The “Kampuhang Bayan” (people’s camp) transformed an empty ground into a fertile spot for cultural and political unity.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – What used to be an area for running and other PE classes in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Quezon City has been converted into a cultural plaza for indigenous peoples, Moro, activists, youths and the general public.
The “Kampuhang Bayan” of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao turned the grounds of the College of Human Kinetics into a buzzing hub where the 18 Lumád tribes, Moros, peasants, workers, rights defenders, artists, UP students and the common folk came together to share stories, songs, and dances.
More than just listening to the shocking stories of human rights violations of Mindanaoans, most visitors also expressed support to the struggle to defend ancestral lands and right to self-determined development.
The Kampuhan was set up on Oct. 26 as base for the Manilakbayan, courtesy of the UP community. Blue laminated sacks formed the walls and roofs of makeshift huts. These are sleeping areas for the “lakbayanis” during the night, but are transformed into informal classrooms during the day, where students and other folks gather and discuss with the Lumád and Mindanao activists.
On Oct. 30 alone, some 2,000 visitors went to the Kampuhan.
Although many of the UP students were sent there as class requirement by their professors, many find the eyeballing with the Lumád a new experience, as they walk out of the camp, feeling more informed, more inspired to act on problems that afflict the country.
One UP student who visited the camp said, “In my one-hour stay there, I learned more than a whole semester’s worth of classes.”
A Manobo higante stood near the entrance, greeting visitors. The Museo Lumád showcased several indigenous items, such as the musical instruments kudlong and agong, and weapons such as the pana and kampil.
Various workshops led by sectoral groups – in paralegal work, dance, music, even parcour – took place during the day, in which UP students, Lumád and visitors joined in.
Inside the UP Gym, members of UP’s pride, the Fighting Maroons gave time to teach Lumad kids basketball basics.
Showbiz personalities were among the visitors, such as Venus Raj, Dong Abay, Lolita Carbon and Manobo musician Bayang Barrios, who all expressed solidarity with the call to #StopLumadKillings, pull out soldiers from communities and disband paramilitary groups.
For two nights, on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30, cultural solidarity nights turned the Kampuhan into a venue for variety show of OPM-tribal-alternative music, with speeches, songs and skits performed by leaders, Lumád children, and Manila-based musicians.
Progressive groups of UP students, employees and Barangay UP residents were also present to lend a hand in camp management, security and hosting of cultural programs. Sticking to its activist tradition, the UP community had earlier welcomed the protest caravan in its different campuses in Tacloban, Leyte and Los Baños, Laguna, and finally, hosting the Kampuhan in Diliman.
Where the activists are, so are the state forces. The Philippine Collegian reported that two Quezon City police men were seen at Quezon Hall on Oct. 28, during a candle-lighting activity of UP students with Manilakbayan. On Oct. 23, while the protest caravan was en route to Manila, six military agents were also seen tailing activists making the preparations for the Kampuhan.