MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/18 May) – The bombing carried out by the military on Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park last month was “a violation of our culture and an affront to our ancestral territory,” a leader of the Bukidnon tribe in barangay Dalwangan said, adding it requires a big ritual to appease the spirits [who were disturbed by the bombing].”Our forests, rivers and other bodies of water, farms, animals, and plants are crying because of the conflict and the bombing,” Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino, head claimant of the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan Ancestral Domain told MindaNews in the vernacular recently. Tarino said that on April 21 the military dropped bombs on suspected rebel positions in Dalwangan, particularly in Sinukat, Dinanghaga, and a portion of the Sawaga River near the tribe’s heritage center at the foot of Mt. Kitanglad Range. rino said that as residents and stewards of the mountain range, which is a protected area, they are now asking the military to apologize and attend a ritual to reconcile with their ancestors and the spirit guardians of their ancestral domain.
She asked that the ritual be held before the end of this month. “If they were only firing guns, it could have been less frightening and damaging. But they dropped bombs, it destroyed the environment, it wasted the territory,” she said, in between sobs and tears. Col. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade told this reporter via SMS they will verify Tarino’s allegations. He said they requested air support “to ease the pressure in our troops” because they were “outnumbered”.”
He vowed to give the “true picture” once he gets hold of the initial report from his personnel. He said they were still finalizing it. On May 7, Tarino relayed the incident to Gov. Alex Calingasan, Department of Environment and Natural Reources regional director Corazon Galinato, DENR provincial officer Felix Mirasol Jr., and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples regional director Pinky Pabelic through a letter. In her letter, the Lumad leader asked Calingasan and Mirasol, the protected area superintendent, to facilitate a meeting between the tribe’s council of elders, the military, and if possible, the rebels.
Mirasol said via SMS the DENR was unable to verify the report because “the area is critical.” Tarino said the firing scared people away from their homes. Many of those who were doing pahina or community work at the time of the attack were forced to flee, she added.
She said the bombing destroyed a portion of the side of Mt. Dulang-dulang, the country’s second highest mountain, and caused landslides affecting the Sawaga River, the tribe’s main source of water for domestic and agricultural uses. “For a week after the incident even the carabaos cannot use the river’s water,” she said, adding they were forced to leave their farms and animals. “We asked our members to stay in their areas because we do not know their plan,” she said.
Tarino also cited that the explosions drove out forest animals including the endangered Philippine Eagle, which has a nesting site in sitio Mangasa, Dalwangan. She criticized the military’s alleged violation of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act by not obtaining a free and prior informed consent (FPIC) before entering their territory.
“With what they did in the attack, it seems they are not familiar with the law,” she said. She said the attack not only compromised peace and security in their area but also dishonored their sacred ritual sites and boundary markers.
“In the tradition of our ancestors, we do not even allow anybody from the tribe or from outside to enter those areas,” she added. The bae, who is also a shaman, said the spirits of the mountains communicated to the tribe about their sadness when they were disturbed by the bombing. The Bukidnon-Daraghuyan tribe, she said, held two rituals from to appease the spirits: the kaliga, a thanksgiving ritual, from April 25 to 27 for the anniversary of the construction of the tribe” Tulugan Heritage Center, and the panungdan, a ritual of offering.
But the tribe, Tarino said, has required that before the ritual the governor and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) should order the cultural affairs committee of the board to arrange a meeting between the military leadership and the tribe’s elders. They have also asked the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to request the communist underground to send representatives to the meeting.
As of today, there was no response yet from the governor, although Mercy Ibcas, deputy provincial administrator said the attention of the parties concerned has been called. The tribe appealed for the PAMB to compel the military to explain their action. In return, the Lumads said they will explain to the military their role as stewards of the protected area. Tarino, a PAMB member said they are asserting their rights because they felt sorry for themselves and their territory. But she clarified they are not angry at the military, and that they just don’t want the incident to happen again.
“Don’t just bomb anything, FPIC and rituals first before entering our area,” she said. Mt. Kitanglad Range became a full-fledged protected area in November 2000 under the category of natural park, through Republic Act 8978 and declared an ASEAN Heritage Site in 2009.
Aside from being a protected area, the mountain range is home to the Bukidnon, Higaonon, and Talaandig tribes. The NCIP approved the Bukidnon-Daraghuyan Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title covering 4,203 hectares, in March 2010. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)