Our national minorities deserve your attention.
Given rather unpleasant recent developments, it’s easy for other plights to get lost in the shuffle. But thanks to the good work over by the folks down at Sandugo, UP Diliman, and the University of Santo Tomas, such hopefully won’t necessarily be the case for our Lumad brothers and sisters.
Their event is called the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya, and its purpose is simple: to give a platform and a space through which our country’s national minorities can safely, air out their grievances, and connect more with us.
Hear them out. Do as Kendrick said. For all its scheduled activities, cultural nights, and academic forums, the main bulk of the camp is still built around social interaction. When you sign up at the event gate, volunteers lead you around the camp — each section a different region of the country. If you’re lucky, like I was, the attendees’ stories will then speak for themselves.
As for why we ought to sit quietly with them when the world as we know it may be ending, you ask? Respect and understanding. Our world is bigger than we often think. Many of those who made the journey to Manila, whether they be community organizers, student-volunteers, datus, or rank-and-file members of long-marginalized communities, do so because their conditions back home leave them no other choice.
Jam, a 22-year-old Manobo translator at the event, for example, told of how paramilitary forces detained her mother for 24 hours without evidence or bail. Jerome Succor, 24, a young Maguindanao datu, speaks of how President Joseph Estrada’s “All Out War” against the MILF in 2000 displaced his community. Children in his area, he says, grow up surrounded by airstrikes, forced evacuations, and accusations of terrorism.
Many more like them speak for, alongside, and on behalf of over 2,000 camp delegates. Almost all carry the same desires we do: respect, self-determination, peace in their communities. They speak of bullets running through their schools and homes. Others remember how hired guns take their farmland without legal basis. A certain Datu Jomarito from Bukidnon’s Higaonon tribe shares how military forces threw their village’s only motorcycle in a river out of spite. He talks about how the bounties on his head, how mayors pilfer their livestock in pursuit of wealth.
Hearing him puts me in my place. I ask Jam, who translates for him, how I can help alleviate their concerns, if at all. She nods and says, “makinig, kilalanin, at ipagkuwento ang ating mga karanasan. Kahit ‘yun muna.”
Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya goes on until September 21, at Sitio Sandugo at UP Diliman, and at the Central Seminary Gym at the University of Santo Tomas.