By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
QUEZON CITY — The kulitang of Mindanao, gongs of Cordillera, drums of Central Luzon and other indigenous’ traditional musical instruments of national minorities from all over the country played in harmony amid their diversity and differences.
The newly found harmony reverberated through the conference hall as each IP and Moro danced their own ‘tribal’ dances and gracefully interwove strips of multi-colored cloth tied to a pole into one colorful tapestry.
The dancing was interspersed with chanting: Pambansang minorya, nagkaisa, nagkaisa, lumalaban.
This was how the founding assembly of Sandugo, a movement of national minorities for self-determination ended on October 15.
IPs and Moros from north to south take pride in their ancestors’ resistance against the Spanish and American colonization that allowed the continued practice of their indigenous traditions until today.
Jill Cariño, an Ibaloi from Benguet province said that the more than 40 years of struggle of the Cordillera people for the recognition of their rights to their ancestral land and self-determination is the continuation of their ancestor’s 300 years of staunch resistance against the Spanish and American colonization.
Cariño said their decades of continuing struggle taught them that an organized and militant people’s movement with a clear program of action guided by indigenous principles and ways will not be defeated.
She said that experience also taught them to use a combination of strategies that include legal, extra-legal and even armed resistance in the defense of their ancestral land. “Taking up arms has always been an option for us indigenous people in defending our land, because to us, land is life,” she said.
“We also learned to take courage in the face gross human rights violation and State fascism and take the highest sacrifice of offering our lives in the defense of our ancestral birthright,” Cariño said.
Cariño also pointed out that through out their struggle, they learned that forging solidarity with other groups at the national and even international level is important. “In our more than 40 years of struggle in defense of our ancestral land, we were not alone, we marched alongside non-indigenous peoples groups and other democratic sectors in the Cordillera and in the country together with friends and allies abroad,” she said.
Cariño said that their partnerships with other organizations under national and international formations continue to grow. She said the Sandugo is yet another formation that will help advance the national minorities’ fight for the genuine recognition of their right to self-determination.
Representatives of various indigenous peoples and Moro tribes from Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao attended the said assembly. Participants to the assembly include the Malaweg and Cordillera peoples in North Luzon; Aeta and Dumagat in Central Luzon; Tagbanua, Palaw’an, Mangyan in Southern Tagalog; Tumandu in Panay; and Lumad and Moro peoples in Southern Mindanao among others.
Like their music and dances, their tribes are unique and diverse but with one common denominator; a shared history of unwavering defense of their ancestral lands and territories amid government neglect, discrimination and oppression.
In their continuing quest for the genuine recognition of their rights to their territories and to self-determination; they forged an alliance to strengthen their ranks to keep up with the challenges ahead.
According to Amirah Ali Lidasan, a Moro convener of Sandugo the escalating attacks against the rights and lives of national minorities pushed them to unite and form one movement to defend their land, life and identity.
Lidasan said national minorities continue to face threats of destructive projects like mining, energy projects and agro-business plantations coupled with militarization. She said they continue to suffer discrimination and government neglect.
Lidasan explained that national minorities form a special sector in soceity. She said they suffer from a unique problem called national oppression apart from the basic problems that the wider Filipino society suffer from.
Lidasan said that as Filipinos, national minorities suffer from the hardships of pre-industrial and backward agriculture worsened by the domination of foreign control over the country’s natural resources.
“But in addition to the problems that beset the Filipino nation, national minorities suffer from oppression brought about by government policies that lead to the plunder of their natural resources and violation of their right to their ancestral land and territories and to self-determination,” she said.
She said that through the Sandugo the national minorities will work together to correct the historical injustice and national oppression they have and continue to suffer from.
“Sandugo will be an alliance and movement of national minorities for the respect of their right to self-determination and genuine national freedom,” Lidasan said. # nordis.net