Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mindanao IPs, Bangsamoros reaffirm kinship through ritual

LANTAPAN, Bukidnon, March 11, 2012—The descendants of the brothers Apu Mamalu and Apu Tabunaway reaffirmed their kinship in a ritual last done 492 years ago and witnessed by representatives of various government agencies, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the international community.

Representatives of eighteen major indigenous peoples (IP) groups and 13 Islamized tribes shed the blood of a carabao in the Sumbali ritual and a number of native chickens, exchange tokens and embraced each other in a ceremony of reaffirmation before unveiling the marker of the historic event on March 8 at the grounds of the School of Living Traditions of the Talaandig tribe here.
Victorino “Datu Migketay” Saway, primemover of the event, then led a Pabugwas, or a ritual of cleansing with the assistance of IP and Moro ritualists.
The Mindanao IPs and Bangsamoros last reaffirmed their kinship in a similar ritual in Tikalaan, Talakag, Bukidnon in 1520 or 492 years ago, a year before the official “discovery” of the Philippine islands by Portuguese circumnagivator Hernando Magallanes (best known in history books as Ferdinand Magellan).
The reaffirmation of kinship ritual was briefly discussed during the 25th GPH-MILF peace negotiation in Kuala Lumpur early last month where both the MILF and GPH peace panels agreed to ensure the success of the event.
Part of the ritual of reaffirmation of their kinship was the signing of the covenant, which was printed on a white paper and etched in a plaque later installed on the Kinship Monument. It cited the Five Pillars of Kinship which are mutual recognition and respect (kilalaha), mutual sharing of information (sayuda), cooperation (buliga), mutual protection and preservation of life (uyaga), and mutual obligation to help the needy (pagbatunbatuna).
“The indigenous peoples and the Moro of Mindanao hereby acknowledge the following principles and doctrines of kinship as basis of their cooperation, understanding, and unity as descendants of the early inhabitants in the island of Mindanao,” the declaration stated.
Dr. Acmad Alonto, a Maranao and former president of the Mindanao State University (MSU), cited the Salsila, which contains accounts of a tampuda or peace pact between Lumad and Moro in Bukidnon. He said that one more proof of kinship is belief in a creator, God.
The Maranao representatives asked the settlers (outsiders who came and settled in Mindanao), who they consider as brothers, not to be afraid of the reaffirmation of kinship “because it is good for everybody.”
Datu Ampuan Jeodoro Sulda, a Manobo leader from southern Bukidnon, urged everyone to set aside their tribal affiliations and differences.
“Each tribe has its own story. Let’s leave it at that. Let’s focus on the common (theme among those versions) that is our kinship,” he said.
Guiamel Alim, chairman of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), said that “some of our brothers from as far as Tawi-Tawi attended” the event in Lantapan, Bukidnon, to show to the world that “we are serious about this thing.”
“Ang Tawi-Tawi po ay mas malayo pa kaysa Manila ngunit nilakbay ito ng ating mga kapatid dahil po tayong mga Moro ay seryoso sa pangyayaring ito,” he said.
“Nandito din po kami upang ipakita sa lahat ang aming pakikiisa sa aming mga kapatid na IP. Hindi po totoo ang sinasabi ng iba na ang mga Moro at mga IP ay magkalaban. Hindi po! Ang mga IP at mga Moro po ay magkakapatid,” he added.
Abhoud Syed Lingga, a member of the MILF peace negotiating panel, said the Reaffirmation of Kinship Ritual was very important “because this will remind us, especially the Bangsamoro people—both the Islamized and the non-Islamized groups—that in a time in history, our forefathers have entered into a covenant to strengthen their kinship.”
Historically, the Islamized and non-Islamized natives of Mindanao belong to one family.
“All are descended from Apu Agbibilin and Bae Ginamayung,” said Talaandig tribal chieftain, Adolino “Datu Makapukaw Kinulintang” Saway, elder brother of the more famous Victorino “Datu Migketay” Saway — the primemover of the event.
Lingga blamed “outsiders” for putting a wedge between the “brothers.”
“This event gives us the opportunity to remind us that we are one people, we have one goal and our struggle is also one,” he stressed, adding: “This is a very significant event because we also have a common problem regarding our land. And this will bind us together to preserve whatever remains of our homeland, our culture, political power and economic resources.”
He also dismissed speculations that the event is a good image-builder for the MILF as it will bolster their position in their negotiations with the government, saying that the ritual is a strong reminder that the Moros and IPs have “to work together to face the common challenges, to fight oppression and injustices against our people.”
Peace advocate Sr. Arnold Maria Noel, SSPS, said the ritual “is a good first step in our journey towards the attainment of genuine peace for both the lumad and Muslims in Mindanao.”
Datu Migketay later presented to the participants and observers the members of the joint IP-Moro joint peace council, which Saway said, will help resolve conflicts between the Lumads and the Moro and address issues concerning the rights and development of the indigenous peoples.
Saway called the creation of the council “very important” to the peace efforts in Mindanao, adding it has “never been done before, anywhere.”
Before the closing of the historic event, Datu Migketay led the participants in the unveiling of the Kinship Monument, which features a tibod or vessel crafted by Anak Tribu, the youth of the Talaandig tribe.
The tibod symbolizes the vessel containing the customs and traditions left behind by Apu Agbibilin to Apu Saulana, the ancestor of the Talaandigs. Apu Saulana was a woman who served as peacemaker for her three brothers who used coconut oil to keep order. This was re-enacted when the participants queued for Datu Migketay to place oil on their forehead as a blessing.
There are some 30 ethno-linguistic tribes in Mindanao, including those that have embraced Islam.
Datu Migketay Saway said that during the brainstorming of the event, there were suggestions to hold the pre-colonial traditional peace pacts. However, this requires the settlement of boundary conflicts, which can only be done after the reaffirmation of kinship.
He said the peace process between the government and the MILF can benefit from the reaffirmation of kinship and traditional peace pacts at the ground level. “Maybe the negotiations on the ground can help awaken those above.”
“The traditional peace pacts can move from the unwritten to the written. The understanding between the Lumads and the Moros will have a big bearing on the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Saway, a leader of Panagtagbo Mindanao, a coalition of people’s organizations, said. (Bong D. Fabe)

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