• Kim’s Dream
  • Orlando R. Ravanera

The Chieftains of the Indigenous Peoples from the hinterlands of Bukidnon, Misiamis Oriental, Caraga and some provinces of Mindanao have recently held an amazing national zoom meeting with no less than former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Sec. Leonardo Montemayor, former Congressman Glicerio “Tatay Boy”Tan and Cooperative Leaders. In that 3-hour meeting on Feb. 12, 2021, the  Chieftains, headed by no than Datu Vic “Migketay”Saway, the head of the Seven Tribes in Bukidnon together with Sultan Abddul Amoran, the Commander of the North Eastern MILF Mindanao Front who is half Higaonon – half Maranaw, have unanimously decided that on March 10, 2021, thousands of Indigenous Peoples from all over Mindanao will have a long march to Davao City to meet no less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. The main purpose of the long march to Davao is to express their utmost gratitude to our beloved President for responding positively to the issues of the Indigenous Peoples especially the conduct of investigations on alleged land-grabbing, the killings of some IP leaders and the stoppage of environmental destruction in Mindamora Falls. 

Early last year, thousands of Indigenous families in Kibulag, Talakag wrote President Duterte reporting the on-going environmental impairment in Mindamora Falls which for them is a sacred place. In their letter, the Indigenous Peoples who were already organized into “Igpanuyadug sa Abaga ta Bayug Agriculture Cooperative,” said that “pagnagpatuloy po ang kanilang kasakiman, kami po ay handing magpakamatay at pumatay.” No less than the Environment Consultant of the Climate Change Commission, MR. Richard Young came to intervene, conducted dialogues with agencies of government, thereby stopping the destruction of Mindamora Falls to stop its conversion into Hydro-Power Plant.

When more than 1,000 IP families were ousted from their Ancestral Land in Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon four years ago and have been living under shattered tents along the highways, there is now an on-going investigation why a corporation has turned the ancestral domain into plantation. An agency of government has a lot of explaining to do. For fighting for their land and water rights, 62 IP leaders have been killed  since 2016. .  This is now the subject of investigations as requested by the Indigenous Peoples.

Thousands of Indignous People will march to Davao not only to thank the President but to present the IP Roadmap on how their cooperatives can participate in regaining back ecological integrity and in achieving food security. They will present to the President the truism that unless the obstacles on rural development are erased now, the urban centers will remain congested.  What are these obstacles?  First is the loss of ecological integrity. The Indigenous Peoples (IPs) had been living sustainably in the forest ecosystems for thousands of years. Now that we have lost the 17 million hectares of dipterocarp forests (the richest on earth per unit area), poverty in the rural areas did loom.  Where are now the 15 million IPs? They are now the poorest of the poor.  Even their water rights have been taken away from them as narrated by the tribal groups in Mindanao.

After breaking the obstacles. We must now generate opportunities through cooperativism. But how? We must regain back the lost ecological Integrity . SUSTAINABILITY is one of the foremost DNA of the cooperatives, there are so many amazing stories on how the cooperatives are now becoming the countervailing force against ecological destruction and against climate change. The cooperatives of the Indigenous People are now in the frontline of  protecting the environment against illegal logging and mining and doing sea-borne patrol to protect the integrity of the bays. In fact, no less than the Higaonon Chieftain, Mr. Fausto Orasan known as Datu Orasan was brutally killed in 2014 for leading against illegal mining and logging in pursuance of the Writ of Kalikasan.  Since 1991, the IPs have been barricading logging trucks under Task Force Macajalar. 

The IPs were  not just involved in stopping the “bleeding” of the environment. They are also dong the “healing.” Meet the Talaandig tribe of the Milallitra in Talakag, Bukidnon. MILALLITRA’s Ancestral Domain (AD) claim embraces a territory of 13,822 hecatares.  They have been frontlining the multi-stakeholder initiatives called the PAYMENT FOR ECOLOGICAL SERVICES as they come together to pool resources to rehabilitate the 1,860 hectares of denuded Mt. Kalatungan Range.  Headed by Datu Rio Besto, the Indigenous People in cooperation with cooperatives downstream are massively reforesting these denuded areas which had caused in  2011 the deaths of some 3,000 poor people due to Typhoon Sendong. Indeed, it is so amazing for the medium and large cooperatives to support the environmental initiatives of the IPs – from healing the blighted land back to life to advancing sustainable agriculture.The cooperatives of the IPs are now being assisted by large cooperatives to build Training Centers in the hinterlands of Mindanao. The IPs will be taught on how to make their thousands of hectares of land (Ancestral Domain) that stand idle into productive lands. After making their idle lands productive, they will not just sell raw but must be capacitated to go into value chain.

The Balik Probinsya is a great idea whose time has come to countervail against poverty in the rural areas that is now being trail-blazed by no less than the Present Dispensation. Indeed, for those who have dreamt, struggled, advocated, sacrificed and even died for it, social change has been so elusive all these years despite 14 years of martial law and two people-powered revolutions.  The structures and ingredients perpetuating poverty were then as formidable as ever.  But not anymore under the present dispensation. Under His Excellency, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte change has come! From the perspective of CDA, the 12 million cooperative members and the 15 million Indigenous Peoplds have come together to promote Balik Probinsya by BREAKING THE OBSTACLES NOW, GENERATING GREATER  OPPORTUNITIES (BONG GO). 

In touching base with the President, the IP leaders will present the Project on Bamboo Massive Planting in Mindanao to counter climate change.  They will also share to the President some products like an amazing root crop called Taro Root otherwise known in the vernacular as Lutya which could be one to liberate them from the quagmire of poverty and hunger.  

Yes, from the bosom of Mother Earth looms the long awaited countervailing force against the number enemy of the country which is hunger and poverty. Amazingly, it is also the one to cure the many ailments besetting the people as the health benefits of taro root include its ability “to improve digestion, lower blood sugar levels, prevent certain types of cancers, protect the skin, enhance vision, increase circulation, decrease blood pressure, aid the immune system and prevent heart disease, while also supporting muscle and nerve health.”

Thanking the President for his amazing responses to the problems and issues besetting the IPs,  how the IPs can promote Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa, presenting the IP Roadmap to achieve food security and ecological integrity and gift-giving of amazing IP products – the reason d’etre of the long march to Davao City on March 10, 2021. 

The 15 million Indigeneous Peoples are now being drawn into the mainstream of development proceccess through cooperativism and they will express to the President their utmost gratitude. Indeed, when mobilized, the Indigenous People can become a potent force against poverty, hunger,  climate change and violent extremism. How? That will be the gist of their Presentation!