All throughout the event, silence would fall on the entire room when a performer delivers a poignant song, dance or poem.
By AMIHAN EUZA MABALAY
The atmosphere at Mandell Hall, Trinity University in Quezon City was full of emotions during the Solidarity-Cultural gathering, September 18, with Lumads where victims of militarization from Davao, Bukidnon and Surigao del Sur recounted their harrowing experiences of human rights violations.
Through cultural presentations, supporters from various groups registered their solidarity with the Lumad struggle for justice, self-determination and freedom.
Pol Galang, a known folk singer rendered two songs, one of which is “Lupang Sinira”, his famous version of the national anthem, which the students of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihod Development (Alcadev) know by heart. The progressive piece was tagged by the military as an “NPA [New People’s Army] song” after learning that alternative schools taught this to Lumad students. Weeks ago, the military presented a video of a Lumad boy singing the song during one congressional hearing, claiming that this is ‘proof’ that NPA rebels run the alternative school, and they were ‘correct’ to close it down. Before offering his song to the indigenous people whose struggle he supports, Galang, known as a political activist during the martial law period, expressed indignation over the government’s policy and response to the Lumads’ plight.
Stum Casia of the poetry group Kilometer 64 performed his poem “Lianga” which depicted the cold-blooded killings of Alcadev Executive Director Emerito ‘Emok’ Samarca, tribal leader Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo. Casia’s poem focused on the struggle of Lumads for their right to education:
may tali’t ginilitan ang leeg?may saksak ng kutsilyo sa katawan
sa parehas na katawang hindi nagdamot?ng lakas, talino at panahon
para mag-abot ng edukasyon?na inyong ipinagdamot
na hindi hindi ninyo maibigay?silid-aralang hindi maitayo ng inyong mga kamay
sino ngayon ang maglilinis ng dugong inyong ikinalat??anong katotohanan ang gusto ninyong imulat?
na ang lakas ninyo ay walang katapat??na ang katwirang kumitil ay nasa inyong lahat?
may tali’t ginilitan ang leeg?ito ang aming paaralan
ito ang aming eskwelahan?ito an gaming pamayanan
pagdaloy ng dugong hindi mapigilan?bayan itong hindi kami kayang protektahan
saan, saan kami dadalhin ng pagtakas sa kamatayan??saan, saan pupulutin ang agaw-buhay naming karapatan?
Rebecca Lawson of Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) shared the statement of solidarity for Lumad and all indigenous groups in the form of a serene but moving a capella.
Through a play, PCPR re-enacted atrocities done by state forces in Mindanao. The performance, executed with deep emotions, left the room swelling with tears of the Lumad victims and the audience. Michelle, daughter of slain Dionel Campos tried to hide her tears while watching the performance.
Meanwhile, artist collective Ugat-lahi created an on-the spot mural painting on the corner of the stage, where the call “Stop Lumad Killings” was etched.
Testimonies from victims were also heard, some of which were from ‘Junjun’, 16-year old lone survivor of the Pangatucan 5 massacre and Manobo woman leader Josephine Pagalan, who witnessed how Campos was shot in front of her house. While Junjun’s testimony and message was short, the audience felt how the child is still in the process of healing because of severe trauma. Pagalan, meanwhile recounted how the Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically the 1st Special Battalion under the 4th Infantry Division in Pangantucan, Bukidnon and the 36th Infantry Battalion in Lianga, Surigao del Sur have wreaked havoc and terror in their ancestral domains. She voiced out the Lumad demands of ending militarization in the countryside by pulling out AFP troops dismantling paramilitary forces, which the latter organised and supported.
Toward the end, a community singing of the popular nationalistic song “Bayan Ko” ensued, which boosted the morale of everyone.
All throughout the event, silence would fall on the entire room when a performer delivers a poignant song, dance or poem. Never was a room filled with overflowing mixed emotions of grief, anger, courage, and hope until last Saturday. At the end of the event, the most prevailing sentiment was solidarity, the people were in high resolve to support and defend Lumad brothers and sisters against the state’s attack on their human rights, and ultimately; demand accountability and justice.
The event was organized by PCPR, Kasimbayan/ECD, Bayan, and Katribu. It aimed to gather a minimum of P50,000 as support for the campaign of Lumads against militarization, and provide for the primary needs of the refugees in evacuation centers.