I came upon a gathering of jolly buddies—a bunch of drinking buddies — in my village neighborhood the other day. An energy-jerking scene it was in a season of merriment. But for the conversation that I overheard which ran like this –
BUDDY 1: (Laughing) Ay, lawgawa gyud tong Lumad didto sa Ulas ganiha oy! (Ay, what a frightening act that Lumad did at Ulas this morning, guys!)
BUDDY 2: Ha, ngano man diay? Daghan ra ba na sila karon dinhi, nanglugsong para mamasko daw. . . (Huh, why? O yes there are so many of them who have come down for Christmas charity here in the city…)
BUDDY 1: (in boisterous laughter) Gapataka ra mag paturatoy og tabok sa kalsada bisag GO pa! Nah, hapit gyud oy! Lagot kaayong drayber ba! Ah, gisinggitan lagi niya! (O he just crossed the street even when the GO sign was on! Ah, he was almost sideswept! The driver was real mad, he shouted at him angrily!)
BUDDY 3: Dili unta na sila psuroy-suroyon! Mga ignoy gud na! (They must not be allowed to roam around! What do they know about traffic rule? They’re ignorant!)
BUDDY 2: Ambot nganong gilugsong man pud na dinhi! Gasamok-samok lang na sila. . . gadugang lang sa problema sa siyudad. . .Papulion na unta na sila, bahalag mag-unsa na silag latagaw didto, wa may trapik didto! Hahaha! (Search me! And why are they down here anyway! They’re just causing added problem to the city. They should be sent back to their place where they can freely wander, and there’s no traffic there! Hahaha!)
BUDDY 1: Hahahaha! Mga unggoy maoy nagatrapik didto. . .! (Hahaha! It’s monkeys manning the traffic there. . .!)
And what raucous laughter they had, greatly delighted by the awkward incident involving the highland Lumad folks who found it propitious to come down to Davao City for the holidays, like what they are accustomed to do every Christmas season in keeping with the goodwill and the welcoming gesture of the City Mayor to accommodate the poor people from the mountains.
The scene of course dismayed me — no, angered me to the roots of my tolerance by the show of scorn in the attitude of this jolly company! And I felt an urge to slap on their consciences the facts of history. But prudence took the better of me and I left the scene of the merry men who made the sad plight of the Lumads their source of delight and disdainful hilarity.
Alone in my room I pondered on the “whys and wherefores” of the deplorable state of these gentle highland people that we call Lumad – meaning ‘native’. Why have they become virtual outcasts of our society? How did it happen they have been marginalized and relegated to the remote places of our lands. Are they not the direct descendants of the original inhabitants of these lands on whose soils we have planted our so called civilization? Our civilized society?
Surely, history can provide answers to the many questions surrounding the outcomes of the various classes and sectors of the people in our society. Surely, the ancient and current past of our nation and country has left footmarks that can reveal some truths yet untold.
To start with, upon the arrival of the Spanish colonialists to rule us as a colony, they made it a certainty that the native inhabitants should embrace Christianity. And so they baptized the local people who fell under their conquest and power within the entire duration of over 300 years that they dominated the islands.
But there were those who did not bow to the invading foreigners. And they are those who refused to be baptized and distanced themselves and went to the hills. They rejected the colonial authority of Spain. They maintained their religious beliefs and indigenous cultural practices.
Certainly the Spaniards by all means tried to subdue and subjugate the Lumads in the mountains. But the mountain Lumads did not succumb to the dual thrust of the sword and the cross. They remained defiant and unconquered. As a matter of fact, even the baptized Lumads in the lowlands in the different islands rose in revolts at different periods during colonial times. The Dagohoy rebellion in Bohol and the Sumuroy revolt in Leyte are examples of the Lumad people’s resistance to foreign colonial rule. The indigenous peoples in the Cordilleras in northern Luzon whom they Spaniards called Igorots were never subdued.
But as the Spanish colonial government lasted, the lowland population were consolidated into “pueblos” or town centers. For more than three centuries – not three years, mind you!—but three hundred years!—the inculturation was a day to day phenomenon. Certainly, this resulted in the hispanization of the lowland Lumad population who now despised the unbaptized Lumads in the hinterlands. These lowland Lumads—now called Christians—would hate to be called Lumad.
With more intensity would this discrimination grow against the non-Christians or “pagans” when some of them married Spaniards or caused to be impregnated with Spanish germ and their offsprings became mestizos and mestizas. How they would now scorn their native origins! The white-skinned and high-nosed would be looked up to with devotion, the dark-skinned and pugnosed would be disdained. And a new social class of creoles emerged—the Ilustrados so called—who were privileged with some schooling, could speak the language of the colonialists, and somehow had acquired some fortune of wealth and position in the civil service.
The Revolution of 1896 broke out against the Spanish colonial government. The Filipino revolutionaries earned a short-lived victory. But the Americans through chicanery and deceit snatched the crown of victory from the Filipinos. And thus was the Philippine archipelago turned into an American colony after Spain.
During the entire period that Philippine society was ruled as a colony by the United States of America, the Filipino Lumads in the hinterlands were deprived of equal treatment with the lowland Filipinos. In Mindanao where vast lands were acquired and made into plantations by Americans, the Lumads were a source of slave labour. But the Lumads did not need plantation work as employment with measly wages. They could survive in self-sufficient kaingin agriculture and game hunting. But the American plantation owners forced them to be concentrated in the haciendas as workhands. This along with other abuses concomitant with plantation forced labor caused tensions and irritations, and ultimately armed resistance by the Lumads in the early years of US colonial rule. Lumad armed resistance against the Americans peaked in the killing of Davao governor Edward Bolton in 1906. In retaliation the American troops waged a “huwes de kutsilyo” making the whole Mindanao a virtual “no man’s land” where thousands of Lumad population were killed.
After the installation of a supposedly independent Philippine Republic in 1946, governance by Filipino politicians and bureaucrats has not at all altered the state of affairs in the society. The Lumad population in the countryside has continued to be discriminated and excluded as far as delivery of social services is concerned. They have remained virtual outcasts of society. As expected, they have been left out in such programs of human development as education, health and economic amelioration. To this day, they remain as the poorest of the poor in Philippine society.
Amidst this deplorable social order, the Lumads are disparagingly considered as illiterate and ignorant, or as the most wretched of Filipinos. But the truest of all Truths is that they are victims of the Greatest of Injustice—an injustice created by the policy of the colonialists—an injustice deliberately sustained by the Philippine government as a legacy of colonialism.
The Philippine government that has maintained and continued to implement the policy created by the colonialists failed to rectify this great great injustice against the Lumad peoples. Until now they have continued to be oppressed and exploited and deprived and have borne the brunt of scorn and disdain of the lowland Filipinos who have been recipients of the sprinklings of benefits as citizens of the Republic.
The Christianized Filipinos who have embraced and internalized the culture of the colonialists seem to have regarded the Lumads as strangers. Even the lowliest of the poor lowlanders would loath to identify themselves with the Lumads. Ask any lowland Filipino if he is a Lumad, and he would instantly cry out in vehement denials, as if to be a Lumad is some kind of a curse! Indeed, lowland Filipinos consider themselves fortunate to have been infected with colonial mentality(!) They delight in the opportunity to despise and deride the Lumad who happens to be a subject of conversation or of a chance encounter.
And so it is not strange or surprising to witness in a gathering of a bunch of drinking buddies that the Lumad became a laughing stock and an object of scornful mirth—something anathema to the Christian ethic.
Alas, it has escaped the knowledge of mainstream Filipinos that in the time of the rule of the foreign colonialists in Mindanao, the Lumads heroically stood up and fought to assert their right to self-determination in their native land. Datu Mangulayon took up the cudgels and led the Lumad people in resisting the abuses of the American authorities in Southern Mindanao. He outsmarted and killed the American governor of Dabaw Edward Bolton in 1906. This act of Datu Mangulayon deserves our applause and honor for a heroic deed against an American colonial officer whose reign in our lands was replete with abuses and trampling of the human rights of the local population.
This piece of historical fact is deliberately omitted by the writer of our history. It is a great irony that the society of the lowland Filipinos would honor with a name of a street and bridge a foreign oppressor Bolton and throw away to oblivion Davao’s very own Datu Mangulayon who defended our native land.
Now, it is not just disdainful regard that is given to the Lumad peoples but a vicious exploitation of their tribal cultures. Their colorful culture is being used in tourism programs of the government. Their physical charm, songs and dances are being served as commercial commodities in entertainment performances purposely held to reap money for politicians and capitalists.
For several decades the Lumad tribal communities have never been provided development services by the government—no health, education, and livelihood programs and services have been delivered. They are totally forgotten, such that they have remained bereft of knowledge and technology and all other means for human and social development.
Verily, the lowland Filipinos have only replaced the foreign colonizers in colonizing the racial and blood brothers and sisters—the Lumads in the countryside.