Archive | March 2006

Remembering Impalutao

Impalutao is one of those places that remind me of particular "strips" of good memories. It is a barangay along the national highway in the municipality of Impasug-ong, between Kisolon and the City of Malaybalay in Bukidnon.

I was reminded about quiet Impalutao, around 15 kilometers from downtown Malaybalay, this week over the so-called peoples' initiative for charter change. In a barangay assembly, relatives reported, some local politicians alligned with President Arroro, allegedly campaigned aggressively for people to join a signature drive for "cha-cha".

Anyway, I'll tell the story of a beautiful place and not the gory nation-wide signature campaign.

Three of my father's brothers live in Impalutao and wed into the rich culture of the Higa-onon indigenous peoples starting in the 1960s. Though the families of their wives came from agriculture-rich clans, many of them live very simple lives. Theirs was a life that is rural and discrete.

But as vacationing young children in mid-1980s, we did not feel deprived. Instead, we felt the abundance of nature in Impalutao. I had fond memories of this place during my childhood.

Then, we would go into the nearby forest reserve, a portion of which is visible from the highway. At times, my brother and sisters join our cousins in traversing the wilds of Impalutao. We were a bunch of adventure-seeking kids whose aim was to find the way to either Gantungan or Dila Falls. The falls of Impalutao are renowned oases during summer in Malaybalay.

Once there, we would race in diving to the very cold natural pools. Truly, those were ice-cold experiences for the falls are within the well-kept Impalutao watershed. During those summer picnic days, we would bring packed foods: boiled Saba bananas, "ginamos"  and roasted fish.

We would abuse the waters by swimming wildly and playing games like water polo using an improvised ball made from coiled coconut leaves.

Fun would last until late in the afternoon when one of our parents would "rescue us" from our childish frailties. Usually, the eldest of the brood would get his ears pinched for being the rascal leader.

On special occasions, we would go home to a dinner of wild pig or native chicken and simple Higa-onon food. I could recall asking where they got their cold water when they do not have power for a refrigerator. Drinking water is so clear and cold.

Our summer nights were filled with storytelling from one of our uncles who at a time imposed on us his kind of "fairy tales": adventurism in a faraway place and his exploits with young women when he was still, as he claimed,  the barrio's most sought after bachelor.

Songs from my father's relatives or from their lumad kin would soon lullaby us. We try hard to sleep, very conscious that next to the house is a forest full of unknown creatures who make all kinds of sounds.

Those were nights of discoveries too and forest who's who. As the small kerosene lamp, or "lamparilya", is put off ––we settle to sleep.

I remember looking forward to the following day's share of fresh cow's milk from a ranch nearby or a plastic cup of native coffee served while everbody shivers in the cold mountainside morning.

Everytime I pass by that portion of Bukidnon's Sayre Highway these days, en route to Cagayan de Oro from Malaybalay, I would flash a wide smile.

Now, things have changed a bit. Further into the highway, I could see the balding mountainside and the increasing population of Impalutao. I could still see the forest reserve though.

I wonder if the kids still go to Dila or Gantungan Falls or if these cold havens still exist? I really hope so. Around us is a world where everything is a work in progress or destruction.  Hoping, yes I am. I will rely in the wisdom of peoples' words and in nature's own rhythm.  

Adventures in Impalutao's gifts of nature will remain in my memory for a long time. I just wish that when its my turn to tell children about it —it's still there. They too can go there.

On explosions in Jolo, Sulu and Digos, Davao del Sur

Blogpost Views By Walter I. Balane

If anything, the two reported cases of explosions in Digos, Davao del Sur and in Jolo, Sulu this week (http://www.mindanews.com/2006/03/29nws-digos.htm and http://www.mindanews.com/2006/03/27nws-sulu.htm ) present a recurring type of
Mindanao.
That, it is a place where bombs explode for whatever reasons.Of course it is not true and there are worst tragedies elsewhere.

Extortion was blamed for the two separate incidents. Someone informed Fatmawati Salapuddin, a resident of Sulu and lead convener of the Mindanao PeaceWeavers, that it has something to do with extortion. This is the same bell rung by the police in the Digos bus explosion. 
Salapuddin expressed fears that the Jolo incident is part of “scenario-building that would justify a full-blown war in Mindanao that will start in the province of Sulu.”
I won’t fault that paranoia. It's about Mindanao's history repeating. There are so many wounds in Mindanao that needs healing.

But, maybe too, its just as it is– a "fear". It is also not a pleasant news for journalists, though it is newsworthy. Others might say, "pera na naman to" (Its money, again). Personally, I wouldn't be happy going to another coverage on violence.

The lives of those people are more important than the piece of story I could file about them at the end of the day. But that is also the same reason why even with this resentment journalists need to report on the incidents.  

To tell the world what exactly happened, according to a multitude of sources and across time.

Certainly, not any reason could justify damage and violence. More so if it impacts not only to the direct victims but through its externalities in the on-going processes on peace in Mindanao and even on perceptions towards Mindanao and its peoples.

This shouldn't stem to war or any more violence. Hopefully, all sectors and parties to this incident would realize their responsibility: that they are stakeholders in Mindanao's peace and future. By now, all systems must go for peace. It's high time for Mindanao to claim its collective victories. Otherwise, there will be no end to conflicts, poverty and despair here.

They will remain as disturbing facets of a past that revisits us often, too often. 

ESSAY: A student of Mindanao

DAVAO CITY – “There is no difference between living and learning . . . it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of themas being separate,” writes John Holt, in his landmark book on alternative education “What Do I Do Monday?”

I’ll take a dose of Holt as I reflect about how I feel about choosing to stay and work in Mindanao.

I live and I am enrolled to a Mindanao that is an open university where the lessons are boundless and the teachers are not limited to PhD and master’s degree holders. And there goes something about living here that I wouldn’t change for anything.

For Holt, home study is an alternative to school-based learning systems. Learning in Mindanao could be my “home study” as Mindanao is home to me and I share as

a collective domain the plains, rivers, streets, highways, structures, forests and public places with other Mindanawons.

I write in the context of informal, continuous and personal learning experiences and I do not propose that students shun the schools and stay home, instead.

Living in Mindanao this time is such a privilege. I think that Mindanao’s complexities, diversities and circumstances are conducive learning realms.

My anthropologist friends and journalist colleagues share to me from time to time theories, their experiences and views. Sometimes they theorize or complicate

things for me, or simplify it and connect the pieces.

All the time, they did it with passion, grace and wit.

In the receiving end, I could only thank them for I had become a beneficiary of their scholarships and worthwhile field works.

Many of these theories could be read in Mindanao’s libraries such as in the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue at the Ateneo. Through library work, I also benefit from the bodies of work of various scholars who wrote on Mindanao across time.

I am not a post-graduate student. I believe that from listening and interacting with the

“conferences” of peoples, ideas, histories and futures in everyday Mindanao I learn enough for my present needs. Besides, my open “campus” provides me with much

wider, boundless and real-time learning opportunities.

Foremost of these are the forum sessions held to consolidate and thresh out some pressing issues on Mindanao, the country or the world.

In the Kusog Mindanaw conference in November 2005, I paid full attention to Rudy Rodil, the GRP peace panel vice chair, as he gave updates of the peace process.

I know that Ompong, a historian, was telling history to Mindanao’s various non-government organizations and groups who are part of Kusog.

Apart from him, there were a handful of presenters in that conference. In two days, I had a virtual tour around Mindanao and on the peace process, traversing timelines and spaces listening to the discussions.

Fora around Mindanao offer pregnant discussions on issues like the peace process, mining in Mindanao, organic farming, development aid to Mindanao, tourism

prospects for Mindanao, federalism and many others. Sometimes extensive or intensive, the discussions end with a consensus or a resolution to “agree to disagree”. I took advantage of these dynamics to understand Mindanao deeper.

I have also met different leaders of Mindanao’s various organizations from the civil-society, non-government sector, local government units and corporate world. Count in the contrast: from the leaders of the Mindanao Business Council to the leaders of jeepney drivers’ associations and leaders of Mindanao’s ethnic groups like the Matigsalug tribal

council and even mining executives or their disciples.

When these people meet, they bring with them oftentimes conflicting views and stands. I find listening to them argue and contra-pose each other a healthy and worthwhile chance to learn.

The peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is an example. For me, it is a running “case study”. Peace is Mindanao’s top agenda

and the positive outlook on a final peace agreement is a welcome news. How this process is done, who is doing it and not doing it, what issues are they talking about, what issues are slowing the process and what prospects do we have are important for today’s young

people in Mindanao, like me. I look at these moves as crucial to Mindanao’s future, and mine too.

I was able to share about what are “ancestral domain” issues the peace panels will talk about, to a Mandaya farmer who attended MindaNews’ grassroots journalism

in Caraga, Davao Oriental in December 2005. Thanks to the Kusog conference. In return, he explained to me how important it is for them to safeguard their lands

from intruders like logging firms. He said land is life for them. The way he explained it to me, with deep concern and emotions, moved me.

Mindanao looks back in history and peeps at the future as indigenous peoples other than the Bangsamoro neighbors take a hard look at ancestral domain. For the past five years, the government has sped up distribution of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) but ancestral domain and indigenous governance has remained as major aspirations among Mindanao’s IPs. Aside from these discussions in gatherings around

Mindanao, opportunities to work with communities also provide extensive and intensive learning interactions.

The communities are open fields of learning. A healthy exchange of experiences, knowledge and world views can stem from engagements worked on prior agreed and

mutually beneficial arrangements with communities.

I have experienced learning from simple people from various communities in Mindanao. They all have their own way of doing things and sometimes, their ways were

better than mine. In fact, many of them are scholars in their own right and are very reliable researchers and sources for they are “in the field” themselves. Most of the time, my trips and encounters with these peoples and communities are far better than reading

about them in outdated books.

Mindanao ‘s communities yearn for empowerment and we can draw energy and encouragement from them. In Upi, Maguindanao, the internet, thanks to a local

government initiative, pulls the world closer to the locals. But some of the Tedurays and the Iranun residents still cling to age old traditions that have remained useful, such as some of their community communication systems.

I realized that the communities around Mindanao are living archives of rich traditions, histories and possibilities. As an outsider, I think I have a stake on keeping those treasures intact and helping enhance the same with the locals.

The communities are not only spaces for rehabilitation, as in those conflict-torn areas, but

are also fountains of lessons and stories for others to hear. But I don’t think communities should be viewed only as milking cows of information.

Through continuous, mutually-beneficial and comprehensive experiences with communities, I think I have become a quintessential student who goes to the

field to gather and validate what I have learned.

Yes, I am a student. And I pay homage to my campus –the vast fields

of Mindanao. (Walter Balane/MindaNews)

COMMENTARY: Trying to revisit Malaybalay’s past

By Walter I. Balane / MindaNews / 16 June 2004

MALAYBALAY CITY — On the 15th of June, 127 years ago, Malaybalay was established by the Spanish conquerors as a town or “pueblo.” After years of resistance, local inhabitants, led by Datu Mampaalong, bowed to the Castillan army led by 1Lt. Don Felipe Martinez.

Mampaalong, now the name of a lonely street in the city’s poblacion, was among the respected leaders of Malaybalay’s earlier residents. Malaybalay’s inhabitants, according to accounts, allegedly came from the “seashores of Northern Mindanao”. According to a copy of the deed of the pueblo’s creation, which MindaNews found at the city library, Mampaalong and 30 other datus “submitted themselves to the sovereignty of the Nation (Spanish crown)” on June 15, 1877.

As recorded, some of the datus named in the deed in Spanish were Datto Manpalon (Mampaalong) who was baptized as Mariano Melendez; Sugola; Mindaguin; Apang; and Bansag. They allegedly took their oath to the Spanish crown on behalf of the estimated population of 453 then. (Malaybalay’s population in 2004 is estimated at 137,579).

For lack of additional records on the oath-taking, one cannot tell if the datus fought first before paying allegiance to the conquerors. Or could they have given their oaths “freely?” If the existing records of Malaybalay’s history are to be the basis, the datus and their ancestors resisted Spanish conquest.

In fact, according to another “brief history” of Malaybalay at the city library, the “last recorded resistance by the inhabitants against the conquering Castillan army” was “sometime in 1850.” The inhabitants resisted foreign aggression, that’s certain. According to a city history reader, at the height of the Spanish conquest of the hinterlands of Mindanao, the Spaniards burned the entire village of what is now known as Kalasungay, now at the northwest part of the city.

All adult male residents in the settlement, it said, were killed while the women and children were taken hostage. At the time, Bukidnon only had five settlements namely, Malaybalay, Sumilao, Linabo (now in Malaybalay), Mailag (now in Valencia) and Silae (Malaybalay). There were no details written about the exploits of the survivors other than the information that those who survived and fled to Silae (a very remote barangay now) slowly returned a few years later and settled near Sacub river (now the site of the Plaza Rizal) under the protection of Datu Mampaalong. Sacub river is now known as Sawaga river.

On the day Mampaalong and the 30 datus took their oath of allegiance to the Spanish, they accordingly embraced Christianity. Since then, June 15, 1877 has been referred to as the foundation day of Malaybalay. But it is interesting to note this entry of Malaybalay’s very limited “written” history. In fact, it was probably taken from pages of Spanish chronicles about their “God, gold and glory” conquest.

The deed I quoted above was from a government document written in Spanish translated by a local government clerk in the 1970s. Now, the document is just a sheet of bond paper fastened together with the “brief history” of Bukidnon’s other localities. If indeed true, the accounts were from the point of view of a conqueror vanquishing his enemies. In fact, so much of 19th century Malaybalay is taken from accounts based on Spanish chronicles.

If there is any written history from other sources, they are not found in Bukidnon’s public libraries and therefore not made available for the public to appreciate. I have yet to see a history of Malaybalay written from the point of view of the Lumads. If today’s generation of Malaybalay residents do not have a clear view of Malaybalay’s history, then it won’t appear significant if June 15 is being celebrated as the town’s foundation day, never mind if it was not a day worth celebrating for their ancestors. But one significant fact remains: unlike in other Spanish settlements around Mindanao, despite the pueblo’s being named as “Oroquieta del Interior,” the name Malaybalay, accordingly a Castillan slip in the pronounciation of “walaybalay,” is still the name of Bukidnon’s capital. The celebration of Malaybalay’s foundation day is actually a celebration of the inhabitants “submission” to the Spanish crown; the creation of the “pueblo” being just a “consuelo de bobo”.

The deed goes: “…His excellency the Governor General, Don Domingo Moriones Y Murillo, who actually represents His Majesty in these Islands; he was accepting the submission tendered by the above named magnates (31 datus) for themselves and in the form and under the conditions offered; promising them [the inhabitants] to the protection and assistance necessary against their enemies, such as the maintenance of peace and order, as long as they remain loyal and faithful to their oath, and to commemorate their oath of allegiance, he is declaring the establishment of the town under the name Oroquita, to which the subject[sic] agrees.

The use of the words “submission” and “subject” indicate the conditions of the datus at that time. . Apparently, the use of June 15 to celebrate Malaybalay’s foundation day is a big mockery of its indigenous ancestry; showing submission rather than courage and zealousness. Although I can imagine the datus celebrating with the Spaniards after the creation of the pueblo, I can guess they would have wanted something better if only they had the choice. Certainly, the day wasn’t really a day of jubilation. I could only guess it was a day of defeat. Marking the foundation day on June 15, 1877 would only give credit to the Spanish conquest more than the resistance. No one can change the past.

But of course, understanding the past could very well be a good guide to understanding the present and charting the future. My argument does not intend to look down on Datu ampaalong and the other tribal leaders for their submission to the Spaniards. Certainly, there were merits in the “submission” owing to the organization of the “pueblo.” But what
I am trying to point out is, which part of their struggle, if any for a concept of “a people,” is being “honored” in the celebration? Is it the part when they stood against aggression or when they surrendered to aggression? Adding salt to injury, the city held a joint celebration of Philippine Independence Day and 127th Foundation Day on June 12 at the city’s Freedom Park.

According to reliable sources at the city government, the coincidence was unintentional for it has been a tradition for Malaybalay to mark its foundation day on the nearest Saturday to June 15. But there lies the irony in this year’s joint “celebration.”

Independence Day celebrated together with the commemoration of the day the local datus “submitted” and subjected themselves to the Spaniards? If Malaybalay’s youth had been taught about their history, they would probably have been confused.

Watching the joint “celebration” at Freedom Park last Saturday, I heard local officials calling on the people to be thankful for not only the big blessings but also for the small ones. In times when the “people are at the mercy of societal problems, we should be thankful that we are free,” Mayor Florencio Flores told the crowd composed mostly of government officials and employees.

For sure, the people of Malaybalay are better off without a foundation day celebration that’s founded on defeat. But, they would never know. Malaybalay’s history is not even well stocked in its libraries.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Walter I. Balane reports on Bukidnon for MindaNews).

ASEAN News: Visit our country, Burmese general tells critics

Visit our country, Burmese general tells critics
By Walter I. Balane /MindaNews / 20 January 2006

DAVAO CITY – Branding as “baseless accusations” criticisms against their country’s human rights record, lead delegates from the government and private sectors of Myanmar (Burma) asked critics to go to the junta-ruled Southeast Asian state and see for themselves the real situation.“To see is to believe,” the Burmese delegates who attended the ASEAN Tourism Forum here told journalists in two press conferences held for the occasion.

“See for yourself the beauty of our country and our people,” said Brig. Gen. Aye Myint Kyu, Myanmar’s vice minister for hotels and tourism ministry.

Kyu, while saying his country is willing to host the ATF in the future, had been mum, however, over the media’s clamor for explanation why Burma backed out from hosting ATF 2006.

Burma’s withdrawal as host forced Davao to take over with only six months left for the preparation.

ATF 2005 host Malaysia had been reported to have blocked Burma’s hosting of the event this year for political and other reasons.

Malaysia has pushed for Burma to allow a United Nations representative to visit the country.

Kyu, Myanmar’s highest ranking official at the annual event, told MindaNews that like any other country there are political dynamics in Burma but that it is “safe to go there”.

U Khin Zaw, chair of Myanmar’s Travel Association, said in a separate press conference Wednesday that Burma’s officials were busy attending an “internal and unavoidable circumstance”.

He cited that the months prior to the ATF coincided with their national convention.

The national convention is Myanmar’s military rulers’ way of consolidating opposing political parties.

Zaw and another official presented to the media the beautiful tourist attractions of Myanmar but the latter’s questions dealt mostly with the country’s political situation.

“We have no much ado. We invite you to visit our country for you to see it for yourself,” he said.

The Initiatives for International Dialogue, which led protest actions calling Myanmar “Asean’s Shame” is accepting the challenge.

In a press statement, Gus Miclat, IID executive director and regional coordinator of the Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition, said: “We accept the challenge to visit Burma. The Myanmar junta should know the region’s (ASEAN) civil society have [sic] been wanting to visit but have not been allowed inside if they have not been blacklisted.”

Miclat said they will wait for their official invitation, “but the junta should first grant a visa to former President Corazon Aquino”.

Aquino had intended to visit Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Syu Kyi, who has been put under house arrest.

Also, IID asked to allow the return of the United Nation’s representative to Burma. The junta, officially known as the State Peace and Development Council, banned the UN representative from the country by indefinite postponement.

IID further asked Myanmar to allow the Asean delegation headed by Foreign Minister Syed Hamid to visit in consonance with the agreement at the Asean summit in December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur and to allow the IID a visit to Syu Kyi and other political prisoners as well as the various impoverished ethnic states.

IID pointed out that some visiting members of civil society were arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to five years in Rangoon, Burma’s capital, “after they attempted to see for themselves the situation inside.”

The statement enumerated several indicators of Burma’s state abuses including the continuous detention of Aung San Syu Kyi and other political prisoners, the absence of the UN representative in Burma, the series of attrition against ethnic nationalities while their own bogus national convention is ongoing, the forced labor issues, the employment of child soldiers, the absence of free media and the systematic rape cases by the military in Burma.

Several UN agencies and other impartial watchdogs of international crimes have documented these incidents.

According to IID, the abuses speak well of the junta’s callousness even to diplomatic pleas by their own neighbors to consider basic reforms.

“If indeed the military regime of Burma is not hiding any skeleton inside their closet, why then did they skip their turn in hosting the prestigious ATF? Are they afraid that delegates may discover a cabinet not only stacked with skeletons, but one that is also full of maggots?” the IID asked.

In recent years, the Asean has shifted from an earlier policy of non-intervention to a soft approach to the Burma issue, calling on it to reform immediately.

The Philippine government discussed the issue of Burma at the UN Security Council when it became a non-permanent member last year.

Kaamulan 2006 opens in Bukidnon

Kaamulan 2006 opens in Bukidnon
By Walter Idul Balane / MindaNews / 22 February 2006 MALAYBALAY CITY – This year’s Kaamulan festival opened here with a promise of new and better activities for tourists and local revelers, said Elsie Gail C. Ocaya, Bukidnon provincial tourism consultant.

The provincial government did a soft opening of the
month long celebration on February 12 but the “grand
opening” will be held on March 3.

An early morning  traditional Bukidnon ritual called
Panalawahig will be officiated by datus (tribal
leaders) at the Kaamulan grounds. A Catholic mass
would be celebrated at the Capitol grounds. After the
rituals, major sponsors of the event would go around
the city on a motorcade.

The Kaamulan festival is the province’s major tourist
attraction with ethnic street dancing competitions on
March 4 as the highlight.

Ocaya told MindaNews about new activities in Kaamulan
2006 that give more value to the cultural aspect of
the celebration, not only tourism.

She said this is to help increase the public’s
appreciation of the cultural heritage of Bukidnon’s
seven tribal groups in addition to the street dancing,
bazaars, sports tournaments, rodeo shows, nightly
musical, dance and entertainment shows among others.

Ocaya said for the first time there will be an
indigenous song writing clinic for students and the
general public. She said Bukidnon-based Talaandig
artist and musician Waway Saway agreed to lead the
“open to the public” clinic. Saway, based on the
official schedule provided to MindaNews, would also
have a concert on March 8.

The 1st National Folklore Conference will also be held
here on March 2-3 and is part of the official schedule
of Kaamulan 2006.

Ocaya also cited the re-entry of Bansagen, an exhibit
of Bukidnon contemporary art by a group of local
artists from March 1-10. The exhibit, on its 5th this
year was not in last year’s celebration.

She also stressed that this year’s ethnic sports
competitions would occupy center stage and could be
seen and participated by more people on March 6.

Another new event in this year's festival is the
Bukidnon Kaamulan 21-kilometer open marathon
competition from Valencia City to Malaybalay City on
March 9.

Kaamulan is also a haven of trade fairs showcasing
Bukidnon’s cutflower, livestock, agri-food industries
and the major industries operating in this
agriculture-based economy.

In the last three years, Bukidnon’s hotels and inns
declared  full occupancy during the Kaamulan
celebration with domestic and foreign guests.

Bukidnon is home to the Bukidnon, Higaonon, Talaandig,
Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Omayamnon tribes.
Majority of its present population (at least 1.06
million in 2000) is composed of settlers and lumads
who have inter-married with migrants from Luzon and
the Visayas.

In 1977, Kaamulan started as a local celebration of
the cultural heritage of Bukidnon’s lumads (indigenous
peoples) held annually in September. Starting 1996, it
is held from the second half of February to March 10,
the anniversary date of the foundation of Bukidnon as
a province in 1917.

“Kaamulan” came from the Binukid (dialect spoken by
most of the lumads) term “amol-amol” or gathering for
any purpose, which could mean a datuship ritual, a
wedding ceremony, a thanksgiving feast during harvest
time, a peace pact or all these altogether.

The provincial government of Bukidnon and the
Department of Tourism have promoted the festival as a
tourist attraction. With mileage in the national
media, more tourists visit Bukidnon for the Kaamulan
in the last five years.

Revelers from around Bukidnon and tourists from around
the country come to watch the annual ethnic street
dancing competition among local institutions and
recently, from Bukidnon’s 22 local government units.

Kaamulan is now among the Philippines’ major festivals
and the only “ethnic festival” in the country,
according to the DOT. Based on their 2005 estimates,
at least 100,000 visitors arrived for the festival
last year.

The provincial tourism office admitted in 2004 that
the festival is Bukidnon’s only tourism promotion
initiative. Ocaya said the provincial government
allotted P3 million in holding Kaamulan 2006 with
private corporations taking care of some attractions
as major sponsors.

In 2004, critics claimed the festival doesn’t really
make lumads better off because its commercialized set
up aims to boost tourism only and not the real welfare
of Bukidnon’s indigenous peoples. They said the
provincial government should come up with a genuine
development program for the indigenous peoples in the
province.

In 2005, Bukidnon Governor Jose Zubiri said they have
taken steps to alleviate the plight of the lumads.
Zubiri said 20 percent of the province’s annual budget
is given to the lumads in the form of medicine and
food needs.

Ocaya told MindaNews last week that they are taking
measures to ensure handlers of the festival’s
activities like the street dancing observe cultural
sensitivity and no lumad would be exploited in the
celebration.

Ocaya said Kaamulan is fast becoming Bukidnon’s entry
point to the country’s tourism industry and may also
usher tourists to Bukidnon’s less popular but also
interesting tourist attractions (http://www.bukidnon.gov.ph/indextourism.htm).

Life won’t be the same without the eyes and ears of journalists

Life won’t be the same without the eyes and ears of journalists
Walter I. Balane / Mindanews / 18 November 2004

DAVAO CITY — The speeches at the indignation rally held Wednesday at the Rizal Park here made Manong Racky, 36, understand the fate of journalists.Aside from hearing some of them through his favorite local radio station and watching national television news, he has not actually met a journalist in person.

Racky loves TV news personalities better.

“I like it when I could see the eyes of the one who makes me informed,” he told MindaNews as the rally went on.

Speaker after speaker expressed messages of grief, rage, hatred, courage, hope, love and faith. Manong Racky stepped closer to the sidewalk across the street so he could listen.

He works as a utility worker of a local printing press. While waiting for a jeepney back to his work, MindaNews approached him for an interview. At first he declined but later on agreed.

“I am glad they are speaking in Bisaya so it would be easier for me to understand the issue,” he said.

As a media fan, he loves to see his favorite radio announcers speak on stage. He said most of his free time is spent on TV and radio and news program are his favorites. He confessed of voting for most of the candidates from the media who ran in the 2004 elections.

But aside from his first time to see journalists in flesh, Wednesday’s indignation rally was also Racky’s closest encounter on the issue of journalists being killed.

“I thought they are just powerful. I could hear and see them to be very loud and brave people,” he said.

“Now I understand that like us, ordinary people, journalists also cry, grieve. They also die,” Manong Racky said.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) has reported 59 journalists killed since 1986, 10 of them this year.

According to an NUJP leaflet, it was only in 1994 and 1995 when no journalist was reported killed in the country. Of the 59, 25 were from the print media and 34 from broadcast (TV and radio).

Twenty eight of those killed were from Mindanao.

MindaNews’ photo editor Gene Boyd Lumawag, 26, is the most recent victim in Mindanao. He is the fifth from Davao City, based on the NUJP list.

If not mistaken, NUJP’s Carlos Conde revealed that Lumawag is yet the 2nd photojournalist slain since 1986.

Manong Racky admits of having not heard about Lumawag. He said he does not read newspapers.

“But he must be important or his death is really serious because the emcee said there are reporters from other parts of Mindanao who came here,” he said.

“He must be famous because you are all here, sir!,” he said.

Manong Racky listened to the speeches at the stage. Between speakers, he asked some questions about how much journalists earn, among other things.

He expressed disbelief when told about the average monthly salary of a full time reporter at P5,000 to­ 7,000.

“It is just like how much I earn, yet my job is a lot easier,” he said.

Unlike Manong Racky who spent time listening to the speeches, Oscar, 26, who works as a security guard for a shop nearby, has no interest at all.

“Sorry, sir wala ko kabalo kung nag-unsa na sila dinha,” he said.(I’m sorry sir, I do not know what they are doing.)

Just working across the Rizal Park stage, Oscar chose to chat with co-workers. “I really do not know about the killings.”

Jenalyn Caga, 17, a student told MindaNews the rally is about the “death of a journalist.”

“I hope the killing would end because I pity the journalists and their families,” she said as Tyron Lumawag, the youngest brother of Gene Boyd spoke at the rally.

Caga, a commerce student, however did not want to become a journalist if given a choice.

“I feel that it is a dangerous job,” she explained.

Manong Cocoy, 53, a sidewalk vendor is even more perplexed.

“Nganong mag rally-rally man na sila diha, patay naman kaha nang reporter? Mabuhi pa ba diay na? (Why are they holding a rally? I though that journalist is already dead? Can they resurrect him?)

Manong Cocoy, however, agreed that journalists are important in the community.

“If I have the money I would allow my son to take B.S. Reporting in college, if he wants to,” he said.

Manong Cocoy said he would allow his children to pursue careers in journalism even with the reports of killings.

“In whatever job you are in, if it’s your time already, you will have to go,” he said.

“My greater problem is that I don’t have enough money to send my children to school and take any course at all,” he added.

Carlos Conde, NUJP’s national secretary-general, said it is important for the “common tao” to understand the fate of journalists because they are working for the people.

“The people must be able to value the importance of press freedom because it would be for their own good,” he said.

Conde said the “culture of impunity” spawned by the killing of journalists is working against press freedom and at the same time against the people’s civil liberties.

He said not any of the 59 cases of slain journalists has been solved.

Conde said the government must pursue investigations and implement existing laws against the killings.

Manong Racky said he knows the pain journalists are encountering.

“Someone in the family, although not a journalist, also died. But we want journalists alive. I hope journalists would go on reporting. Life won’t be the same without the eyes and ears of journalists,” he said.

"I hope there is a way to stop these killings," he added.