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Two Mindanaoan scholars discussed the struggles and issues of the Mamanwa, the Lumads, and Muslim groups in Mindanao during the 4th public lecture of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) on September 15, 2021 via Zoom.

The said event is part of a lecture series organized by the NRCP in line with the national quincentennial commemoration of the National Historical Commission (NHC).

The previous lectures presented topics about Luzon and the Visayas including lectures on alternative viewpoints about the commemoration.

“Oldest Philippine inhabitants – Mamanwa”

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Prof. Larry F. Dillo of St. Paul University Surigao discussed about the Mamanwa, their genetic origins, cultural practices, and the various issues confronting them. He referenced to various researches conducted by both foreign and local scholars.

Dillo cited that the Mamanwa are the “original and oldest people of the Philippines.” This was according to the study of Dr. Keiichi Omoto of the University of Tokyo who traced the origin of the Mamanwa to East Indonesia, about 30 000 to 50 000 years ago. The same study showed that the blood samples of the Mamanwa are distinct from other Negrito groups, concluding that the Mamanwa derives their genetic structure from the Western Pacific aborigines.

Dr. Jasmin Jiji Miranda’s genotype profiling of the Mamanwa in 2004 supported the studies of Omoto, citing that there is a “close correlation between the Mamanwa and the Chamorro,” indigenous groups of the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Aside from blood relations, Miranda’s team discovered that the hunting-gathering implements of the Chamorros are the same hunting and gathering tools the Mamanwa use at present.

In addition, Dillo shared various issues confronting the Mamanwa as repeatedly shared during convergence forums and academic meetings such as the following: low genetic diversity that can possibly lead to their extinction due to minimal reproductive capacity; Policy of Integration which leads to their displacement away from their ancestral domains; massive surface mining which ravages their forests, and rivers, thus, threatening their survival and livelihood; long-running war between the government and the NPA which led to the death of some tribal leaders and Mamanwa members; and extra judicial killings of Mamanwa members opposed to the insurgency and mining operations.

Dillo added that the Mamanwa has never been given the chance to participate in legislative activities of the local government units (LGUs) while there is disregard to the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as evidenced by the rampant operations of mining within their ancestral domains.

“It is hoped that through this paper, the plight of the Mamanwa, who had been marginalized since history unfolded, can be openly dealt by civil society in the desire of responding to the challenges confronting them as they are facing extinction,” stressed Dillo.

In relation to these issues, Dillo presented the Mamanwa Declaration which contains the aspirations of the Mamanwa such as the following: equal protection and treatment before the law; equal opportunity in pursuit of happiness; the right of self-determination; free access to public education; utmost respect to the Mamanwa patrimony and cultural heritage; empowerment and autonomy in governance.

“It is a terrible mistake to think that our lives have changed for the better because of the royalty given to us under the law by the mining firms for exploiting mineral resources in our ancestral domain. It is too little a price for our demise as human race,” reads the concluding part of the said declaration.

Nationhood in the lends of the Lumads, Moro

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Prof. Arnold P. Alamon of the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology discussed about the Lumads and Moro groups and presented their perspectives regarding the colonial periods and their impacts to the modern political, social, and environmental issues affecting them.

He opined that the terms Lumad and Moro have political roots and social implications.

Although colonization ended decades ago, Alamon stressed that the social and political structures designed by the Americans to exploit Mindanao’s resources continue, leading to more atrocities and injustices against the Lumads and the Moros.

He particularly emphasized on the following shared historical experiences of the Lumads and Moros: displacement through resettlement policies; and appropriation of land and resources which were exacerbated during the American period. This period saw the entry of American-owned mechanized logging, cattle raising, agricultural plantations, and mining in various parts of Mindanao. These businesses were later assumed by sections of the Filipino elite.

Alamon cited that these industrial and business developments condoned the displacement of the Lumad and Moro populations.

“Such historical and systemic marginalization has become particularly worse in recent times for the Lumad with the neoliberal push to expand agricultural plantations and corcer untapped mineral rich resources within the ancestral domains of the remaining indigenous populations in Mindanao,” added Alamon.

During the Marcos regime, for example, migrants from Luzon and Visayas were allowed to penetrate Moro and Lumad lands for agricultural expansion, logging, and mining. These led to their further displacement. The regime likewise saw the entry of multinational corporations such as Dole Philippines which grabbed thousands of hectares of Lumad domains for pineapple plantations.

As a result, the Moros and Lumads have evolved political consciousness in defense of their lands with some groups joining and forming armed revolutionary movements such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

“In the light of continuing struggles, how does the rise of the lumad identity inform the project of nationhood? In what ways is this narrative shared with the Bangsamoro? Are “breakthroughs for solidarity” possible between and among the marginalized groups and the larger dominant majority?

These were some of the questions which Alamon raised for a deeper reflection among relevant sectors and the mainstream society. As he stressed, the imposition of a national identity has often led to the erasure of cultural minorities who continue to face human rights violations.

To remedy the plight of the Lumads and Moros, Alamon recommended the passing of laws that bolster their self-determination and provide conditions that make so possible despite “real-world obstacles.”

“In taking into account the shared Lumad and Bangsamoro histories, a key concept that must take a prominent place in the conversation is the issue of social justice,” concluded Alamon.

Around 540 representatives from various sectors such as the academe, local government units, national government agencies, non-government organizations, and civil societies attended the said event.

The next lecture on October 13 will feature talks from former NRCP Board Member and  National Scientist Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres with the participation of H.E. Jorge Moragas Sanchez, Ambassador of the Embassy of Spain. To register for FREE, click on the following link: https://nqc.nrcpvirtual.com/