“Here in Manila, the Apec leaders meet, while we, the indigenous peoples, are being shooed and driven away. We have the anlasiw to show our strong unity as fighting people from Northern and Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao. We will continue to unite against the US-Aquino regime.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – As the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ Summit opens today, Nov. 18, indigenous peoples from the Cordilleras, Northern and Southern Luzon met with the Lumád of Mindanao at Mendiola Bridge in the early morning here, in a unity march against globalization.
Under the banner of #MartsaAmianan (march of the north), the Cordillerans and peasants from Ilocos and Cagayan Valley region arrived in Manila today, after a whole night of travel, harassed by bomb threats as they boarded public buses, and bogged by stops at police checkpoints.
Amid tightened security and restrictions against rallies, the indigenous peoples are all geared up for the protests today, until tomorrow, as they make their point against Apec, a 26-year-old forum which they said had pushed neoliberal policies that opened the country to large-scale, destructive extractive companies that encroached into their ancestral lands.
The Manilakbayan ng Mindanao have opened the salvo of protests when they arrived on Oct. 26, calling for justice for slain Lumád leaders, and a stop to attacks in the Lumád communities and schools. The Mangyans and other activists from Southern Tagalog, meanwhile, are on their fifth day in Manila and have staged protests at the US embassy and Supreme Court.
Traitor to the tribe
“We are here in Manila to fight for our right to self-determination, and for our ancestral domain…This government is a traitor to the indigenous peoples,” said Windel Bolinget, chairperson of Sulong Katribu partylist and secretary general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
Bolinget said President Aquino approved 720 mining applications covering one million hectares of indigenous ancestral lands in the Cordillera Region. He said among these are mining companies from Apec-member countries, US, Canada, and Australia.
The Aquino administration had also allowed the entry of more than 400 energy projects, mostly owned by the Aboitiz group of companies. Bolinget said many indigenous communities were also displaced by by the National Greening Program, which only turned ancestral lands over to private companies for industrial forests and agribusiness plantations.
Aynong Abnay, a Mangyan leader of Bagong Lakas ng Katutubo ng Timog Katagalugan (Balatik) in Mindoro, was evidently tired as he spoke during the program. He was hoarse, and his foot was bound, with a wound from a skirmish with the police in yesterday’s protest.
“They say that we tribal peoples can’t understand the issues of government, but we know that government wants to take over our lands, displace us from our homes, and violate our rights,” said Abnay.
“This government is a liar, a berdugo (butcher), and we know it doesn’t serve the people,” he said.
Let unity flow like blood
At the foot of Mendiola Bridge, indigenous leaders offered a black pig, whose blood was poured on the ground, as a symbol of flowing unity of the various Philippine indigenous tribes.
The Igorots from Cordillera also exchanged tokens with the Lumád of Mindanao, in a ritual called anlasiw, which is the first step performed before forging a bodong or the Igorot peace pact.
“This bridges two tribes to attain a common aim for peace,” explained Jill Cariño, of CPA and second nominee of Sulong Katribu partylist.
“This was performed by the Kalinga and Tinggian tribes during Martial Law, to unite against a common enemy, the US-Marcos Dictatorship, which wanted to put up four giant dams on Chico river. Now, we use it as Filipino people to unite against the US-Aquino regime and to defend our ancestral lands and the environment,” Cariño said.
“Here in Manila, the Apec leaders meet, while we, the indigenous peoples, are being shooed and driven away. We have the anlasiw to show our strong unity as fighting people from the Northern and Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao. We will continue to unite against the US-Aquino regime,” she added.
The Igorots gave the Lumád leaders a kalasag and sang-ay (shield and spear), which are weapons of defense, while the latter, in turn, also gave a shield and an intricately-woven belt of beads, to symbolize their common commitment to nurture nature.
The Martsa Amianan reported various harassment along the way as they head to Manila. In Baguio City, a bomb threat at the Victory Station terminal alarmed passengers, just as the delegates were boarding a bus.
Zoilo Baladad, secretary general of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) said a busload of Ilocos Region delegates were held up at Bio village, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur at 8:01 p.m. last night, Nov. 17, at a joint checkpoint by municipal police from Tagudin and Sta. Lucia towns and the Ilocos Sur provincial police.
Baladad said the police failed to give any reason for the hold-up, except that the vehicle “carried rally paraphernalia,” and it was “by order of Col. Roman Felix.” A human rights worker, Mila Marcelo of IHRA, tried to talk to the police men, but the latter instead took photos of her. The Ilocos delegates were eventually allowed to pass after a series of negotiations.
“The action of the PNP clearly indicates the repressive nature of state forces: harassing and intimidating those who resist the anti-people policies of the Aquino regime. It also portrays how the Aquino government systematically uses its state forces to stop the people from exposing the ills of Apec that furthers the oppression of peasants, fisher folk and indigenous peoples, in favor of the interests of the ruling elite and big businesses,” Baladad said.