Last November 10, the class tackled the situation of the indigenous people in the Philippines. As I entered the School of Economics Auditorium, what attracted my attention was the presence of children donned in traditional clothing as one may find in textbooks. There were I think more than ten of them. Hence, I assumed that the topic today would be more serious compared to the past ones.
And I was not wrong- it is indeed a serious one.
According to the speaker, there are around twelve to fifteen million indigenous people in our country. They compose about eleven to fourteen percent of the total population. They are located in fifty provinces and is divided into a hundred and ten ethno-linguistic groups. They live in a total of five million hectares of land.
Moreover, they experience national oppression. It is the state’s historical and non-recognition and violation of all collective rights of the indigenous people to their ancestral lands. It also violates their self- determination which means their right to freely pursue their development and determine their political status as they see fit.
Aside from the non recognition of ancestral lands, there is also militarization. This involves the increased military presence which causes unrest among them. According to them, children are not able to study because of the fear towards men who are holding guns. This is due to the encampments situated in their schools . These also cause the rise of extrajudicial killings. From July 2010 to 2014, fifty indigenous people were reported to be killed. Forced evacuation seems to be rampant as seventeen incidents were reported in five provinces.
Another threat they face is land conversion. Private firms use their lands for doing their business such as mining. According to them, these greatly affects their people as they were forced to leave their ancestral lands which they hold dear.
The government who, according to them, should protect them turned against their own people. This is proved by the Mining Act of 1995 which allots eighty-one thousand hectares of land for extracting minerals. Moreover, the Philippine Development Plan states that mining is the key which makes them more worried about their future. The eight megadams is another testament of it. According to them, there are two hundred eighty-one approved mining applications.
After the lecture, the children, wearing the traditional dress of their tribe (Lumad) went in front and showed a skit. It revolved to the situation of their tribe on the hands of the military.
As I watch their presentation, I could not help but admire these children. Despite their young age, they are trying their best to make the voices of their fellow indigenous people heard to the public. With regards to their performance, they presented it well and, in my opinion, chose the right medium to convey their feelings. Also, I can say that they are proud of their heritage .
Honestly, it is rare to see in the columns news regarding our indigenous people. Hence, I do not have an idea what is going on. However, with this lecture and simple presentation, looks like these issues should be the one given priority by the public. They are the living testament on how rich our culture is and ,thus, needs to be protected.