“We are asking the Jesuit community, not only just to document but also assist,” Ms. Beatriz Colmo implored as one of the main discussants in the Indigenous People’s Summit held yesterday, July 11, at the Finster Auditorium.

The two-day summit was organized by the Society of Jesus’ Philippine Province part of its commitment to peace and inclusive sustainable development of Mindanao particularly in marginal areas where scores of indigenous groups were left at the peripheries.

The collaborative session circled around key personalities from Mindanao’s indigenous peoples, where they narrated their experiences and suggested possible actions that they saw fit to address their current situations.

Timuey Jimid Mansayagan, advised the panel with the establishment a service center for each tribe, headed by an area developer.

“We are called peace spoilers, outsiders, and hitchhikers in the [Bangsamoro] peace process,” lamented Timuey Alim Bandara of Upi, Maguindanao, shared despite their multiple efforts in requesting different government agencies, such as the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), a seat on the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as vital stakeholders.

Marching for seventeen days to Malacañang to pronounce their grievances to former President Benigno Aquino III albeit politely refusing to act on them due to legal technicalities, caused disappointment to Ria Esteves, a representative of the Dinagat and Ata tribes from Casiguran, Aurora.

She also denounced in Tagalog the promise of the Angaras, the political dynasty ruling the province of Aurora, saying, “The Angaras say that this development is for all but actually, it is not.”

“Peace is so good to hear but we Lumads barely hear them,” Datu Jose Ambon said in Bisaya as he recalled a recent incident where his cousin, who was also a tribal leader like him, was shot dead and his body riddled with bullets at the head and legs.

“Indigenous peoples are a peace loving people,” Ambon said, citing the reflection of such attitude comes from the tribal culture of emphasizing communal living as he furthered,  “Batasan sa tribu kung di kakaon ang isa, dapat kakaon ang tanan.”

Jaafar Kimpa of the Sama tribe hailing from Zamboanga City, contrasted the effects of natural disasters such as floods to man-made disasters like conflict. However, Kimpa described a greater man-made disaster greater than conflict in the form of discrimination.

“Ang pinakdestructive disaster para sa amin ay ang paglolookdown ng ibang grupo sa amin. Bakit kami inaabuso? Because they look down sa amin, kahit Sama, Badjao, o Lumad,” Kimpa described to the panel.

The B’laan tribe’s representative, Erita Carpio Dialang shared that her tribe simply wants to enjoy the bounties and resources found in their territory, however, the entry of large companies in their land made her comment in Bisaya, “Mas maayo sa akoang paglantaw, wa’y musulod sa amoang yuta.”

Included also in the panel is Rechard Gugma of the Tagbanua tribe from Culion Palawan.

He supported Dialang’s sentiment as they too, as Tagbanuas, have experienced discrimination. He cited an event that residents of Culion cheat the Tagbanuas in business transactions as they take advantage of their lack of formal education.

Issues stemming from mining was also raised through Nena Lumandong of Bukidnon, as she argued, “Women and children are the frontline victims of mining. Should our problems be only entertained when almost all of us are killed?”

In areas within their ancestral domains, according to Timuey Boy Anoy of Zamboanga, large companies interested in mining have the reputation of placing phony tribal leaders to further their agendas and undermine the authority of the true tribal leaders.

He suggested that instead of large companies extracting their domain’s resources, they should be taught of extracting their minerals in sustainable ways.

Atty. Emman Dapaing, an alumnus of Ateneo Law School hailing from Maragusan Compostella Valley, criticized the intervention of local government heads in the mandatory selection of scholars from indigenous communities as they are reserved exclusively for the indigenous communities’ children.

After the panel discussion, the floor was made open to where guests were encouraged to voice out their opinions and comments regarding the discussion.

The whole day discussion is part of a two day summit that will end on July 14, where a strategic plan for the Society of Jesus’ Philippine Province in Mindanao has been formulated between the Jesuits, the indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders.

Photo courtesy of Ateneo Communications Office