News

From 2019-05-06 to 2019-05-26

TO THE RHYTHM OF THE MANGYAN CULTURE

National Minorities:

At the height of the Spanish domination, Mangyans were referred to as National Minorities. However, history tells us that they were the original inhabitants of Mindoro; they witnessed the waves of conquests which swept through the Philippines. The majority adopted the life-style of the conquerors, alienating themselves from their original culture. Their population, however, increased.

Cultural Communities (indigenous people-I.P.):

This is the term now used when speaking of the small ethnic groups who from the very beginning resisted outside domination. Over the centuries, they have maintained their original culture, passing it on from generation to generation.

DEFENDING THEIR RIGHTS

In solidarity with these minority groups, Sr. Lilia wishes to draw the government’s attention, particularly the Office of Cultural Communities (I.P.), to incite them to work directly and in a unified manner for the progress of the Mangyans. Their education and economic development must be pursued, not according to our rhythm but to theirs. The Mangyans’ social structure, traditions, patterns of living must be safeguarded; otherwise the Filipino heritage will suffer a fatal blow and up-coming generations could blame us for our carelessness.

A CLAIMED RIGHT GRANTED

The Mangyans had been longing to have an official guarantee of their ancestral domain in Western Mindoro; their wish was finally fulfilled. Last August they received the long-awaited acknowledgement from the government. On that occasion Sr. Lilia and Sr. Jocelyn Guieb, M.I.C. shared the excitement by climbing a steep mountain to be with the people in celebrating this accomplishment. One Mangyan expressed his gratitude to the Sisters for their solidarity: Thank you, Sisters, for joining us. Indeed, you are one with us in difficulty and in happiness. With great emotions, Sr. Jocelyn recalls the day when, with a team of Mangyans, she climbed another high mountain known to be a sacred place for them: Before leaving the area, we spent some time in prayer, thanking God for his many graces, for having had the chance and the strength to reach this magnificent sacred place and for his constant protection.

In thanksgiving, the Mangyans performed a ritual called the PAMAGO to thank God for the granted rights to their ancestral domain despite the many obstacles.

One of these was the resistance of the lowlanders who also claimed the land, but eventually a peaceful settlement was reached.

REFORESTATION IN SANTA CRUZ

Within certain conditions, the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) accepted to assist the reforestation in the ancestral domain. However, the Mangyans were divided on this issue, resulting in two factions. One was in favour while the other group who wanted

to keep its traditional way of life rejected the project. To deal with the issue, a meeting was held and fifty Mangyan leaders attended. Sister Lilia explained to the participants the advantages that would come with reforestation; at the end of the day, the leaders unanimously approved the project. Together, the DBP Reforestation personnel, the provincial government as well as the Mangyans agreed upon a schedule for planting, organizational set-up, etc.

Advocacy work for the Mangyans keeps Sr. Lilia on the move as she needs to travel by air, land and sea. Recently, she stayed in Baguio to attend a Seminar on Strengthening Strategies, Action for Peace and Development in Indigenous Peoples’Communities.

With her were 15 Mangyans; they acquired some knowledge on how to defend themselves against human rights violations by land grabbers and illegal loggers. They learned to develop their skill to negotiate with the government agencies wanting to exploit the resources of their ancestral domain as well as giving them inner security to freely participate in social and political affairs. It is significant to note that most of the Mangyans are illiterate.

Defending the rights of the Mangyans, working with them, and living in their villages is not an easy task. Many times, Sr. Lilia has been threatened. In February 2002, thieves stole the equipment and documents pertaining to the ancestral domain. The school was burned by people who do not want indigenous people to rise and take their place in society. Strongly convinced, and committed to this noble cause, Sr. Lilia states: Our people need to find their selfesteem and be affirmed. It is the government’s duty to consider as a priority those projects that are conceived from the needs of the Mangyans

and think in terms of their indigenous life-style.

 

It is worthwhile sacrificing urban comfort in exchange for the breeze and streams of the mountains, in order to serve the Mangyans, who are part of our social fabric, which is so rich and colourful.

From 2019-05-06 to 2019-05-26

Cecilia Hong m.i.c.