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CHURCH ASSEMBLY REVIEWS PLIGHT OF TRIBAL FILIPINOS IN THE SOUTH

  • October 09 1990
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Despite help from supporters, such as the diocesan Tribal Filipino Apostolate (TFA), indigenous people say the threat of displacement from their homeland lingers.

Jimid Mansayagan, a Muslim Lumad (people of the earth, a collective name for southern Mindanao tribal people), said that in Mindanao alone at least 5,000 families have been displaced this year.

The figure excludes a recent wave of evacuations in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, 65 kilometers southwest of Butuan.

At least 750 families have fled Esperanza since July, Mansayagan told 68 TFA workers of Butuan diocese during their 10th general assembly in August.

He called for unity among the Lumads in order to protect their ancestral land against war and invaders.

Lumads say they also clash with transnational agricultural, logging and mining corporations. The tribals claim paramilitary groups called "lost command" are supported by the military and used by commercial loggers and miners against them.

A sudden imposition in December 1988 of a total log ban in the province displaced some 50,000 families, mostly illegal loggers.

A Manobo tribesman, who told UCA News he was an illegal logger, believes a total log ban would not deter logging activities in the area.

The Manobo, who refused to be identified, said logs are transported down Agusan River, passing about 60 military checkpoints.

At each checkpoint, he pays 50 to 100 pesos (US$2-$4). If he doesn´t pay, he said, the logs are confiscated. Congress is presently debating whether to impose a selective or total log ban in the country.

TFA wants to help Lumads without destroying their culture. "They (tribal people) want to stand alone so we must help them and give them such a chance," said Missionary Sisters of Mary Sister Bing Coronel, coordinator for TFA in Butuan diocese, 750 kilometers southeast of Manila.

"At first they (Lumad) didn´t want to speak out," Sister Coronel recalls. "Now they can articulate their claims for their ancestral domains and their desire for self-determination."

TFA has been involved in community organizing, literacy, socio-economic and health programs since 1979.

Lumad belonging to the Manobo, Mamanua, Higaonon, and Banuaon tribes in 14 parishes have been organized.

Three elementary schools exclusively for Lumad children were set up. They operate on a "Quality Point Index" (QPI) basis. All pupils who maintain the QPI are given full high school scholarship grants in any of the 15 diocesan high schools.

Bishop Carmelo Morelos of Butuan had the three Lumad schools accredited by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports.

Sister Coronel says the graduates of Lumad schools perform well in the regular high schools. She encourages Lumad students to go home on weekends or free days so they will not be influenced by urban lifestyles or exploited in the city.

"We want them educated, but not to the extent of allowing anybody to take advantage of them. Their culture must be respected and preserved," the nun said.

Oct. 14, Tribal Filipino Sunday, will focus on the theme "Inculturation: An Interplay of Faith, Culture and Development."

END

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