Saving the ‘Natives’

Last month, our NSTP class had some visitors from the Southern part of our nation. This group of people is called Lumads. Honestly, I really don’t know anything about them. It’s my first time to hear their ethnic tribe. What only makes them familiar to me is their name- lumad- which as far as I know, another word for putik or clay. I thought it has something to do with, perhaps, their ancestors’ idea of creation that man came from clay. However, as I made my research on the Internet, lumad , actually, is a Cebuano word meaning “native” or “indegenous.”

These people basically visited our class in connection with our topic for that day- indigenous peoples’ rights. Lumads represented in front of our class the other hundreds of ethnic tribe that our archipelago has. This unknown, almost “foreign” group presented their beautiful, enticing culture by songs, dances, acts with a hint of revenge. Their silent voices against the deprivation and negligence of their rights were heard in their music coming from the youth of their community; almost like a scream commanding for attention.

With UP KAPP’s discussion about their rights and issues, they gave us a picture of how the government policies actually violate their rights. One of the best examples is the militarization in Mindandao. Because of the so- called war initiated by some militant groups, the Philippine government exerted a lot of effort (and money) to strengthen the military operation.

President Aquino’s counter – insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan that aims to defend the people from attack of militant groups just led to the attack to alternative schools. This is because the soldiers used the public schools as their base camp or if not most of them surrounds the school. With this setup, schools, which serve as second homes for children, became a perfect warzone.

This strategy, obviously just made the whole situation worse and complicated. Schooling is always interrupted, students and teachers are conquered by fear and these public schools turned into an institution unsuitable for learning. It turned out that the military directly violated the rights of the children and the community to have safe institutions for education.

As I hear their songs, I can feel their demand for justice and respect for their rights. These voiceless ethnic people, which is obviously muted by the modern society, screams at the top of their lungs all their predicaments and injustice. They were the victims of these inhumane militarization operations.

The government says the purpose of military is to defend our country and its people from their enemy. But who will defend us from their irrational actions? Who will defend these ethic groups form dangerous actions of our own military? Who will save them from the risks of having surrounded by men with guns?

Definitely, it is our job. It is the responsibility of every other citizen to save our countrymen from injustices and irrationality of the actions of others. Because after all, we are all lumads- natives of this land.