• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

As I touched-based with the Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao, I discovered why many of them are going Left. There were outpourings of reports how their rights have been violated that include their rights on their ancestral domain, their water rights and all their rights embodied in the IPRA Law.

When one  Bae Lea (Lady Datu) of San Fernando, Bukdnon dared to stop the taking away of their water right, she was murdered.  In the same breadth that the water right of Datu Benjamin Anoos in Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon was tampered upon without even informing them when in 2006 the ancestral domain’s watershed was transformed into a water system that is providing some 300 gallons of water every hour to the thousands of residents in Talakag. In Musuan, Bukidnon, the IPs in Sinilayan reported to me how their ancestral domain became a part of the Central State University in utter disregard to their ancestral domain right. The water-system that provide them water has been closed including a bridge above a creek.  their passage-way from their barangay.

Recently, a group of chieftains came to see me to narrate that many of them cannot sleep anymore as they are branded as NPAs so that they will leave and sell their lands at a very low price. That will give way to global corporations to transform their lands into plantations.  Let us pause for a while and reflect on what’s happening not only locally but globally. Let’s go back to history.

Chief Seattle, a popular Chieftain in the USA, is now proven absolutely right when he and the natives of America, whom he then led some four centuries ago, questioned the economic system that was uprooting them from their native land and their culture as well.  For a while they resisted but “might was right,” so it came to pass that by virtue of conquest, it was another culture that prevailed over the land.   That gave way to the imposition of the colonizers’ economic system that provided titles to everything that could be owned or sold.

Today, that kind of economic system has gone berserk in pursuing the growth-at-all cost strategy even sacrificing mother nature to the altar of greed and profit.  All because individual ownership gives one the absolute right of exploitation, even if devoid of any sense of morality as long as there is profit.  This is res ipsa loquitor (the thing speaks for itself) considering the global state of the environment. Highly attached to Mother Earth, the Indigenous People then of the North American Continent were puzzled why everything was the subject of commerce especially the land and all the natural wonders found in it.  How can you own something that will outlast you?  You can not own the land, the land will own you. Perhaps, even the sky will be sold if only such can be owned by the colonizers, so they thought.

In the Philippines, our Indigenous People are also of the belief that land can be owned only when one is using it or working to make it productive otherwise it is owned communally. In fact, they believe that there are things which by their very nature should not be owned or be the subject of commerce because these are means to life and are therefore universal in nature.  A good example is air.  Just imagine one entrepreneur who is able to develop a technology that can capture all the air available, then, start selling it.  Only those with money will survive, isn’t it?

This is also true to water and to electricity, without which we are all doomed. It was unimaginable in the past to sell our water as it is beyond comprehension now to sell air.  But in a land where there is the propensity to subject everything to business, who knows? In fact, we have lost our ecological integrity because we have subjected our forest, our seas, our rivers, our agricultural lands and our minerals to be exploited to earn dollars – not for the common good but for a few capitalists. Didn’t you know that we have the finest timber in the world that had commanded high price abroad?

I got an information that one shipment alone of logs would earn the loggers about three hundred sixty million pesos.  What a bonanza for one whose only capital was the Timber License Agreement issued to him as political patronage during the past administrations, as disclosed by Ms. Marites Vitug in her book, “Power from the Forests.”

If, at all, we have to own these essentials, i.e., land, forest, water, etc. it must follow the moral tenet that the users should be the owners.  Our lumads had “owned” the forest for hundreds, if not, thousands of years, and have used them sustainably with high reverence to nature.  Our agricultural lands, when not owned by the communities, are subjected to tremendous amount of poisonous chemicals which have destroyed their natural fertility.

It has become imperative for all of us to rectify social wrongs which are being inflicted upon the people. Following the principle of transparency and accountability, the people have the right to know.  Why have we lost our ecological integrity which is now causing horrible environmental disasters?  Who were those who have amassed so much from selling the bounty of the forests?

All told, we have to question the dominant development paradigm that subject everything, including those which are means to life, to the commerce of men or women and even to greed, moderate  or otherwise,  Just like the Indian Chief Seattle, we have to start asking questions, poetically or otherwise.

Listen to the problems of our Indigenous Peoples so that they will not recourse to armed struggle!