Orlando Ravanera

February 18, 2020

HE WOULD die three days later but the last words spoken to me by Higaonon chieftain of Cagayan de Oro before he was murdered by the armed men of illegal miners and loggers on a Sunday on September 13, 2014 in Sitio Kabalang, Barangay Tuburan, Cagayan de Oro City were still in the inner recesses of my thoughts.

Together with Datu Sandigan then, we implemented the Writ of Kalikasan to stop illegal logging and illegal mining. For being so active, he was murdered by assassins who until now are scot-free. For the Indigenous Peoples, he said, “Ang pinakasagrado nga libro dili mao ang gisulat sa mga Evangelists or well-known prophets pero ang libro nga gisulat ni Magbabaya nga nabuhat sulod sa bilyones nga katuigan, ang kaanindot sa kinaiyahan.”

Indeed, the holiest of books is not one written by evangelists or well-known prophets but one authored by God Himself, evolving through billions of years, shown in the beauty of the universe. Neither is it written in words nor in any language and is open 24 hours a day, has no literacy requirement and can be well understood using not one but five senses.

That book is said to be a manifestation of the Unseen using the great void as its pages and the four elements of the universe as its alphabets, namely, fire, water, earth and wind. It is called the book of nature written through the ages that contains all the mysteries of life and the laws that must be obeyed irrespective of race, color, belief, gender and class.

I recalled those words last Saturday when together with the “Lumad” leaders, we visited Mindamora Falls in Bayug, Lantud, Talakag, Bukidnon. The original name of the Falls is not Mindamora but called by the IPs as Abaga ta Bayug, a holy ground of the IPs. It is a well-known sacred place of the IPs all over Mindanao, going there once in a while to do rituals to worship Magbabaya, the Unseen Creator but is manifested through the amazing convergence of the beauty of nature.

There is no other place on earth than seeing the continuous flowing of water in the two-storey falls against the backdrop of radiating green scenery of blooming trees. Above are flocks of birds hovering, as if dancing to the natural music of the wind in consonance with the falling waters.

Thus, to keep nature at its best and glorious splendor, the residents of Bayug, led by Sultan Abdul S. Amoran, organized the Igpanuyadug sa Abaga Ta Bayug Agriculture Cooperative. They have to organize themselves into a cooperative, as assisted by Mr. Cris Lu Salem, CDS II of the CDA-10, for their sustenance but best of all, for them to keep their faith and to zealously keep watch and guard over Mother Nature’s gift, the Abaga ta Bayug, which has been their praying ground for over generations and over the years. The TESDA representative Ms. Wilma T. Bathan, has joined the CDA Team also to provide assistance.

A multipurpose hall will be built in the area, which will be used for trainings to be conducted by Tesda for the residents. With her own advocacy also, Ms. Lydia Tubella, DCM, a doctorate degree holder and a cooperative leader, also has provided assistance for the group. With then was no less than the Chief of Registration Section of CDA-10, Ms. Gloria Barrido, to lead in the registration process.

Our Indigenous Peoples are correct: the Unseen Being is seen in his creation and oneness with God’s creation is the number law of nature as we are all inter-connected. Let us all therefore feel that oneness but such can only happen if man must pass the dark leeways and passages of the mind and come to the core of his being where he finds the intelligence, the principle, where knowingness, light and love are present.

As discovered by the IPs, there is indeed a cleansing power of water. It has been said that sometimes the passions of the heart emit so much heat which only dies down through the cooling effect of water through the waterfalls. Yes, from the lowly earth grows the mighty tree and the beautiful flower. It may contain all that rot but even the wise, the powerful and the beautiful have to return to the earth as their final destiny.

Let us all learn from the IPs. They said that the 250 million stars in the cosmos can well speak of that element called fire that touches us through the glorious sun. Every time the sun proclaims a new day, that bursting of the light in the horizon shows that darkness can only be had in the absence of light and no way can darkness defeat the light. In the same breath that truth always prevails over lies, righteousness over diabolic acts, love over hate, the just over the unjust and life over death.

Go and see the beauty of the Falls and reflect on all of these lessons from nature.

That is what our IPs are doing every time they visit the sacred place. Indeed, every part of nature is sacred to our IPs. No, they are NOT adoring nature but worshiping the Unseen Creator. God is not seen inside the Church as those paintings are just the imagination of Leonardo Da Vinci.

Datu Sandigan had already leaped to the Great Beyond, murdered by the diabolic forces who are sacrificing Mother Earth to the altar of greed and profit. We must now learn from the IPs as they are courageously shouting together with their hero Chieftain, Datu Sandigan: IGPANUYADUG TA KINAIYAHAN (Protect the environment)! Our beloved hero, where ever you are now who fought to protect God’s vanishing creation which you believed as the highest form of worship, I firmly believe that you are now in the loving embrace of the Unseen Being for protecting His creation! Our warm embrace and firm salute!

The fight is not yet over in protecting the sanctity of God’s creation. In a world that gives so much veneration to the profit motive and so much denigration to the sanctity of nature, there is now an on-going attempt by two competing local government units nearby to rake so much profit by transforming the Mindamora falls into tourism site. An ongoing construction is ongoing in total disregard to the claim of the IPs that such is their ancestral domain and must not be tampered upon for money making. The strategy of these LGUs is “divide and rule,” the families of IPs in the vicinity.

Today, the champion of the IPs and the Maranaos, Sultan Abdul Amoran, the commander of the 6th MILF Brigade Command of North Eastern Mindanao Force, has taken the place of the murdered Datu Sandigan, the newly elected Chairman of the newly formed cooperative, IGPANUYADUG SA ABAGA TA BAYUG AGRICULTURE COOPERATIVE (Protect the Falls in Bayug).

The beauty of nature is worth dying for. But before that, it is worth fighting for — in a peaceful manner thru Cooperativism!