Remembering our ‘silenced’ minorities

Published April 3, 2021, 12:14 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

These past few days, we paused to reflect on the meaning of Lent. Being unable to go through our usual practices – “Visita Iglesia,” “Pabasa ng Pasyon” and the “Senakulo” or crucifixion which symbolize penance, most Filipinos now celebrate the Holy Week at home through online masses and services. Many will miss the “washing of the feet of 12 priests” by the bishop to symbolize Christ’s washing of the feet of His apostles.

For the first time, certain practices like the Moriones festival in Marinduque or the bloody flagellation will have to be cancelled.

In Protestant churches, activities center on the Lenten musical featuring local choirs singing works of Mendelssohn, Bach and Handel. On Good Friday, elders usually assist the pastor by reflecting on the Seven Last Words.

A timely offering to the Quincentennial commemoration is the launching of “Handumanam (remembrance, memorial,”) Digging for the Indigenous Wellspring,” by anthropologist and peace-builder, Bro. Carlito M. Gaspar.

In his review, Remmon Barbaza notes that the author “warns against forgetfulness, forgetting the stories of those whose voices have been silenced since the introduction of Christianity.” His advice is to “temper celebratory tendencies which can degenerate into ‘triumphalism.’ Instead, we must take the occasion as opportunity to remember not just the origins of Christianity but the fates of those who were harmed, hurt, and/or silenced in the process of ‘conversion’. Gaspar sends out the message that ‘we must return to the historical narrative of how our ancestors were coerced into subservience to foreign powers 500 years ago.’ And he asks: “Has a ‘chauvinist Christianity’ asserted itself to the point where it helped destroy the fabric of our belief system that for centuries held the people’s lives in a symbolic manner?” This belief system, he says is “what made possible living a most humane, just, and compassionate way of life.”

But we continue to patronize and discriminate against them, to think of them as “nakakaawa,” to downplay the importance of their indigenous knowledge and practices, and worst of all, to either be directly and indirectly involved in the tragedy of their displacement from the ancestral domain… If there is anything to be excited about it should be the opportunity discover, and acknowledge Filipinos, who have long been silenced and set aside.”

Another reviewer, John Harvey Games asks” “How do we reconcile Gospel Truth with the ugly aspects of our Christianization? Are we not a scandal? What are we celebrating?

We also remember this day, the great Cordilleran, Macliing Dulag, who led the fight against the construction of dams on the Chico River, dams that threatened to wipe out ancient Kalinga way of life. He expressed the people’s reverence for their land, affirming their right when he said: “Such arrogance to say that you own the land when you are owned by it. How can you own that which outlives you?

We hope the IPS would produce more credible spokespersons like Macliing. Our own Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of IPS is an effective “voice” not only for Filipino IPs but from all around the world. Fortunately, we have emerging young advocates on human rights violations such as Tan Gicam, 26, Bukidnon Tribe environmental advocate, Merly Suday, 29, Bukidnon Tribe livelihood champion, DM Alburo, 24, Tagabawa-Bagobo NGO foundation, Sherman Gamoi, 29, Mangyan LGU councilor, and Ria Esteves, 27, Agta Youth organizer for Aurora.

There are others from the Lumads but many of them including Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot, are now being “red-tagged.”

But Walden Bello (2020) notes that although rights of IPs have been constitutionalized, National Commission on IPS established, and RA 8371 or the IP’s Rights Act which supports cultural integrity, rights to land, and right to self-directed development of their land passed, there is something amiss in the implementation. The good news is that in the two decades since IPRA’s adoption in 1997, 221 Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles have been issued. However, IPRA had been unable to protect the IPs who continue to be displaced. Institutional rivalries had arisen among agencies tasked with promoting exploitation of natural resources supposed to promoted their interests. The principle of “free prior and informed consent” employed in IPRA has been used by external forces to divide the communities.

The mining industry is very powerful and IPRA laws are deemed lower in a hierarchy of development laws. While it is one of the world’s most advanced laws, its implementation had been subverted by powerful external interests.

How are other countries doing? Australia has the Native Title Act which gives Aboriginal Australians the possibility to claim their lands. In the US, reservations were established for IPs.

A significant development is the strengthening of IP movements. The new Canadian Constitution (1982) entrenched existing aboriginal and treaty rights of Canada’s IPs and focused on Native self-government.

A number of initiatives that provide political rights to their IPs were adopted in Norway, Finland and Japan.

All over the world, we are witnessing a “resurgence of Native Culture, Native Claims, and Native Pride.”

My e-mail, [email protected]