Indigenous groups honor martyrs

Rituals commemorate people who died for freedom reporter, Manila, Philippines

October 31, 2012

Tribal groups today held a ceremony in Manila to honor the "martyrs of indigenous peoples" and those who have fallen victim to “extrajudicial killings.” Members of tribal alliance, Kamp, and the tribal party Katribu gathered in Quezon City for the “Pinag-aapoy,” a ritual involving the burning of pinewood. The ritual is a tradition practiced by indigenous people in Luzon’s mountain province to honor the dead. "As the whole nation devotes time to remember their departed loved ones, indigenous peoples should also do the same, but in doing so we should also take time to honor our martyrs," said Katribu spokesperson Kakai Tolentino. Filipinos today start the observance of All Saints' and All Souls' Day on November 1 and 2 by going to cemeteries to remember their dead loved ones. Tolentino said tribal groups also honor their dead, especially those who "wholeheartedly dedicated and devoted their lives to the struggle for self-determination and genuine recognition of our right to land and life." Among the "martyrs" remembered in today’s rituals were Catholic missionaries Fausto "Pops" Tentorio, an Italian, and Willem Geerthman, a Dutch national murdered during the past 13 months for advocating tribal peoples’ rights. Another was Nicanor Delo Santos, who was allegedly killed for opposing the building of a dam during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s. "We should honor our martyrs for they offered the most precious thing a man or woman can offer to the struggle -- their lives. We should honor them by emulating their life and sacrifices," Tolentino said. All the "martyrs" were victims of extrajudicial killings, Tolentino claimed, adding that these crimes still continue unabated. She said her office has documented 27 cases of extrajudicial killings in the past two years.