September 15, 2018. The Lumads of Sitio Bulac heard blasts and gunfire from a distance. Startled and feared for their lives, they collectively decided to walk five hours down to the Multi-purpose Hall of Upper Olave where they sought refuge.
While the armed forces of the state are encamped at Sitio Bulac (Lumad community). The displaced community have been living at the hall for 19 days now. Walls of degrading wood, cold cement floor and out of the comfort of their own home, the place is congested because of the number of families there.
Helena is a widowed mother of four. Unaccustomed to this kind of living, she said life is difficult. Living here is difficult. Feeding her four children is a challenge. At home, they have a 2-hectare land that she tills and plants bananas, camote, taro, coconut and vegetables as food source.
At the hall, food is scarce: no land to till and plant crops and vegetables, no livestock. They are dependent to relief assistance and aid given to them by the government and non-government organizations.
DIVESTMENT OF PROPERTIES
Helena courageously went back to Sitio Bulac to check her home and get food supplies. She was welcomed with plates, utensils and clothes scattered on the ground outside of her house. She also checked her small store and found no goods left. “Pati ang tunga sa sako nga bugas, tulo ka baboy, Nawala” (The half sack of rice and 3 pigs are nowhere to find), she added.
The perpetrators — not contented with damaging their properties. “Nanimaho among balay. Naay mga tae sa tao nagkatag sa salog.” (Our house stinks, there are human feces on the floor).
Such atrocities define the perpetrators.
English Translation of the Letter: Surrender, all you New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. If you will not surrender by November, Duterte will have all of you killed. We will destroy this place and make this a “no man’s land” so if you want your place to be better and if you want to live without any disruptions, all you have to do is surrender. The government will help all of you. There is no future with the NPA.
At the evacuation center, children were playing luthang, a toy made of thin cylindrical bamboo stuffed with pellets made from small pieces of wet paper. “Kini ang armas na ginadulaan sa mga bata,” (These are the toy arms that kids play with here), Helena observed as she looked on the children. “Dili man mi NPA, ngano mo-surender man mi? (We are not part of the New People’s Army (NPA). Why should we surrender?)” she added.
The letter conveys a clear message of the military forcibly displacing the Lumads. Contrary to the allegations of the armed forces, their threatening presence elicits fear and not security.
This displacement is an outright violation of their right to self-determination. The Lumad identity and culture are intertwined with their ancestral land. They have been practicing agricultural and forest-based livelihood since time immemorial. Their displacement has resulted in economic dispossession with the loss of land and forest resources to military aggression.
Helena shared that they will be relocated to a nearby community. The letter and the military presence is intimidating for the Lumad. But what overwhelms them with anxiety the most is the possibility that they can no longer go back to their homes, to their ancestral domain, their sacred ground, to their way of life.
Their dislocation has an incalculable impact on their very lives and ways of living – one that risks
eradicating their culture.
As a plant blooms its best flowers when it grows in its native habitat, the Lumad of Sityo Bulak can
only live their life to the fullest in their ancestral land.
Source: Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-Region
Date: October 7, 2018