BY AURA IRENE SEMANERO
Posted by Bulatlat.com
Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga is this year’s host community for the Cordillera Day celebration from April 23 to 24. In a meeting last February the Uma Tribal Elders and Leaders Conference pointed out the significance of the Cordillera Day celebration in this community “in addressing their issues and problems”, and that it is “an honor for them to share their struggles in this broad solidarity event.”
Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga is this year’s host community for the Cordillera Day celebration from April 23 to 24. In a recent meeting, the Uma Tribal Elders and Leaders Conference pointed out the significance of the Cordillera Day celebration in this community “in addressing their issues and problems,” and that it is “an honor for them to share their struggles in this broad solidarity event.”
In a press conference, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) stated that the Cordillera Day theme is: “Strengthen the inter-tribal unity and peoples’ resistance against destructive mining and political repression! Oppose charter change and oust the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime!” Expected local and international guests to this event will number from 3,000 to 4,000.
The Uma tribe occupies three barangays (villages): Western Uma, Lower Uma, and the Upper Uma. Western Uma, the host barangay, is generally mountainous and steep with an altitude ranging from 300 to 1, 000 meters above sea level.
The steep terrain limits the land for agriculture. Farming is the main livelihood of the people, but this does not suffice to meet basic needs, so they also engage in broom-making, blacksmith, along with production of cash crops like beans, watercress, chayote, corn, and coffee, among others; and occasional logging. However diverse their potential sources of income are, their earnings are still insufficient, causing the people to find supplementary livelihood outside their village.
Vegetation and forest cover in the barangay is depleted by massive logging operations of the Batong Buhay Gold Mines Incorporated (BBGMI) in the past.
Like most of northwestern Luzon, the climate in the area is dry and warmest during the months of March until May. The rest of the year is wet.
Based on a community profile prepared by the CPA, the people generally speak the Uma dialect, while some speak Ilocano and other Cordillera languages. Few professionals and young ones can speak English and Tagalog.
To this day, the Uma kinsfolk practice their rich socio-political and cultural heritage evident in their continuing practice of indigenous rituals and customs associated with life’s cycle, agricultural practices, and other community affairs.
Uma has a rich historical experience in the struggle for ancestral land and territory, in dealing with militarization and tribal conflicts, and in opposing the construction of the Chico dam in the 1970s.
As a tribe, their elders have taken various lead roles in maintaining harmony within the community, in maintaining objectivity and democracy in decision-making processes, in the administration of justice and settlement of disputes, and leadership in inter-tribal relations.
For decades now, this tribe has been the most respected mediator in the long-running tribal conflict between the neighboring Balatoc and Guinaang tribes in nearby Pasil.
The community roads remain narrow and unpaved, there is no electricity, water is scarce and there is no regular health worker – all because of government neglect, the CPA stated. Yet, the people of Uma remain united in defending their rights as indigenous peoples in the face of destructive corporate mining, militarization, tribal conflicts and against human rights violations. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat.com