Caring and dying for their land

(Datu Jimboy singing)

This was not a party, more so a karaoke party that Filipinos are known for.  The song was not about love or any other ordinary ditty. The venue was not in a bar nor a concert hall and the singer is not a pop star.

The occassion was a solidarity event among the Lumad, the indigenous peoples groups in Mindanao.  The song was about the Lumad’s struggle to defend their land from unrelenting militarization and encroachment by mining companies.  The venue was in an evacuation center where 54 families are currently living in tents and where children are pounded by rain and cold weather.  The singer is a warrior chieftain who leads his people’s struggle for self determination and just peace.

(Click play to listen to audio report)

This is Raymund Villanueva of Kodao Productions, reporting from Mindanao, the Philippines.

Datu Jimboy Mandagit is all but 25 years of age.  He is the chieftain of his tribe, the Tigwahanon Manobos of San Fernando, Bukidnon Province.  In his young age, he has led his people in several forced evacuations, each lasting many months.  He has faced down big mining companies who encroach on their ancestral lands. He has shown bravery in the face of military aggression by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their conscripted bandits who are being used by the mining companies to intimidate them, even killing their children and women.

All the troubles that Datu Jimboy and the Tigwahanon Manobos are facing boil down to one basic issue: love and care for their anscestral domain.  They are defending their right to their ancestral lands because to them land is life.

It has become universally acknowledged that indigenous farming is the least damaging of all farming practices and it is the indigenous peoples who practice it the most.  In the case of the Tigwahanon Manobo Lumad of Mindanao, this is most true.  As the world observes United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization International Year of Pulses this year, let us listen to how they integrate these practices to their defense of their ancestral lands and culture.

DATU JIMBOY MANDAGUIT: I am Datu Jimboy from San Fernando, Bukidnod.  I am a tribal chieftain from Sitio Tubugawan, Barangay Cawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon. I am a farmer and I plant lots of crops, especially vegetables.  We will not live if we do not plant. 

We plant mung beans, peanuts, root crops and legumes most of all.  It is not only because these crops are our cash crops and are part of our diet.  We plant them because we care for our land.  When we notice that our other crops are not as robust anymore, we plant root crops in order for the soil to recover.

We plant peanuts three times a year.  We plant mung beans four times a year. And then we plant other root crops in between.  We know that by planting these crops, we help the soil recover.  This practice allow us to plant other staple crops such as corn.

N: Not only do the Lumad of Mindanao plant legumes and other pulses to nourish the soil back to life, they also practice organic farming as part of their traditional and current agricultural methods.

DJM: We do not use chemicals in farming.  We do not want to harm our land and we do not want our children to get sick. We do our best to protect our land as well as our health because we do not have hospitals nearby and we also could not afford hospitalization.  That is why we plant these crops and we do not use chemicals.

N: As clear as their rotation planting of legumes to nourish the soil, the Lumad’s insistence on organic farming and could not be more logical.

DJM: We sell our peanut to the lowlanders. It is only a cash crop for us.  But we consume mungbeans not just as a major part of our diet but as medicine as well.  We believe it has medicinal qualities.  For example, we prepare it as soup with other medicinal herbs and we give it to mothers who just gave birth.  They recover quickly after.

We also plant string beans often.  It is also a permanent part of our diet that we raise ourselves.  When we ourselves raise string beans, we are sure that they are organic.  If so, our families do not get sick easily. 

N: The Lumad’s environment-responsive farming practices are inherently tied to their defense of their ancestral lands.  As they care for the soil from which their sustenance and livelihood come from, they are compelled even stronger to defend them from mining operations that seek to destroy the land.  Not a few of them have given up their lives in their struggle to defend their ancestral lands and their way of life.  They are fighting to this day, storming the very gates of political, economic and military power on many occassion.

DJM: For us tribespeople, we take care and defend our ancestral land.  We do not subscribe to the thought that people should own land privately.  Our lands are collectively owned and nurtured by tribespeople.  We will never agree to selling them off to strangers.  Without land, we tribespeople will not survive.  Land is life to us.  That is why we do not like destructive mining in our lands and forest.  The mining companies are driving us out of our lands, but we will stand our ground to protect our ancestral lands. We love our land and it is our live.  If it is destroyed, we have no future, we have no life.

N: The songs have given way to fiery speeches at the end of the solidarity event.  But the message remained the same.  The Lumad would die for their ancestral lands.  Without their land, they would die anyway.

(Singing and speaking)

Reporting from Mindanao, Philippines, this is Raymund Villanueva of Kodao Productions.

This report is produced for the Communication Development Audio Series of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Association of Community Radio Broadcasters—AMARC.  Kodao is an AMARC member.