The Fugitive of Talaingod

Last year, the Salugpungan, convinced of the NCIP’s duplicity, decided to withdraw its application for ancestral domain claims with the NCIP.
More recently, in a Mindanao conference to sum up the indigenous tribes’ experiences after 10 years of IPRA, Lumad leaders all over Mindanao called for the scrapping of the law. In that conference, Salugpungan leaders also urged other Lumad groups in Mindanao to withdraw their claims.

This interview with Datu Guibang, conducted in Lumad and Visayan, was held in 2006, months before the Salugpungan withdrew its ancestral claim.

DAVAO TODAY: Why did the government put you on its wanted list?
DATU GUIBANG-: Because we stood up for the land we live on.
Is it a crime to stand up for our land? We did not encroach on other people’s land. They are the ones who have no respect for our rights. They try to take away the land from us and call us communists, fugitives, terrorists. We did not trespass or steal other people’s land. It is the government who besieged us and dispossessed us of our lands.
DT: What kind of life have you lived since you were declared a fugitive?
DG: I lived in constant hiding. We experienced walking many nights under the rain. We slept without a roof above our heads and only have banana leaves for a bed. We had to endure mosquitoes. We had to endure not being able to eat in a day or two. We even eat bananas even if they are still young and bitter.
DT: Did you ever fall ill?
DG: I did, so did the others in our league. I experienced urinating and vomiting blood. But the most difficult thing was my inability to sleep at night.
DT: Where is your family?
DG: They are in the sitios (subvillages). But there are times we had to take them with us, especially when their lives are in danger.
DT: For instance?
DG: Like when the members of Talakayan went searching for us. They threatened to take as hostages the wives of the datus who are on the wanted list. They forced the youths to act as their guides. We had to go and get our wives out of the sitios.
DT: But why can’t they ever capture you?
DG: Because we are always on the move and the entire tribe is helping us. They are our eyes and ears.
DT: How much longer, Datu, do you think, can you live such life?
DG: My name has been on the list for more than 10 years. Enduring long walks for me is no longer that easy but life for us Lumads has always been an endless struggle because of the presence of intruders who threaten to take away our land from us.
DT: Has there been anyone who asked you to surrender?
DG: There have been many.
DT: What did they offer?
DG: They offered me a good life.
DT: Why didn’t you take the offer to get yourself out of the harsh life you are living now? Besides you are growing older.
DG: If I surrender, the suffering of my people in Salugpungan will multiply. Those projects, which we managed to push away, will come back. I learned a lesson from Tata Gawilan of Bukidnon who surrendered — and look what happened? He got all the benefits for himself but the rest of his tribesmen are still as wretched as ever. I’d rather die than surrender. If I surrender, what purpose is there left of me? What will I gain? Will it bring something good to the descendants of Salugpungan?
DT: We have heard stories from the military, Datu, that you appear dauntless because you are supported by the NPA.

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