Reclaiming paradise lost

by Krysten Mariann Boado

They came unarmed without the company of the male members of their tribe. Arms laced to form a human barricade, the Manobo women banded together and rose to defend their own land and their people, blood be the price.

Undaunted and unfazed, they stood before the fearsome blue guards of Del Monte pineapple contract grower Pablo “Poling” Lorenzo in hopes that they would not shoot at them. Lorenzo had looked forward to robbing their land yet again and `turning it into a pineapple plantation.

Their leader, Bai Jocelyn Agdahan, remembers that encounter very well, for it was the day that fanned the flames of indignation already fueled by blue guards’ everyday threats thrown towards their community.

“Kami ang may-ari ng lupa. Ang dugo namin, ibubuwis namin sa aming lupa,” she says.  

The women held their breaths, maintaining their claim to their ancestral territory, yet the guards remained ruthless and fired at them, shooting at the ground where the Manobos stood so they would run off and cease their protest.

Agdahan survived the encounter and lived to tell the tale, but so did their oppressors who remain in their ancestral lands, brutally taking away both their lives and livelihood.

Because of this, Bai Jocelyn, together with her fellow Manobos, braved the more than 1,500-kilometer distance for Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya, coming together with fellow national minorities to bring their plights closer to the country’s capital city.

“Kaming mga katutubo, ang lupang ninuno namin, yun ay paraiso para sa amin,” she said. “Kaya iyon ang aming pinanindigan: Hindi pwedeng agawin ang aming lupa.”

Trouble in paradise

To visitors of the Lakbayan, Bai Jocelyn is known for the rhythmical hand gestures and the graceful footwork she exhibits every time she engages in the Manobo traditional dance.

Be it in a cultural performance, a protest action, or an immersion with individuals who wish to listen to the struggles of her tribe, she dances with the nimblest movements and the most expressive eyes–eyes that have witnessed blood spilt by bullets and blue guards on their homeland.

Aside from spearheading discussions for visitors who wish to immerse with the Lumads, leading the Manobo traditional dance is part of Bai Jocelyn’s role as the Pulangihon Manobo’s bai, the indigenous community’s female counterpart of a datu.

Being the wife of a datu herself, Bai Jocelyn was selected to become one of the Pulangihon Manobo’s bai, as per custom. Besides this, she has been deemed worthy of leadership by the Manobo community due to her active participation in the struggle against the plunder of their lands and the militarization of their communities.

When asked if she had any setbacks that prevented her from taking on the role of bai 12 years ago, she admits that at first, she was nervous to accept the appointment and fulfill the popular adage that women hold half the sky.

For Bai Jocelyn, back then, being a bai meant holding half her community and reciprocating the support its women receive from its male tribespeople. Until today, these duties continue to ring true to her.

Bilang isang bai, ang responsibilidad ko sa pagiging lider ay nangunguna sa pakikibaka para sa pagdepensa sa at pagsuporta sa mga kalalakihan namin para walang mangyari sa paligid namin,” she says. “Yun ang responsibilidad ng isang lider. Kung mayroong mga problema, andyan ako.”

According to the Kaliwat Theater Collective, Inc., the bai (alternatively spelled as bae), mediates social disputes ranging from the proliferation of gossip, morality issues between young men and women as well as other issues that need not involve the datu.

More importantly, the bai is also in charge of the community’s economic activities, especially farming; hence, Bai Jocelyn’s great contribution to the movement against Lorenzo’s occupancy of their land.

Back in Quezon, Bukidnon, Bai Jocelyn would fearlessly confront Lorenzo’s guards, asking them to stop barricading their lands as the Manobos were already terrified of the day-to-day bullets they fire at the tribe.

She is especially concerned with the Manobo youth who, at their early years, experience daily assaults brought about by Lorenzo’s blue guards.

“Hanggang ngayon, andun pa rin ang mga security guards ni Poling Lorenzo doon sa aming lupa, malapit sa aming bahay,” she recalls, her voice suddenly shifting into a firm yet more somber tone.

“Palagi silang nagpapaputok… Pinuputukan kami, sinasabihan ng ‘Labas! Labas! Kung hindi kayo lalabas, papatayin ko kayo!’”

Their struggle dates back to 2007, when Roberto Montalvan was issued a permit by the local government for a ranch operation. His nephew, Lorenzo, manages the ranch and has been  transforming all the other lands outside the area into pineapple plantations.

Historically, the 630-hectare land where the ranch stands belongs to the clan of Datu Santiano Andong Agdahan, Bai Jocelyn’s husband. Their clan was forced to leave when the Agro-forestry Farm Lease Agreement (AFFLA) was granted to Montalvan, rendering them landless along with at least eight other groups.

The AFFLA’s expiration on Dec. 31, 2009 brought bliss to the Manobos who lived in makeshift houses beside the guarded fences of the ranch, forced to face nearly everyday attacks brought by Lorenzo’s men.

Expecting to finally reach the calm after the storm, they were instead met with a more vicious tempest whose rains continue to drown their ironic plights for a permanent settlement and an end to the vicious cycle of violence in their communities.

On March 28, 2012, Lorenzo’s guards fired at Manobo families who have set up their homes in the area and started tilling the land, which initially belonged to them. Headed by Joy Peductche, a former member of the Philippine Army, the guards destroyed the Manobos’ makeshift tents and belongings, firing at them as they ran from the scene.

In response, indigenous peoples’ organization Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA)—a group Bai Jocelyn and her husband is part of—-has been doubling its efforts ever since, negotiating with government agencies for help.

Often, they were met with lip-service decrees and bogus promises, with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples even asking them for a P30,000 fee for document processing.  

They have not ceased their attempts until today, in spite of these and the bloodbath they faced at the bullets of Lorenzo’s guards in March 2015’s Bungkalan, which left one TINDOGA member dead and wounded two others.

“Pinanindigan namin ang aming lupang ninuno na ayaw naming ibigay sa kanila [Montalvan Ranch]…. dahil kami, doon nakasalalay ang aming buhay doon sa aming lupa.”

For land and life

While Bai Jocelyn holds a big responsibility in upholding the Pulangihon Manobo’s claims to their yutang kabilin, she counts small victories in the harvest that they have from the communal farm she set up for Pulangihon Manobo mothers.

She smiles as she proudly recounts its success, saying last year, the Manobo mothers grew munggo while this year, before some of them journeyed for Lakbayan, they raised corn.

“Lahat [ng ina] nagkilos doon, lahat nagtanim… Para pantay ang kilos namin, nagcommunal kami,” she says. “Sa aming komunidad, sa aming kultura, walang mayaman. Kung ano ang tinanim ng isa, dapat pareho ang kalawak,”

Besides their community’s communal farm, Bai Jocelyn also oversees the Pulangihon Manobo’s cooperative, which has funded tribespeople in time of dire need.

It has been efficient when emergencies arise, she says, narrating the instance when one of the Manobos needed to be hospitalized. She adds that the cooperative made it possible through supplying money for the patient’s hospital bills—another feat that makes Bai Jocelyn proud of her community.

“Magbigayan kami sa aming kultura,” she says.

When she is not busy with community affairs and struggling to defend their ancestral domain, Bai Jocelyn is simply a mother of seven.

While her eldest, 20, has already settled down and started a family, two of her kids have joined her in their long and tiring journey to the metro, performing in cultural shows with the same grace as their mother.

At an early age she has exposed them to the persisting conflict in their community as well as their efforts to thwart those who have taken their paradise. Such is the way of the Pulangihon Manobo tribe whose youth are expected to carry their traditions and perform the same responsibilities as adults at a young age.

Bai Jocelyn mentions she has a 2-year-old grandchild who already knows how to eat without adult supervision as well as 6-year-old kid who already knows how to set the table.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Manobo youth busy themselves in the community involvement—tilling the fields, planting crops and crafting colorful accessories—which have become a hit for Lakbayan visitors—among others.

Proudly, she utters, “Kagaya sa akin, dapat panindigan ko ang aking pagkaina dahil para sa aking kabataan na nangangarap na mabuhay, nangangarap na matuto sa eskwela.”

While both entail different responsibilities, Bai Jocelyn says being a mother is similar to being an activist, to being a modern-day warrior resisting heartless corporations responsible for the plunder of their lands.

For the iconic community leader, despite its overwhelming task, motherhood is empowerment personified.  Back home, not only are Pulangihon Manobo mothers tasked with rearing their tribe’s children, they also carry the weight of securing their ancestral domain for these children’s future.

And for Bai Jocelyn, that is the most arduous duty, the most crucial battle yet to be won.

“Malaking halaga ang papel ng kababaihan dahil maraming kabataan ang inaalagaan,” she says. “Bilang ina, hindi ka papayag na may masaktan na mga tao dahil ang ina ay isang sagradong babae.”

So she marches. She marches and joins her voice to the chorus of others who hail from different parts of the country yet long for the same—stable settlements, land ownership, an end to violence, a better future for their children.

She holds her head high, leads her people and remembers their children—those who have yet to live the day when gunshots no longer ring in the air, those who have yet to witness the absence of Poling Lorenzo’s brutal blue guards.

She remembers them, and together with the other Pulangihon Manobo women and men, she fights for another day to reclaim paradise lost.

Wielding strength in numbers, finding solidarity in adversity
Minority groups coalesce for peace and self-determination

By Teresa Barre and Meeko Angela Camba

Flags of protest flew high over more than a thousand members of the national minorities and students as they marched to Mendiola Friday afternoon to cap off the two-week protest caravan, Kampuhan 2016 hosted by the University of the Philippines Diliman.

At the front lines were minority leaders, clad in their traditional garb, united under one call: a just and lasting peace and the right to self-determination.

“Walang pagkakaiba [ang hinaharap ng] 108 na ethno-linguistic groups [dito sa bansa]. Iisa [lang] yung adhikain at ito ang pagkilala sa sariling pagpapasya ng mga katutubong mamamayan,” Cordillera People’s Alliance leader Ampi Manili said.

Hailing from the Mountain Province, the Ibaloi leader also said Lakbayan 2016 served as a platform for national minorities from all over the country to share their experiences and act together.

“Yung mga Moro na noon ay hiwalay, sumasama na sila [ngayon] sa panawagang pagpapasya ng [mga] katutubong mamamayan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sonny Serrano, leader of the Central Luzon Aetas’ Association, shared how their former negative view of Moros was changed after being able to interact with their fellow minorities during the Lakbayan period.

“May mga sinasabing ‘yung mga Moro, terorista ‘yan. Pero hindi pala kasi katulad din namin silang lumalaban,” Serrano said.

A united front

Unlike in the previous years, Lakbayan 2016 (previously called “Manilakbayan”) welcomed over 3000 participants from various cultural groups–a huge leap from last year’s 700 Lumad contingents from Mindanao.

For about a week, participants took part in cultural performances, educational discussions and protests, which will continue until Oct. 28. All activities call on the government to end the “creeping militarization and plunder of ancestral lands and territories” by mostly foreign-owned corporations.

“Nais namin na palayasin ang mga dayuhan, lalong-lalo na yung kumokontrol sa ating ekonomiya at usapin ng seguridad na matagal nang nakapinsala, nakapagpahirap at nagpalala ng diskriminasyon sa aming mga katutubo at mamamayang Moro,” Malayao said.

According to Manili, one particular success of this year’s caravan was the establishment of Sandugo: Kilusan ng Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya (SANDUGO), an alliance which seeks to forward the rights of the national minorities who comprise about 15 percent of the total Philippine population.

SANDUGO, created Oct.19, is composed of different organizations such as the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Suara Bangsamoro, the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance and the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad.

One of its first resolutions is the call for a separate clause for national minorities in the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (CASER), a document first drafted in 1998 which seeks to resolve historical and structural inequities in Philippine society.

The Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) representatives have already agreed on the CASER’s outline and framework, Oct. 9.

Meanwhile, NDFP consultant Loida Magpatoc assured the Alliance that concerns such as agrarian reform, rural development and the rights of working people are already included in the CASER’s draft.

Though there were victories in the Lakbayanis’ journey to the nation’s capital, the voyage also bore witness to an injustice perpetrated by state elements similar to the one they face back in their communities.

Violent dispersal

Around 50 protesters suffered various injuries when members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) dispersed a peaceful rally held by national minority groups and their supporters in front of the United States Embassy, Oct. 19.

One of those injured by a police vehicle that ran over protesters is Piya Macliing Malayao, the lead convenor of SANDUGO and the granddaughter of Macliing Dulag, a Cordilleran leader assassinated for his opposition of the Chico Dam Project in the 1970s.

Malayao condemned the violent dispersal, seeing it is as an attack to Filipinos who are fighting for an independent foreign policy for the country. The protest came a day before President Rodrigo Duterte announced in Beijing the Philippines’ separation from the U.S. in terms of military and economic policy.

“Pinakamataas po ang aming pagkundena doon sa marahas na pag-disperse at aktibong pag-atake sa aming mga pambansang minorya doon sa U.S. Embassy,” said the crutch-bound Malayao to the crowd gathered in front of the Mendiola Peace Arch.

“Malinaw po na ito ay pagpapatupad ng isang security policy ng Estados Unidos laban sa mga mamamayang Pilipino lalo na [laban] sa mga nakikibaka para sa isang foreign-independent na polisiya ng ating bansa,” she added.

Furthermore, Malayao said she and other victims plan to file legal charges against the policemen responsible for the violent dispersal.

“Liban sa pagsuspinde, pagpapatalsik sa mga pulis na ‘yan–pangunahin yung may mga command. Gusto naming na sila’y managot at makulong,” she said.

Meanwhile, Manili expressed his frustration on how violence seem to persist beyond their communities.

“It’s very very disgusting, bayolente. In fact nararanasan naman talaga yung brutal ng military sa kanayunan…Tapos dito sa Manila ganyan pala,” he said.

Despite this, Manili said SANDUGO plans to continue their struggle in forwarding the issue of self-determination among the minorities, aiming to coordinate at least annually to maintain a united front.

A great disparity

The Lakbayanis also shared their learnings from their one-week stay at the country’s economic and political center.

Nico de los Santos, a Dumagat youth leader, laments the waste of natural resources in the metro, citing the water fountains he saw at shoppings malls. He was only a little over 3-years-old when his father was killed by military forces for opposing the construction of the Laiban dam in Tanay, Rizal in 2001.

“Bakit dito ang daming nasasayang na tubig kung saan pinagkakakitaan nila o hinahagisan ng pera?” he said. “Pagpupunta run, hahagisan nila ng pera—minsan limang piso, o sampung piso! Kahit nga piso, panghihinayangan ko pang ihulog dun.”

Similarly, Manili told of his people’s surprise upon seeing how seemingly developed Metro Manila is compared to their communities in the Cordillera region despite providing the resources for the capital to thrive.

“Siyempre yung mga katutubo may culture shock. Kasi [may] ganito: magagandang kalsada, magagandang building. Punta ka naman sa bayan, sa kanayunan walang ganoon,” he said.

“Ang yaman ng bansa ay nanggagaling sa teritoryo (ng katutubo)…Eh bakit ang teritoryo namin walang ospital, walang kalsada?” Manili added.

While some of the minority groups from Northern and Central Luzon have gone home, the second half of the Lakbayan commences at the UP CMO grounds with the Mindanao contingent.

Though there is still much road to be covered in the minorities’ journey towards self-determination, Lakbayan 2016 proved monumental in unifying diverse groups of people under one cause.

From this day forth, the caravan is no longer an isolated battle for one repressed ethnolinguistic group alone, but a goal which many now share. #

Of momentary rest and battles yet to be won

by Nicole-Anne C. Lagrimas

Jose is a miner. His people’s land is rich with gold ore, but has long been exposed to large-scale mining operations that use his and his people’s – the Mansaka tribe – strength to cut the mountains open.

Jose is a miner, and he is a husband and a father. For the first time, he is a traveler, too.

Having made the journey to Manila from his home in Compostela Valley (ComVal) province at least 2, 000 other delegates from various parts of the country, they have been spun a new name: lakbayani, after the wordplay on the Filipino words for journey and heroes.

He is a participant in this year’s Lakbayan, a gathering of national minorities to bring to the country’s capital their people’s struggle and demands, and though they have experienced  violence, little rest, and meager food in the city, he said he would return next year, if necessary, to continue the fight for his people’s rights.

Resting in a makeshift cot of wooden panels in the main camp site set up for Lakbayan delegates hailing from as far north as the Cordilleras and as far south as the Davao region, Jose Balucos, 42, is away from the day’s protest action in Mendiola. It was past 5 p.m., the sun only starting to sink after glaring at everything from the rallyists in Mendiola to the sleepy camp in the Campus Maintenance Office grounds in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

Jose, for his part, opted to stay behind to look after a colleague who was down with the flu.

Yet he was not always on the sidelines, for when PO3 Franklin Kho rammed a police van through a crowd of protesters in front of the US Embassy on Oct. 19th, Jose was right there, wearing a non-descript striped shirt in a sea of red.

Here, he starts to tell his story.

“‘Yung mga naka-pulang damit, ‘yun ang kanilang pinapalo,” he said.

Consistent with other accounts, he said their program was about to end when Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedrozo ordered his officers to disperse the crowd.

Jose said he himself saw the dispersal, which left at least 50 injured and 21 arrested, unfold: “Lumabas yung mga naka-full armed, full mask, saka dinisperse kami. Yung bumbero, palapit nang palapit sa amin.”

As the protesters would not go back to UP without their colleagues, he continued, they waited for two hours outside the police station as their leaders negotiated with the police.

“Ayaw makinig [ng mga pulis]. Palaging nakangiti. ‘Yan po ang nakita namin,” said Jose.

While the protesters waited outside the gate of the police station, he said, police officers brought out a large speaker and started playing Christmas songs to drown out their leaders’ demands to release the arrested protesters.

It was not until 6 p.m. that the group finally went back to UP, where rest awaited them.

Jose, asked why he joined Lakbayan, launched into a tale of a people wronged: the Mansaka tribe of the valley province, small-scale miners in a gold-rich land, booted out of their ancestral domain by a large-scale mining company whose operation killed their river and their livelihood.

Quickly identifying Apex Mining Co. Inc. as the culprit and the Mining Act of 1995 as the state move that allowed it, Jose said, “Marami pong nasagaan ang ginawang batas na yan: lahat ng tribo, katutubo sa Mindanao, dahil sa pagpasok ng malaking mina, pagmimining ng aming mga ginto at iba’t ibang minerals.”

“Maraming lider na pinatay dahil ayaw nilang papasukin [ang mga mining companies] dahil winasak ‘yung mga bundok namin; yung mga ilog namin, wala na,” he added.

Registered in the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (PSEC) in 1970, Apex Mining Co. Inc. operates in the municipalities of Maco and Mabini in the ComVal province.

According to its annual report to the PSEC, Apex produced 438,424 tonnes of gold ore in 2015. The same report stated that 244,600 ounces of gold could be recovered from the long-mined area.

Forty percent of the company’s shares are held by Prime Metroline Holdings Inc., and among its top 20 shareholders is Dr. Walter William Brown, who owns 1.34 percent of the company and serves as its president and CEO.

Jose points his fingers at the contested Mining Act of 1995, which explicitly allows foreign-owned corporations to be granted a mineral processing permit.

It has survived questions of constitutionality but has recently been called “unfair” by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez.

In fact, the Supreme Court decided en banc in January 2004 that some of the act’s provisions, including Section 56, which allows for the granting of mineral processing permits to foreign corporations, in response to questioning by the La Bugal B’laan Tribal Association in June 1995. The decision was reversed in December 2004.

Jose still depends on his people’s river, which, though now dead, still provides them with enough gold that four hours of labor, done at night to avoid prying eyes, would sell for up to P800, an amount enough to survive on for a day, he said.

They work in the night to avoid the eyes of the guards of the mining company which operates right in the middle of their ancestral land, fearing the stipulated fine and jail time if caught.

“Pag makikita kami, hulihin kami, ikulong saka mayroon pang penalty na P12,000 plus six months na kulong,” he said. “Hindi mo nakikita sa ating gobyerno kung paano kami inaapi sa aming mismong lugar.”

The mining company, which according to Jose has been nothing but detrimental to his people and his land, provides them with contract miners’ jobs that last only for a year. Once their contract ends, they would be hardpressed to apply a second time.

“Kung mag-apply ka sa opisina, tanggapin ka nila sa application lang. Pero yung mismong ikaw ang um-apply. Masyadong [patatagalin]. Hanggang di na, wala na,” he said.

“‘Yan ang dahilan kung bakit kami narito. Upang marinig sa ating gobyerno kung paano kami sinagasaan, yung iba namin pinatay na…ng malalaking mina sa amin,” he added.

In the camp, Jose said he eats mostly bread and canned goods, donations gathered for the delegates.

He and his companions from other areas of Mindanao share a blue tarpaulin roof and their assembled wooden cots, bearing the heat and the rain away from their families until the last week of October.

Outside the tents, a woman named Dadad Sumudlayon cooks rice in three large pots. Never having been to a rally as part of Lakbayan, she said, her duty is to prepare food for her exhausted colleagues.

Outside the camp, where visitors mill about before and after immersing with the delegates, are sacks of rice and various other supplies.

The living conditions are far from comfortable, but Jose said, “Pagdating namin dito, wala kaming inasahan. Ang amin, diyan lang kami sa daan…lahat kami, sanay na.”

If the Mining Act of 1995 is not repealed this year, he said, he would return to Manila armed with the same cause, and he would join again in the years after that, “hanggang sa mabasura yung batas na ‘yan,” until his people’s land can be theirs again.

Year after year, he would fight.

But tonight, Jose the miner, the husband, the father, the lakbayani, would rest.  (Photo by Gabriel Sante.)

Heartbreaker champion FEU slips past UP again

By John Remil Isaga

Another game, another heartbreak from the defending champions.

After beating the UP Fighting Maroons in their first matchup, 51-49, the FEU Tamaraws escaped UP again, 63-60, at the Araneta Coliseum, Saturday.

Led by the ever-reliable captain Jett Manuel and Paul Desiderio, UP shot out of warmups white-hot with an unlikely 28-8 lead, putting a big scare on the six-game winning streak of the Tamaraws.

Unfazed, FEU started its slow crawl back up, chipping in a few points from putbacks and a lone three-pointer from Allen Trinidad. Outscored 19-8, UP held on to a 36-27 lead at the half.

FEU head coach Nash Racela had some choice words for his team at halftime: “Kung gusto niyong manalo, pagtrabahuhan niyo.”

And work, they did. Playing impressive defense and textbook offense, the Tamaraws charged back as they outscored the Maroons 19-10, ending the third quarter on a 46-all deadlock.

Riding on a newfound momentum, FEU took control and eventually the lead. At one point, they even led by nine, 57-48, off the Maroons’ turnovers.

However, Manuel and Desiderio did not want to let this game slip away as they scored nine straight off three three-pointers.

After a lengthy and crucial ball-possession review at the game’s waning seconds, which eventually went to UP, coach Bo Perasol promptly called timeout.

In the huddle, the coaching staff drew up a play that would give Manuel a chance to tie the game at 63-all. However, they blew the inbounds pass and turned it over to FEU, which would ultimately seal the deal and send the Tamaraws to their seventh straight victory.

After missing the potential game-tying three, Manuel kneeled on the court, covered his face with his jersey and refused to leave.

A disappointed Bo Perasol said after the game that the boys could have taken care of business, having been able to get a good start.

“Coach Bo was very angry at us,” said Manuel, “and he had every right to be because he expected more from the team.”

He added, “I’m really proud of the team, but sometimes, I feel that I expect more from them, each and every one of them. That was a game we should’ve won. Flat out, we should’ve won.”

Manuel led UP again with 16 points, followed closely by Desiderio with 13. Returnee big man Jerson Prado had himself a nice game with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Meanwhile, Raymar Jose led the FEU comeback effort with a double-double: 20 points and 12 rebounds. However, he’s the only Tamaraw who scored in double-figures as Trinidad followed him with nine markers.

Despite UP leading in field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentages, FEU outrebounded the Maroons 53-39, which enabled them to outscore UP in second-chance points, 19-9.

With this loss, UP is now at 3-8 in the standings, accompanied by UE and UST at the bottom. They next face the NU Bulldogs on Oct. 26, Wednesday, at the Araneta Coliseum.#

Erratum: The venue for the next game is the Araneta Coliseum, not the SM Mall of Asia Arena as previously stated. We apologize for the oversight.

Minority groups denounce land grabbing, militarization

by Nacho Domingo

“Ang pagkaalam ng ating mga kasamahan, ang tunggalian ay dahil sa giyera. Hindi pa nila alam na ang kaguluhan ay dahil sa pagkawalang respeto at pagkawalang lupa ng mga Pilipino,” said Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization of Northern Mindanao Chairperson Datu Jomorito Goaynon, who condemned private companies for violations against the rights of Philippine national minorities.

Together with seven other speakers, Goaynon discussed the struggle of minority groups in protecting their rights to ancestral domains as well as their calls for the end of forced displacement and indigenous peoples (IP) killings in their communities in “Lakbayan Para sa Kapayapaan,” a forum held at the Department of Agriculture, Oct. 18.

While a government-implemented unilateral ceasefire between private military groups and minority groups is to be discussed Oct. 27, several members of these minority groups highlighted pressing issues such as Lumad killings, the exploitation of natural resources, and displacement from ancestral lands.

Such is the situation in Cordillera where, according to Cordillera Peoples Alliance Vice Chairperson Fernando Mangili, land grabbing takes the form of “development projects.”

“Sa Cordillera, ang kabuuang lupa dito ay 1.6 milyong hektarya. Pero ngayon, 600,000 ay naangkin ng mga pribadong korporasyong pagmimina,” he said, adding that this is one of the biggest problems their tribe faces.

The Cordillera region in northern Luzon—once rich with natural resources—is now home to over 100 mini hydro and geothermal dams. In the subsequent years, private companies are supposedly planning to build 103 more within the area.

Besides the construction of dams, militarization and killings have also taken their toll on the Cordillera people.

Mangili explained how the government, in spite of its peace talks and proposed ceasefire, has not been effective in protecting the rights of the Cordillera people.

He substantiated this claim by stating how the 54th and 77th infantry battalions remain on the boundary of the Cagayan valley and the Cordillera area.

“Pag andiyan ang militar, maraming problema,” he said. “Nangyari lang patayan.”

Moreover, despite efforts from the government, the presence of armed forces and their combat operations among the Cordillera people has not decreased since President Rodrigo Duterte took office.

“Ang iniisip nila, ang rehiyong Cordillera ay walang tao. Maraming minorya, katutubo at magsasaka na nandiya-diyan. Marami na po ang pang-aabuso ng armed forces na kasama sa combat operations,” Mangili said.

Likewise, the assertive presence of military groups is also a significant problem with the Moros, according to Suara Bangsamoro National President Amirah Lidasan who explained that the militarization of their area resulted in the forced displacement of farmers and Moros from their lands.

Due to the warfront caused by the presence of groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front, the Moros have been forced to leave their ancestral land in Mindanao, reiterated Mangili.

The activities of mining companies mining companies such as mineral extraction in the Moro areas has also led to the exploitation and deterioration of the minority groups’ natural resources.

“May karapatan kami sa aming ancestral domain,” said Lidasan. “Paano sasagutin [ng lokal na pamahalaan] ang mga historical injustice? Yung mga napa-displace na Moro at ang lupa na napalipat at napunta sa ibang mga Kristiyano?”

In spite of all this, Lumad representative Maryane Angilay maintained that Philippine minority groups must band together and continue their collective action to instill genuine socio-economic and cultural reforms in the country, which they believe to be instrumental in ending the violations of their rights to land and life.

“Yung gusto nating pagbabago, nasa kamay natin,” Angilay said.

“Kaya tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang laban, mga kasama para maipatupad ang usapang kapayapaan at para makamit ang matagal nang pinangarap na social-economic reform at cultural reform.”

Although they believe the government is not giving its full support to and the battle is nowhere near finished, the members of the various national minority groups continue to soldier on in hopes of protecting their rights.

“Para sa lahat ng mga pambansang minorya at mga magsasaka, ang solusyon sa mga problema natin ay hindi ang peace talk, hindi ang pag-uusap, kung hindi ang patuloy na pakikibaka natin,” said Goaynon.
Members of national minorities such as the Lumad, Cordillera, and Moro, as well as a Native American representative from North Dakota, USA, attended the forum, which is part of a series of talks tackling the issue of land grabbing in indigenous communities. 

Sparks of solidarity: Rekindling the fight of national minorities

by Paula Angeline Calayan

On a normal day, the University of the Philippines (UP) would have been filled with the humdrum of its many jeepneys and students, with the rain incapable of sweeping away the joys of simply being in the campus.

Underneath the humdrum of its normal routine, however, rests the Iskolar ng Bayan’s awareness of social injustices and the initiative to battle them.On Friday, red colored the streets of UP as members of the national minorities proudly marched, their voices loud enough for everyone to hear. The rain itself made way for their powerful calls for self-determination and peace.

At least 3,500 members of different cultural groups gather in the university for Kampuhan 2016, a two-week protest caravan of national minorities hailing from different parts of the country, to put forward their struggle against injustices.

 It was Roger Cariño’s first time to join the journey to Metro Manila. However, this makes him no stranger to the plight of his tribe.

Having organized protest actions on the streets of Abra, his home province, Cariño has been asserting the rights of the Igorot tribe against large-scale logging companies corrupting their lands.

During the 1970’s, the Tingguians, the group of indigenous peoples inhabiting the hills of Abra, fought against  logging company Cellophil Resources Corp. (CRC). Owned by former President Ferdinand Marcos’ close friend Hermano Disini, its mining and logging operations brought devastation to 200, 000 hectares of ancestral land.

It destroyed the Igorot’s natural resources, causing the depletion of their forest and the loss of their pasturelands for the water buffalos. Refusing this treatment, they fought for their land, declining offers to sell their properties and instead, surrounding them with fences to keep the company away.

Conversely, this developed the Cordillera Mass Movement, wherein Tingguians fiercely resisted CRC. Through the collective efforts of the community, the operation was seized to stop; barricading their lands for mining companies’ incapability to enter.

“May security silang sundalo kaya ayaw na namin sanang maulit ulit yung ganun,” Cariño said.

Cariño knows that their tribe’s situation is no different today with large mining companies still making claims on their lands for capitalist ventures.

“Maraming masisira—ang kalikasan at yung lupain maagaw sa amin kapag pumasok yung mga dam, logging, concession, mining companies,” Cariño said.

Nevertheless, the flames ignited by those who fought in the 70s continue to burn with Cariño and his fellow Igorots bringing the fight to Manila, wishing to bring the pressing issues in their hometown closer to the country’s capital city and the government.

Aside from addressing the issue of plundering of land, Cariño wishes for President Rodrigo Duterte to act upon the present conditions of indigenous peoples, especially those residing in far-flung areas. He also wants the government to help them in times of need, especially during disasters where relief goods are scarce.

The situation of 62-year-old Erlinda Sibal and her granddaughters is no different from Cariño and his tribe.

Sibal’s family has been receiving monthly relief goods from Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda. Pineda, she shares, has always aided in the needs of the Aetas.

In Sibal’s heart, she knows that these goods only assure survival for the next few days and the future of her family is yet to remain secure.

“Isa lang oras yun, kinabukasan wala na,” she said.

Besides the lack of aid in disaster response, Sibal and the Aetas of Mabalacat have also experienced threats from companies who wish to plunder their ancestral lands. However, like her ancestors, Sibal is determined to fight for what is rightfully theirs.

“Yung iba gusto nila kunin pero kami lumalaban kami,” Sibal said. “Ano, kukunin lupa namin, saan kami magtatanim? Saan yung mga bata? Saan kami kukuha ng pang-araw araw namin? [sic]”

According to her, the government has been asking for land titles claiming ownership on their ancestral land.Sibal said these titles were non-existent, adding that her parents never even held one.

In resolute response to the demands of the state, Sibal demands the government to grant her the title they are looking for.

Long has the UP community awaited for the arrival of the national minorities, joining them in challenging the current administration of President Duterte amid outcries of militarization, plunder of ancestral lands, right to education, and Lumad killings.

Before their arrival in the university, organizations and student councils have been encouraging students to volunteer for camp-building, media coverage and even participation in educational discussions.

For College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) Chairperson Almira Abril, the CMCSC sent letters to professors to adjoin Lakbayan with their discussions.

“Ang mga bitbit na isyu ng ating mga pambansang minorya ay hindi dapat natin inihihiwalay sa iba’t iba pang isyu na ating kinakaharap kahit na sa loob pa man yan ng pamantasan,” she said.

According to her, the UP community has been receiving the national minorities with open arms, leaving them with smiles and grateful receptions.

“Sila ay nagpapasalamat at syempre dahil andito na rin sila ay mas gusto nila itake yung pagkakataon na makapagpaliwanag sa mga estudyante,” Abril said.

“Yun naman yung pangunahing dahilan bakit sila andito, para paingayin pa lalo ang kanilang mga isyu lalo na tungkol sa patuloy na militarisasyon at pag-agaw ng kanilang mga lupang ninuno,” she added.

This has given them a chance to express their concerns to the students of UP Diliman. As Iskolar ng Bayan, this would inspire students to voice out their own struggles as well as learn from them.

Deeply involved in the preparations for Kampuhan were the Save Our Schools Network and Stop Lumad Killings Network (SLKN).

SLKN Head and University Student Council (USC) Councilor Ben Te consulted academic employees, students, and faculty, among others.

SLKN is an immediate network for a collective action of faculty, organizations, fraternities, sororities, and student councils supporting the Lakbayan.

“Mahalagang mapatampok na may pagkakataon talaga na magkaisa ang mga estudyante at pambansang minorya dahil lahat tayo ay nakakaranas ng mga neoliberal na atake sa karapatan at pasismo ng estado,” Te said.

Though successful with the course of Lakbayan from the loud and positive welcome of the students to the building of camps, he encourages more organizations to help through donations.

“Kitang kita na handa ang mga estudyante na puntahan ang mga Lakbayani upang matuto mula sa kanila at para rin mapakita ang ating pakikiisa sa kanilang laban para sa karapatan sa sariling pagpapasya at makatarungang kapayapaan,” Te said.

Beyond the massive effort already exerted by the UP community, Abril and Te agree that the plight of members of national minorities like Cariño and Sibal are those which every Iskolar ng Bayan must recognize and take on.

“Pero at the same time, katulad ng sinasabi ng ating mga bisita, na sana sa mga susunod na pagkakataon ay tayo naman ang makapunta sa kanilang mga lugar, at doon mismo ay makita natin ang kalagayan nila,” Abril said.


UP Prexy candidates address plans on accessible UP education

by Jeuel Barroso

The University of the Philippines (UP) presidential candidates laid down their plans for accessible UP education in a forum on the UP Presidential elections held in UP Diliman Cine Adarna, Oct. 13.

While a few nominees addressed the existing Socialized Tuition System (STS), others focused on issues of aspiring UP students, especially those in public high schools.

“I will support the Pascual administration’s ST reforms, but we have to add to it, re-examine the bracketing of STS, we can adjust it so it will be lighter for the students’ pockets,” UP Vice President for Public Affairs J. Prospero de Vera III said.

According to the vice president, this is as important as increasing the number of scholarships and grants for students by using earnings from UP operations. He added that UP also needs to have need-based funding, especially with the stipends, for poor students.

The STS is an economic capacity-based financial support from the national government that UP enrollees apply for via online registration annually.

In the previous enrolments, many students from various UP campuses struggled upon receiving higher brackets in the STS. Some even received their brackets weeks after the beginning of the semester.

Regarding the STS, Padilla-Concepcion said the UP administration has already raised the bracket cut-offs. However, if elected, she plans to review them again, especially when it comes to the lower bracket–the ones with the largest discount.

“We should increase the [students’] stipend because we still don’t have enough housing services,” she added. “We are still renovating them and we are going to multiply them inside the CUs (constituent units).”

Meanwhile, former UP Diliman (UPD) Chancellor Caesar Saloma pointed out the fact that 57 percent of UPCAT passers for UP Diliman are from the National Capital Region (NCR).

“This is not a sustainable trend,” Saloma said, “we have to make the other CUs equally attractive to students and teachers.”

“One way of approaching this is to start with a tuition-free education in other CUs,” he added.

However, College of Law Dean Danilo Concepcion said that the matriculation of poor students is already free and the real problem why these students could not enter UP is because “they could not pass the UPCAT.”

In the forum, Concepcion proposed the creation of a program that aims to raise the quality of the public school teaching so they can level with the quality of graduates from Metro Manila.

The former UP vice president for legal affairs plans to give student scholarships with a corresponding return service where these students will be deployed to teach to public schools.

“If the quality of those schools increase, we will then help them take the UPCAT by providing them with fare,” he said.

On the other hand, Department of Science and Technology Undersecretary Rowena Guevara pointed out that students could not take the UPCAT due to financial incapacity rather than pre-tertiary education,

According to Guevara, there are students who would like to take UPCAT but could not afford the testing fee. In addition to this, these students have no fare to travel to the testing centers to take their entrance exam.

The former College of Engineering dean plans to coordinate with Local Government Units (LGU) to assure that these financially incapable students would be able to go to the UPCAT examination areas and take their entrance exams.

“After the students pass, if they can’t afford the fare to go to UP, we will ensure that there will be funds that will bring them to the university; we will let them stay in dormitories while enrolling,” Guevara said

Guevara said what needs to be given are free dormitories, free food, and free jeepney rides to make sure that students can study without having financial problems.

Similarly, UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Benito M. Pacheco said support for students’ living conditions and living allowance is what UP lacks the most.

“Applicants’ recruitment and free tuition are already included; upon being able to enter UP, then what?” the former Chairperson of the College of Engineering said.

“We will make sure that UP has good working, living, and studying conditions if not direct support for daily expenses of students,” he added.

The next UP President will be elected by the Board of Regents in Feb. 2017.

National minority leaders decry commercialization of culture and lands

by Faith Esther Brown

“Hindi mo kami maaring tawaging katutubo kung wala kaming lupa na tirahan. Mahalaga sa amin ang lupain,” Lumad leader Minda Dalinan told the audience of “At a Glance in the Philippine Tourism” forum by the Asian institute of Tourism Student Council at the School of Industrial Relations, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, Friday.

In line with the National Indigenous Peoples’ Month, the forum discussed the issues national minorities currently face, particularly the commercialization of their cultures and ancestral lands due to tourism, mining, and land grabbing.

KATRIBU UP Diliman Chapter’s Bernadette Almanzor pointed out that the issue of land-grabbing can be traced back when the Spanish colonizers first tried to invade the lands of the Filipino natives.

“May mga katutubo o communities na either lalo pa silang nagtago dahil ayaw nilang magpasakop o kaya aktibo nilang nilabanan yung mga colonizers,” Almanzor said. “Sila yung mga magiging katutubo o yung mga indigenous peoples at saka yung mga Moro groups.”

According to Almanzor, these groups have retained their own languages, economic systems, and socio-political structures since they deliberately protected their culture from foreigners and other invaders.

However, preserving both these and their ancestral lands have now become a tough challenge for the national minorities.

Dalinan said mining and logging companies, as well as big plantations have already invaded their ancestral land on the mountains of Mindanao.

The Lumad leader also mentioned that these companies had promised to build them free schools, health centers, and livelihood for them to consent the logging of trees and building of plantations and mining sites within their land.

However these promises never materialized.

“Hanggang sa amin ngayon wala kaming free school, walang free health center, wala ang lahat. Ngayon, niloko kami,” she said. “Patuloy nang nasisira  ang kabundukan, lalo na higit sa lahat, ang aming kultura. Naging commercialized na siya.”

Dalinan added that instead of building structures for the welfare of the members of the cultural minorities in their land, these companies and corporations endangered the health of the people.

“Ang SOCCSKSARGEN sa kasaluyan ay malamang na mayaman sa kanser–kanser sa balat, kanser sa baga dahil sa epekto ng aerial spray ng Sumifru plantation. Epekto rin ng mining kasi ang tubig hindi mo na magamit kapag gamitin sa mining,” Dalinan said.

Sumifru Philippines is a corporation that produces and exports various fresh fruits based in Davao del Sur.

According to Dalinan, even their native costumes and rituals have become commercialized because of the grabbing and the destruction of lands where they get food and resources. The subsequent shortage of resources because of the invasion of their lands rendered the introduction of cash in their economic system.

Dalinan said some of the members of the minority groups sell their traditional clothes for money, which in turn become exported.

She mentioned that some natives now perform their traditional rituals for cash, which was forbidden as it strips off dignity from their culture.

“Kasi yung mga sayaw nila ay hindi naman for entertainment. Marami sa kanilang sayaw ay ritualistic–sagrado at hindi siya basta-bastang ginagawa,” Almanzor said.

“Nakikita natin na sa uri ng tourism na meron tayo ngayon, nilalabas sa sacred context o sagradong konteksto yung kanilang kultura para pagkakitaan,” she added.

Asked whether or not their tribe supports ecotourism since the current government promotes it, Dalinan answered they are not in favor of it since it inhibits them from freely going to sacred places within their land.

“Sa ngayon ayaw na rin namin dahil hindi kami makapunta sa mga lugar kung saan sacred. Lalo na ngayon, may mga tourist area na sa amin [sa] South Cotabato. Hindi ka makapunta doon kung wala kang pera na ibabayad sa gate,” Dalinan said.

According to Dalina, all of these changes in their way of life are happening because of the mining and logging companies and plantations that continue to “destroy” their land.

On the other hand, Dakula Dodoy Bago, a guest speaker and part of the Mamanwa tribe form CARAGA, recounted the harassment and killings of many tribal leaders in their area after its militarization. He blamed the mining companies for the formation of military stations in their ancestral lands.

Only five months ago, vocal tribal leader Datu Arnel Nayer from Surigao del Norte was killed by the military for opposing the seizing of their ancestral land.

Meanwhile, tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Jovello Sinzo along with Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) school Director Emerito Samarca were slain by identified members of the paramilitary force in Surigao del Sur in 2015.

Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa CARAGA (Kasalo-CARAGA) believes that the “plunder of ancestral lands by a mining corporation” is the reason behind killings of members of minority groups in the area where they reside.

Bago and other minority group members decided to leave their land due to the mining companies as well as the military who invaded their area. They now reside in beside a highway in their town–far from what they considered home for a long time.

Due to the apparent negative effects of mining in their lands, Dalinan expressed her support for the passage of House Bill 171 or the People’s Mining Bill which was first filed in 2011.

This bill intends to develop the mining industry in the Philippines “in an economically-viable, ecologically-sound and democratic manner.” It also seeks to free the Philippine mining industry from liberalized access and pursue a “need-based” development rather than the current “export-orientation” of mining.

“Mayroon tayong mining bill na gustong isabatas pero bakit hindi pa rin naisasabatas?” the Lumad leader said. “Ang mas ini-implement pa nila ay yung mga batas na mas nakasisira pa sa kalikasan lalo na sa katawan ng tao.”

Dalinan and Bago are part of this year’s Kampuhan sa Diliman where national minority groups hold a solidarity camp at UP Diliman to integrate with students and other sectors in Metro Manila.
Kampuhan is part of Lakbayan 2016, a protest caravan conducted to bring to light the struggles faced by country’s national minority.

UP secures three-peat, ninth overall women’s badminton crown

by John Remil Isaga

For the third straight year, the UP Lady Maroons nabbed the UAAP Women’s Badminton title in dominating fashion, besting the Ateneo Lady Eagles three matches to one.

First Singles Match: Bea Bernardo vs Bianca Carlos

Eerily similar to how Game 2 began, the Lady Eagles team captain Bianca Carlos swept UP’s Bea Bernardo, 16-21, 19-21, in the first singles match to take a 1-0 lead.

Although Bernardo started out of warmups red-hot by mounting an 8-1 lead, Ateneo’s tested veteran brushed it off and took care of business. Second Singles Match: Gel Castilo vs Sam Ramos Determined to mount back the pressure on the challengers, the Lady Maroons’ Gel Castilo entered the second singles match with a 10-6 introductory attack to Ateneo’s Sam Ramos. Although Ramos rallied to bring the set deficit down to three, 13-10, Castilo hammered multiple kills and forced errors to leave Ramos in the dust, 21-14.

However, the determination to get over the title drought propelled Ramos to smash home textbook kills of her own despite Castilo starting the second set on an interval-forcing 11-5 run. This enabled the Ateneo talent to close the gap once again at 18-16 via a series of kill trading, much to the delight of the boisterous, jampacked crowd.

Ramos even forced a 21-20 set point before Castilo secured the match sweep at 24-22 for a 1-1 game tie. Relieved, she laid down on the court and fist-pumped for a moment.


First Doubles Match: Mav Alcala & Jessie Francisco vs Trixie Malibiran & Sam Ramos

The action kicked up to an even higher gear as UP team captain Mav Alcala and Jessie Francisco opened up the first doubles match against Ramos and Trixie Malibiran.

Much like the match that preceded it, UP mounted a commanding 7-3 lead before the Eagle duo locked in and rallied back. With UP clinging to a 12-10 lead, Alcala and Francisco revved up the attacks and once again left their Katipunan sisters dazed and down one set, 21-15.

They threw in the same furious attacks in the following set to sweep Ateneo, 21-17 and grab the 2-1 lead.

Second Doubles Match: Gel Castilo & Christine Inlayo vs Bianca Carlos & Geva de Vera

Sensing another possible Finals loss, the new Ateneo duo of Carlos and Geva de Vera battled toe-to-toe with UP’s Castilo and Christine Inlayo in the second doubles match.

Alternating between real and feint smashes, Ateneo outsmarted UP and took the first set, 23-21. Showing no signs of weariness, the Lady Maroon duo instead showed a more intense drive – screaming before and after kills, one after another.

In a flash, UP has taken the set, 21-12. Staying true to their champion mentality, Castilo and Inlayo tore into the hapless Lady Eagles with reckless abandon.

Mounting an unrelenting barrage of kills, the Lady Maroons closed out Ateneo with a title-clinching 21-12 set, which was immediately followed by defeaning screams from the Maroon faithful.

Banners were waved and tears fell to thundering drumbeats as the UP Lady Maroons once again reached the top of the Women’s Badminton division.

UP community welcomes 3500-strong caravan of national minorities

by Tiara Nacario

The University of the Philippines (UP) community welcomed 3,500 members of national minorities hailing from all across the country for Kampuhan sa Diliman 2016 at Quezon Hall, UP Diliman.

Minorities from Abra, Isabela, Cagayan Valley and Nueva Vizcaya were first to arrive Oct. 12 while the remaining contingents from Visayas and Mindanao arrived Oct. 13.

On the second day of the arrival of the national minorities, performers from groups such as Alay Sining, Himig Maskom and Kontra Gapi entertained the crowd of students, faculty and personnel.

Sana isapuso ang hindi pagiging hiwalay ng laban ng kultura sa laban sa karapatan, kalayaan at iba pang batayang serbisyong panlipunan,” UP Student Regent Raoul Manuel said.

Beginning as a campaign against military harassment to Lumad communities in 2012, this year’s Lakbayan aims to forward the right to self-determination as well as a just and lasting peace.

These calls are coupled with the opposition against the militarization of ancestral lands and the displacement of indigenous communities.

“[Land-grabbing] in Mindanao was already an issue in the 1970s, when I first graduated in UP,” UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan said, adding that after all these years, the situation remains the same.

“Nakakalungkot, pero the fact na nandito sila sa UP, nakakataba ng puso. Ang mga estudyante ngayon, kumbaga part din ng edukasyon ito, to learn from them, and sana naman, 40 years from now, hindi na ganun ang sitwasyon,” he said.

“Para ma-maintain yung kultura ng mga pambansang minorya, kaakibat nito ang pag-preserve sa kanilang mga ancestral domains. Yung lupa ay buhay, yung lupa ay kultura,” UP Student Regent Manuel said.

The chancellor also said the people must not wait for the government’s response to handle the issue of land-grabbing and the displacement of national minorities.

“Iba’t iba kasi ang problema, iba’t ibang agency rin ang sasagot,” Tan said. “Pero inuulit ko nga, palaging sinasabi na ‘Change is coming’, pero ang tingin ko, agree ako sa University Student Council, tayo ang pagbabago. ‘Wag tayo maghintay sa gobyerno.”

Moreover, USC Councilor Ben Galil Te believes Lakbayan 2016 is not only an opportunity for social interaction with the national minority but also a call against neoliberal attacks on students as well as these minority groups.

These neoliberal attacks are manifested in the privatization of student services and tuition fee hikes for the students and the large mining companies responsible for displacing cultural minorities, according to Te.

“Matibay ang paninindigan ng mga Iskolar ng Bayan na nagkakaisa tayo laban sa mga neoliberal na patakaran at pagkakataon na ngayon na pagkaisahin na ang ating laban,” Te said.

An educational discussion will take place on Oct. 15 at the camp grounds. On this day, the Lakbayanis are also set to launch the Alliance of National Minorities at the College of Science Amphitheater.

This will be followed by a forum on peace talks with  on Oct. 18, and a cultural night on Oct. 20 among other activities.

Members of the national minority will be residing stay in different colleges and areas within the University of the Philippines Diliman until Oct. 21.

Students and faculty are welcome to visit them on their respective camps.

Curing amnesia: A timely, theatrical recall of Martial Law

By Brontë Lacsamana

It has been decades since the Philippines was shackled under the guise of a need for discipline as declared by former President Ferdinand Marcos.

During his regime, Marcos promised change for a new society yet put journalists and activists in captivity–they were imprisoned, tortured, and killed. Newspapers were shut down, and TV and radio stations were seized. Farmers, workers, and people on the streets suffered a brutal era of repression.

Despite the known and celebrated peaceful conclusion of those dark times, it seems that people nowadays have forgotten what exactly happened forty-four years ago.

Sept. 21, 2016 marked the 44th anniversary of Martial Law.

In an effort to revisit what has been known as one of the darkest periods of our country’s history, an organization of women producers called Ladies Who Launch organized “Never Again: Voices of Martial Law,” a festival of nine one-act plays currently being staged at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani Auditorium, Quezon City until Oct. 16.

Ladies Who Launch is composed of activists Dolly de Leon, Zena Bernardo, Jozy Acosta-Nisperos, Jasmine Ong, and Judith Albano, who are all against Martial Law’s historical revisionism, particularly the burial of the deposed dictator at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.

Nine stories, one goal

The idea behind “Never Again” began in an Independence Day picnic at Bantayog, leading to  the organization’s production of the handpicked collection of plays.

De Leon shares that all nine plays are creations of some of the most admirable playwrights in the Philippines over the years.

“Theater has been used as a powerful tool in the past because it can educate people and at the same time provide an emotional experience,” says de Leon.

Six original plays were written exclusively for this festival while the remaining three are restaged. However, all stories have a common goal—shedding light on Martial Law through entertaining yet powerful and retrospective stories.

The six original plays include Chris Martinez’s “Thingy Or Ang Pak na Pak Ganern na Ganern sa Pakikipagsapalaran ni Melenyo, D’ Great Pokemon Hunter” (directed by Dennis Marasigan); George de Jesus III’s “Disco 1081” (directed by Melvin Lee); and Layeta Bucoy’s “Princess Lilli” (directed by Tuxqs Rutaquio).

Meanwhile, the three restaged plays are “Loyalist Redux,” (written and directed by Kanakan Balintagos),  which was originally staged in this year’s Virgin Labfest; “Duyan Ka Ng Magiting,” (written and directed by Erika Estacio), which premiered only in February this year at the Edsa People Power Experiential Museum in Camp Aguinaldo; and Ramon Jocson’s 1989 Palanca-award-winning “Bulong-Bulongan sa Sangandaan” (directed by Audie Gemora).

One of the six original plays, Rody Vera’s “Indigo Child” (directed by Jose Estrella) tells of Felisa, an activist captured by the military and tortured by electrocution in the last few years of the 1970s. In the play, she confronts her past with her grown-up child Jerome, whom she calls an indigo child because he is born from her strife.

Actress Skyzx Labstilla is truly electric (no pun intended) as Felisa as she recounts the torture she endured in captivity in animated fashion .

Scene after scene after scene she literally crackles with intensity, driving home the point that Martial Law is a vivid nightmare its victims will always remember.

“Marami pa ring pinapatay, marami pa ring political detainees, inaapi pa rin ang mga manggagawa at magsasaka pero mabilis pa ring makalimot ang bayan tungkol sa kasaysayan,” playwright Rody Vera explains. “We should make sure people never forget.”

On the other hand, Alan Lopez’s “Sshhh” (directed by Jenny Jamora) is about a young couple about to go out for lunch with the girl’s father, a high-ranking official in the Marcos government.

The whole act is steamy and intimate, the simple lighting and messy stage-turned-bedroom expressing an air of voyeurism as the couple–played so naturally and boldly by Thea Yrastorza and Karl Medina–gossip about Imee Marcos, the former president’s daughter.

They argue, joke about Martial Law, make out, and realize that a disappeared acquaintance may be more ominous than they think.

For Lopez, Martial Law has been forgotten because of the “lack of introspection on the events by the people,” and “Never Again” is a good start in making the people remember.

Martial law in retrospect

One of the most entertaining plays in the festival is Guelan Varela Luarca’s “Ang Lihim na Kasaysayan ng Huling Habilin ni Ferdinand Edralin Marcos (Spiritual King Solomon of Israel) Hinggil sa Pamanang Kayamanan ni King Bernardo Carpio at José Protacio Rizal Para sa Pagpapaunlad ng Bansang Pilipinas na Siyang Nalalaman ni Mang Ambo, Taxi Driver” (directed by Roobak Valle).

The play depicts the interactions between an old, Marcos-supporting taxi driver, Mang Ambo, and G, his young passenger who strongly goes against the Marcos regime.

At first, Mang Ambo (Lou Veloso) appeared amusing with his cheerful urban legend storytelling and his enthusiasm about the “great and mighty” Marcos.

Meanwhile, his passenger G, brought to life by J-Mee Katanyag, is delightful with her witty, intelligent banter and flabbergasted reactions.

Later on, however, the brilliantly comedic play takes on a more subtle turn and hints that both perspectives on Martial Law can be valid and equally important.

“Like Mang Ambo, loyalists’ minds are quite difficult to change,” says De Leon. “The target audience of these plays are not the loyalists, but the undecided, the uninformed, the youth, and those with [historical] amnesia.”

While many still do not view Martial Law as a dark period which saw thousands of Filipinos subjected to human rights violations, the need for plays such as those in “Never Again” becomes more urgent–their importance reliant on the correction of history books, their essence tasked to deglamorize an era which has so greatly fooled the majority, defining the Filipino people and greatly affecting the country’s future.

Telling the stories of Martial Law evokes memories of the past, so that there may exist a future where those who were oppressed and slain did not suffer in vain and where those who now alter history to honor the man responsible for such atrocious crimes may remember and never, ever forget.

Catch the last three shows running Oct 14/8pm, 15/8pm, and 16/4pm at Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Quezon City. Visit the Never Again: Voices of Martial Law Facebook page or call 0917-804-7191 for reservations.

Let’s Talk About It: Hontiveros, experts promote raising level of mental health discourse

by Merryll Phae Red Carao

A day after Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed Senate Bill 1190 or the Mental Health Bill of 2016, she along with psychology experts and advocates discussed the importance of mental health discourse amidst the rising number of mental illness cases in the Philippines.

In a forum hosted by the UP Psychology Society (UP PsychSoc) at the College of Engineering, University of the Philippines Diliman on Friday, speakers emphasized on the country’s need for a Mental Health Law.

In a speech about her proposed bill, Hontiveros cited that one in five adult Filipinos suffer from a mental or psychiatric disorder, which implies an average of 88 cases of mental illness in 100,000 Filipinos.

“‘Emo,’ ‘malungkutin lang,’ ‘tahimik,’ ‘‘di pala-kaibigan,’ ‘moody,’ ‘masungit,’ ‘mahiyain.’ Sa kabilang dako naman—’hyper,’ ‘sobrang masayahin,’ ‘mainit ang ulo,’ ‘abnormal,’ ‘maluwag ang turnilyo,’ ‘may sayad,’ ‘baliw,’ ‘adik.’ These are some of the labels given to people who have mental health needs,” Hontiveros said.

“These labels, which stem from the lack of understanding on mental health and mental health rights, stigmatize many people including young people, and prevent them from getting the proper treatment out of shame and embarrassment,” she added.

In her proposal, Hontiveros together with former Sen. Letty Shahani, said the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world and the only country in the ASEAN region without an existing Mental Health Law, despite the fact that it has the highest number of depressed people in Southeast Asia, according to a 2014 global report by the World Health Organization (WHO) cited by Hontiveros.

Moreover, young people are at a high risk of mental illness according to the senator. In the same WHO report, it was found that “suicide is the second-leading cause of death globally among people 15 to 29 years of age.”

The WHO report also revealed that leading mental disorders among Filipino youth are depression, anxiety, and mood disorder.

Hontiveros cited another study by the National Youth Commission in 2015 reporting over two out of 10 Filipinos have thought of committing suicide with half of that number having taken attempts to carry out the act.

Such is the condition here in the Philippines, a country ironically listed on August among the happiest places on Earth, according to the Happy Planet Index.

The forum, entitled “Discuss: A Panel Discussion on Mental Health and the Youth,” was an initiative by UP PsychSoc in celebration of the National Mental Health Week.

It was supported by over 40 partners from UP Diliman and other universities, with over 300 participants composed of students and professionals.


“It’s complicated”

The complexity of passing the bill, according to Hontiveros, stems from the country’s inadequacy in resources and facilities when it comes to handling mental health problems.

As of 2014, “Only 490 psychiatrists currently licensed to practice in the Philippines. That’s one for every 200,000 Filipinos,” she said.

MH Bill 1190 is the most updated bill tackling mental health and is the 24th draft of the said bill. The first Mental Health bill, according to Nadera, was proposed in 1989 by then Sen. Orly Mercado.

Aside from enumerating the rights of people with mental health needs, their families, and mental health professionals, MH Bill 1190 also cites the government’s duties and obligations with special focus on the Commision on Human Rights’ (CHR) responsibilities and the provision of community-level mental health care systems.

The objectives of the bill are as follows:

  • Strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health by, among others, formulating, developing, and implementing, national policies, strategies, programs, and regulations relating to mental health;
  • Develop and establish a comprehensive, integrated, and efficient national health care system responsive to the psychiatric, neurologic, and psychosocial needs of the Filipino people
  • Protects the rights and freedom of persons with psychiatric, neurologic, and psychosocial health needs, and;
  • Strengthen information systems, evidence, and research for mental health

Two similar bills had been previously proposed both in the House and the Senate: HB 5347, introduced by former Reps. Leni Gerona-Robredo, Romero Quimbo, Ibarra Gutierrez, Walden Bello, Karlo Alexei Nograles, Kaka Bag-ao and Emmi de Jesus, and SB 2910 proposed by then Sen. Pia Cayetano in 2015 and Loren Legarda in 2014, respectively.

The bills aimed to address mental health problems by integrating mental health with social reintegration with the assistance of the individual’s community. These bills also promote the humane treatment of the individual with mental health problems through campaigns against discrimination.

While there is no legislation yet, there exists a National Mental Health Program signed in 2001 by former Department of Health (DOH) secretary Manuel Dayrit.

The program is “pursued through a mental health program strategy prioritizing the promotion of mental health, protection of the rights and freedom of persons with mental diseases and the reduction of the burden and consequences of mental ill-health, mental and brain disorders and disabilities.”

Additionally, a 2006 report by WHO cited in the DOH website says, “Programs of the Department of Health under the Mental Health Policy include the improvement of the promoting of knowledge of mental health, national and local provision of services and facilities regarding the treatment of mental health, support on the research and training on mental health, and other initiatives.”

“It’s time to give, people,” Hontiveros said. “It’s time we give voice to people with mental health needs who are silently suffering in the dark due to a lack of Mental Health Law.”

The invited speakers backed Hontiveros, saying the need for a Mental Health Law is more pressing than ever.

The panel was composed of Dr. Divine Love Salvador from the UP Diliman Department of Psychology, Philippine Psychiatric Association fellow Dr. Dinah Nadera, UP alumna and suicide awareness advocate Shamaine Buencamino and UP Diliman Counseling and Guidance Office Director Dr. Violeta Bautista.

“In terms of content–instead of being too medical, illness and treatment oriented, the proposed bill has become more balanced,” Bautista said. “The older proposed bill focuses mostly on concerns and rights of the mentally ill, which comes to choose only 10 to 15 percent of the population.”

“Kulang, at ‘di napag-usapan nang maayos ‘yong mga nakaraang mga bill,” Nadera said about the challenges in the passing of the past bills.

The psychology professor is also the co-founder of Project Awit, a non-profit organization that focuses on the capacity building of persons with disabilities through the integration of health, education, and the arts.



“It is said that we, the youth, are the future— however, often times, it is the youth that have these bouts of sadness, weakness, and isolation,” event head Claudia Macias said.

“Society oftentimes tells us to put up a facade of being okay all the time. Basically, we always have to look like we have it all together.”

In light of the lack of discourse on the topic of mental health in the Philippines, WHO noted that “raising community awareness and breaking down taboos are important for countries making efforts to prevent suicide.”

Additionally, false assumptions currently surround the topic of mental health in the country, with many presuming that those who have psychiatric needs are simply “crazy” or “unstable.”

In a 2014 interview with GMA News, Jean Gouldbourn, founder of the Natasha Gouldbourn Foundation (NGF), said, “Maraming mga belief ang mga Filipino people—but [this] is not the right information na nakukuha nila. Ang akala nila baliw ang depression. Ang unang-unang kailangan nilang malaman ay…ang depression ay hindi baliw.”

The NGF, a non-profit organization founded after Gouldbourn’s daughter committed suicide, aims to raise “awareness on depression and how one can prevent, recognize or treat this mental illness.”

Similar to the NGF is the Julia Buencamino Project (JB Project), spearheaded by actors Shamaine and Nonie Buencamino, founded after their 15-year-old daughter committed suicide last year.

The Buencaminos, through their daughter’s poetry and art, aim to promote the discussion on mental health and illnesses with the youth as their target audience.

“Okay lang na pag-usapan kung may problema sa loob ng mind mo,” Nonie Buencamino, who also attended the forum to support his wife and to learn more about mental health, said on the hashtag, #LetsTalkAboutIt.

“Sakit lang ‘yan. Parang sipon, parang kanser—kayang gamutin. At ‘di mo kasalanan.”

Nonie Buencamino lauded the student initiative, calling them “very mature” to have taken steps to promote the discussion on mental health, adding that it is imperative for the public to understand that mental health issue encompasses more than the “crazy people.”

“It is not easy to be kind to ourselves,” Salvador said in a closing remark. “We go through our lives and we learn to expect so much from ourselves and we have standards that are so high and we begin to evaluate our worth by those very high standards. And that sometimes has a very negative impact on our mental health— kasi palagi tayong hindi sapat.”

Concluding the forum, UP PsychSoc Vice President for Academic Affairs Guenquen Carado emphasized that mental health concerns are “nothing to be ashamed of,” and that illnesses due to psychiatric needs occur as often as physical disorders.

“These problems are real and we have to do something about them instead of keeping them and ourselves in the dark. There is no health without mental health […] join the conversation and let’s talk about it,” he said.

The Hopeline Project is an initiative by the NGF, which “aims to connect people experiencing deep emotional crisis to counselors and psychologists who can provide mental health first aid.” People who need someone to listen may dial these numbers: (02) 804-HOPE (4673); 0917 558 HOPE (4673); 2919 (toll-free number for all GLOBE and TM subscribers).

#MHActNow is a petition at supporting the MH Law. It was put up by The Philippine Psychiatric Association, which “aims to protect the rights of people with mental disorders and/or disabilities by putting in place an official body that will oversee the policies and programs that need to be developed to prevent and treat mental illnesses, and to promote the mental health of Filipinos.”

Erratum: In a previous version of this article, Dr. Dinah Nadera was mistakenly listed as a faculty member of the UP Diliman Department of Psychology as pointed out by one of our readers. We apologize for overlooking this matter.