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Page added on January 19, 2017

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Land Dear and Holy

By: Tigs Tidalgo

Sometime ago, I attended a social event hosted by the Filipino Catholic Association. The guest speaker was the bishop of the Diocese of Calgary. He was a well respected person in Canada. He talked about bishops of Mindanao asking his diocese to help them in prayers concerning environmental abuses in mining operations in north-eastern Mindanao.

He said that this establishment was the big culprit in destroying the valley causing harm to health and welfare of people; mostly the indigenous natives in the area. I inquired further from the bishop’s group about this firm. I was dismayed to know that this company was based in Alberta.

Foreign entrepreneurs are carelessly digging the land in manner that are known only to public officials who look the other way and to innocent natives that suffers from it. This is the excitement in the mountain today. If this practise is open to foreigners, it suffices to assume that this reckless escapade is also availing to local enterprises. The logging fiasco is still fresh in mind and the mining industry should learn from it. It’s beyond forgiving to follow suit.

We should remember that it was not the absence of enacted laws that the logging industry went berserk. It was the enforcement to abide regulation that was impaired. We had sufficient regulatory instructions to supposedly tame the wild in logging operation. But these were not followed. It was greed that corrupted those that were sworn to enforce and protect. Will this be the same in the mining industry today?

True indeed that young natives have sworn to protect the mountain. However, anyone would wonder if one percent of erratic royalties from contracted use of their ancestral land is sufficiently equitable to what they pledged. Maybe, it was just all bark with no bite. It could also be that young natives by cultural  make-up have little say in tribal society.

Gullibility of aging native leaders is shown often when parcels of land from ancestral domain are bartered away. An old chieftain was even said to bet big money on rerun basketball games on television.

There is an apparent need to mend the process of choosing tribal leadership. It should be keeping pace with present day realities. Pride and faithfulness to tradition maybe is blessed, but blind stubbornness in the preservation of ancient ritual and belief is counter productive; more so when updated thoughts and ideas are condemned as ill-mannered to long-standing custom and practice.

Wisdom and knowledge are two different things. An old native datu could be wise as a sage, but the driving force towards prosperity is in technical know-how. The Indians in North America are auspiciously successful because they already have professional competence to manage their affairs. They conform to contemporary lifestyle, while also observing and respecting the old culture of forebears. It was the educated mind of the young that induced them to accept life as it is today.

It is often said that the future of natives is in the hands of the young. That without effort and expertise to harness the treasure beneath their feet, their fate as a people is sealed worst than their experience with the logging Industry.

The common assertion that mining fortune is owned by natives by virtue of ancestral domain won’t hold any longer. It has been there waiting for eons under their stewardship and nothing ever happened. Somebody will take it away from them regardless of defiance. It will be a missed opportunity to a proud people with inadequacy in skill to dig.

I was an invited guest in a forum of about a hundred native youth up the mountain of north ieastern Agusan. It was held in the local Catholic church. They were full of promise. They were intelligent people with quest to belong. There were questions about the status of natives in Canada.

I knew what was in their heart. I realized it then that the problem was primarily in the area of education. I was encouraged that they were enthusiastic to finished the construction of the six-room high school structure fronting the church.

They still have a long way to go. High school education is not enough to tackle the complex management over the wealth of the land. It needs professional proficiency and seldom can one finds a native in college. There is more to this than just curriculum. It involves social and cultural intolerances, which eventually drags down to bigotry and prejudice against natives in school. Lowland society has yet to accept the fact that natives are also people with equal right and chances as others.

The boldness of young natives against injustice in the mountain will not come to pass gracefully in handshake.  From conversation with young leaders, I sensed their willingness to protect the land at all cost. They may not be in rhythm with the whims of tribal elders, but they for sure are rebels with a cause.


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