Coming Down Blood Mountain

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03 Dec 2012 16:00

Their vividly colored indigenous clothing shout like a blast of dynamite ripping through the mountains they call home. It is Tuesday and they are standing in a busy avenue in the upscale business district of Makati.

"This is where the mining companies are, and if they cannot hear our pleas and screams while they kill us in the mountains, we will come here and ask them to stop," comes the cry from the Lumad in their native language, their heads held high as they gaze at the row of high-rise office buildings.

They own the mountains, but they say the mining companies have taken their land away from them. They are the indigenous caretakers of ancestral domains passed on to them from generation to generation, the Lumad who are proud of their heritage that has defied centuries of colonization.

But here in this posh Makati street, where most foreign mining companies are located, they are greeted with raised eyebrows and crinkled noses.

Marginalized and exploited, the Lumads take the insults in stride, having endured attacks against them and their land – all in the name of “development.” 

Bebeth Kalinawan, a Mamanwa from Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte, recalls her ordeal as she fought for her life after getting hit by bullets from government troops at the family farm. Because of heavy militarization, her entire community took shelter in evacuation shelters for months. They found their homes, properties, and even their church burned down upon their return.

 From the perspective of these indigenous peoples, large-scale corporate mining does not contribute anything good to their communities.
Bae Likayan Bigkay, a 67-year-old Ata-Manobo from Bukidnon, laments all the pain and suffering that mining companies have brought upon them as she joins her fellow lumad in exploring the busy metropolis far from their home.

 She says the Lumad painstakingly take care of their resource-rich lands, but these continue to be systematically taken away from them. Their way of life has drastically changed, and those who oppose the mining operations are either pushed away from their land or get killed.

 Mining, and the logging operations that often precede it, have also intensified floods that cause death and devastation. The natural protection provided by the environment is getting destroyed at an alarming rate, and the Lumads are often the most affected upland dwellers.

" We are not animals. We are not pigs and chickens that you can just shoot," says Bae Emil Digkalay-oban from the Banwaon tribe, as she talks about the plight of her community in Agusan del Sur. 

There is an estimated 14-17 million Indigenous Peoples (IPs) belonging to 110 ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines and they remain among the poorest and most disadvantaged and regularly face systemic discrimination and exclusion.

A recent report by the United Nations Development Fund states that in the Philippines, the Lumads have been subject to historical discrimination and marginalization from political processes and economic benefit. They often face exclusion, loss of ancestral lands, displacement, pressures to and destruction of traditional ways of life and practices, and loss of identity and culture, and conflicts. From economic development to environmental protection to justice, human rights, and good governance, the protections and participation promised to the Lumads needs to be mainstreamed through all relevant decision-making bodies and stakeholder organizations.

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