• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”  This amazing portion of the US Declaration of Independence is now reverberating throughout the United States as tens of thousands in almost all States and in almost all cities are continuously mobilizing, conducting protest rallies daily for more than a week now ignited by the unjust killing of an African-American, Mr. George Floyd, by Law Enforcers. The strong message is ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Such brought to the fore the truism that hundreds, if not thousands of black Americans, have already been killed under arrest in silence.  What made the killing of George Floyd different was it was on video showing the victim failing to breathe for almost nine minutes when the law enforcer put his knee on the victim’s neck in utter disregard to the victim’s plea that he could not breathe.

The protesters by the thousands are bravely converging, not minding the serious threat of the corona virus pandemic which has already killed more than 100,000 Covid-19 victims in the US which is the highest in the world and in utter disregard to Pres. Trump’s deployment of the National Guards to stop the increasing protests, the passion for justice and equality keeps the fire burning in the hearts of the Americans, irrespective of class, color, race or gender. In fact, many Filipinos in the US are among the protesters.

Indeed, the protesters are looking beyond the horizon, focusing more on deep inequality, climate change, racial, social and economic injustices being perpetuated by an economic model called neo-liberal capitalism perpetuated especially by global corporations not only in the United States but in the whole world.

That truism is very true in the Philippines, more particularly in Mindanao especially in the life of the Indigenous People. I have known the pains of the Indigenous People when I began my stint as Editor of the School Organ in a State University.

I visited a group of Higaonon and Manobo in Barrio Panalsalan, Maramag, Bukidnon and was so surprised to see the IPs in a barrio fenced by a rich and powerful Congressman from the Visayas, turning their barrio into a ranch surrounded by six feet barbed wire.  They could not benefit from their crops as the cows were the first to “harvest.” When they go to the Chapel, they could hardly find their way as cows were moving around.  The children were entering the classrooms in the presence of the cows.  Every time they shoo away the cows, they would be arrested, accused of malicious mischief.  In fact one Christmas time in the ‘70s, some 25 of them spent their Christmas inside the prison in Maramag, Bukidnon for just shooing away the cows that were eating their crops. In desperation, a father put Thiodan in the family’s food during dinner and after that, he then ate the remaining food to  commit suicide. What was worse was when a head of the family became insane, set fire to his house with his family inside.  I took pictures of the burnt house and narrated their sad stories in an article entitled, A Barrio in a Cage. After the publication, I was arrested and put to prison for libel after all the threats by the armed cowboys to silence me.

The Panalsalan story is just a tip of the iceberg. Thousands of hectares of agricultural lands in Mindanao are now transformed into massive plantation which were ancestral lands before where Indigenous Communites, as early settlers, had lived sustainably for hundreds of years. “Magbabaya” (God)  gave the “balaang yuta” (blessed land) to them.

It was their forefathers’.  But not anymore.  A series of evictions came beginning in the 1930s up to the 1970s when powerful clans in Bukidnon turned the land into cattle ranch and grazing areas.

What could be more painful for our IPs than to see vast tracts of land that once their forefathers owned, now converted into massive plantations as 70% of the land areas of Mindanao (the choicest) are controlled by TNCs! Where are the dipterocarp forest where their ancestors had lived sustainably for thousands of years? The finest timber in the world had gone to the powerful and influential loggers as our country has supplied the timber needs of the world in the last one hundred years.

All the IPs are asking now is for their rights to be respected especially rights to their ancestral domain that include water rights.  They are also appealing that those that they considered sacred, i.e., Mindamora Falls should not be tampered upon for money making purposes of the rich and powerful.

For so long, the issue that they have been advocating are just voices in the wilderness.  Today, with one collective voice through their cooperatives, they are advancing the empowering path under the Present Dispensation that is now empowering the IPs through cooperativism.

Indeed, all men are created equal and their unalienable Rights must be respected!