveries were affected, students were not able to go home immediately to study, and parents were late for their dinners with their families. But it is an inconvenient truth we have to face. These indigenous people have been suffering for many years. Their pleas fell on deaf ears and whoever decided to actually answer to their pleas are both outmanned and outgunned.

Does our four hour traffic delay equate to the misery and suffering they endured over the years? You tell me they could have done this another way but I ask you, what other way do they have to quickly and effectively get our attention? How can they jolt us awake from our pretentious “reality” that they are not fine, that they are suffering? You tell me they are better off quiet and off at the mountains. Yet that is wrong. They certainly grabbed our attention, have they not? Do you think this rally would have had the same effect if it was held in front of City Hall or Freedom Park?

For years they were “inconvenienced”, cheated out of their own rights and privileges. For four hours, we were “inconvenienced”, cheated out of our daily routine. Can we not see beyond our interests and extend our leniency? Have they not been under the same scorching sun as we had? We were even better off since most of us were under the shade of our cars, vans, and buses but they had nothing more than towels and umbrellas to fight off heatstroke.

You tell me it was boring and wasteful to wait in traffic for four hours while expecting them to disperse.Yet, is it not more “boring” and “wasteful” for these indigenous people to have spent generations trying to tell the government of their plight and concerns? These people have fought and are fighting for themselves. Had it been reversed, and we were at their shoes, do you not think we would be fighting for ourselves too?



Photo courtesy of Brigada News Davao