I do not know any of them personally; I haven’t had any encounter with them in the past. But when I heard the news about the gruesome killing of some of their men, mixed grief and anger were enough to tell me that same blood rushes through our veins, that I belong with them and they with with me; and that compels me to raise my voice and shout #StopLumadKillings.
They are the Lumad–an indigenous group of people in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao in the Philippines. They are not slaves. They are a free people. They are the Lumad–my kapwa Pilipino, my kapwa tao.
Three of the Lumad leaders were recently killed for refusing to give up their ancestral lands to those who wanted to build coal mining plants in their place. The alleged killers were identified as the paramilitary “Mahagat-Bagani”.
Michelle, one of the eyewitnesses of the incident recalls: ““…armed men forced everyone to go out. In front of all those gathered at the basketball court, sat my father (Dionil Campos). They began shouting– because you believe this man and refuse the mines coming here we remain poor, we could all have better lives! Drop down!– they shouted to everyone and began shooting over our heads. Then the gun was turned on to my father, and at close range he was shot in the head…”
In one of the statements released by the Diocese of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, the diocese said, “One can see and understand that only those community of [lumads] who firmly stand to protect the forest and reject mining activities and anything that destroys nature were obviously the ones being hounded and intimidated supposedly by the aforementioned notorious group.”
In the militarization of Lumad schools, one man stood up to fight for a noble cause, and that is to provide a learning center for the Lumad children. He was Emerito Samarca or known as Tatay Emok, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development. He was found dead in that same school where he devoted his life, with stab wounds in his neck, and a slit across his throat.
Manobo elder, Datu Juvillo Sinzo, was also not able to escape the evil hands of Mahagat-Bagani. He was “pulled to the tub. He was beaten, his arm broken, and shot” as told by another eyewitness.
All these three Lumad fought for what they know is right, and for what they know their people deserve–a land and natural resources of their own, a decent and peaceful life. But because of the capitalists’ greedy pursuit of profit, wealth, and power, they were robbed of the chance to provide this kind of life to their families and their community.
BUT THEY HAVE US–their fellow Filipinos, their fellow humans. Their fight would be declared ‘defeated’ if we refuse to continue their battle and if no single person would at least try to do so. If we do, then the fight goes on.
Currently, Lumads are still being forced to leave their lands caused by corporate mining interests. There are about 680 Lumad displaced through their neighboring cities, looking for refuge and safe haven. While there is still one of the last remaining intact rainforests of the Pantaron Mountain Ranges inhabited by the Lumads, the mountain range is threatened by mining concessionaires set to exploit 9000 hectares for coal mining, 2000 hectares of which is already in operation, and 6000 hectares for gold mining.
This is a form of modern day slavery, as what also occurs in many parts of indigenous lands across the globe. Lumads are free; but they are being oppressed and enslaved by heartless people who prefer to put profit over humans and the planet.
But let us remember this: we are much greater in number than these greedy oppressors. They may have strong connections with the higher ups; they may have the amount of wealth that can buy them resources and manpower. But on our end, we have our voices. If only we, in solidarity, would shout and cry out for justice, our collective voice would surely drown theirs. We would surely win this fight. So then, let us keep going to put an end to modern day slavery and other forms of social injustices.
The campaign on #StopLumadKillings will be hyped on October 26–on this day, over 700 Lumad will arrive in the Philippine capital, Manila, from a 1,500-km walk starting from Mindanao, to assert their right to life, land, and justice. Their struggles are our struggles. Let us join together and stand with the Lumad.
You can also help amplify their voices by joining us on Twitter in demanding PH president Noynoy Aquino to #StopLumadKillings.
This is my personal contribution to the Blog Action Day 2015 themed, #RaiseYourVoice
walkfree.org – Blog Action Day 2015