BUKIDNON VIEWS: When owning land is not enough

By Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan

MALAYBALAY CITY (BUkidnonNews.Net/06 December 2017) In October, I observed the Indigenous Peoples Month. I posted pictures and articles related to Bukidnon culture and history on my Facebook account. I have not scheduled community visits except for the Matigsalug Days in Kalagangan on October 28, 2017.

In the name of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), titling of the ancestral domains in Bukidnon is accelerated. Half of the land area of Bukidnon would be covered by ancestral domains once all applications for claiming the land are approved.

The hint of development in some ancestral domains is still obscure for the moment due to conflicts of boundaries among claimants or due to disagreement on the manner of ownership, either unified or by clan.

Claiming a land as ancestral domain by the IPs and eventually owning it, requires a development plan that assures the maximum utilization of the natural resources contained within ancestral domain.

The government’s sovereignty over the land, despite of the claim, still operates by requiring the claimants to produce a comprehensive and sustainable development plan.

The IP communities understand that land ownership is not enough without coupling it with land cultivation, or else, wide tracts of land would remain idle and the occupants would remain poor.

It takes time, however, to reconcile the preservation and use of natural resources. The first is anchored on cultural-ecology that dictates how sacred the land is and the latter is anchored on the idea of development that dictates how to engage with land to acquire benefits.

Both preservation and use are for the common good of man. A creative blending of these two concepts can transform ancestral domains in Bukidnon into productive resources that help address the situation of the province of Bukidnon as one of the poorest provinces in the country.

To own an ancestral domain is not enough for the IPs. With this realization, some initiatives are made to augment their socio-economic status. The Bukidnon-Higaonon Tribal Association (BUHITA) and the Bukidnon-Umayamnon Tribe Kapu-unan ta mga Datu (BUKDA) whose ancestral domains are situated upstream of hydro-power plants like the one managed by the National Power Corporation, took the initiative to find for potential source of sustainable funding for the development of their ancestral domains.

Lately, they conducted a campaign on potential source of sustainable financing mechanism. This assures empowering the IPs for resilience and progress and at the same time takes the course of developing the ancestral domain.

Another initiative is of the Bukidnon tribe in Daraghuyan that envisions a social trust fund for the IPs called Talama in which people in the community will set aside money for future’s use. This project started sometime in 2014 with the assistance of Kitanglad Integrated NGOs. One suggested way to generate fund is for the local water district to apportion an amount for the IP community who takes care of Mount Kitanglad, one of the water sources in Malaybalay.

Talama is not a form of payment. It is an act of caring for the caretakers of nature, thus, it has a cultural and spiritual connotation. This unique initiative assures the financial capacity of the tribe to develop and protect the ancestral domain.

I feel proud as a Bukidnon when I joined the Talaandig Day celebration in Songco, Lantapan last October 14, 2017 during the launching of the 1 Million Lutya Initiative project initiated by Datu Migketay (Victorino Saway). This project is most fitting as a contribution of the IP communities to the Zero Hunger Bill or the Right to Adequate Food Framework Act which is co-authored by Karlo Nograles, the 1st District Representative of Davao City.

To ensure food security and to fight poverty, communities representing the 7 tribes in Bukidnon made their ancestral domain accommodate the planting of Lutya (Taro) and expected to harvest more than a million pieces of this staple food.

The Manobo tribe in Pangantucan and the Matigsalug tribe in Kitaotao are aiming to harvest 527,000 and 415,000 pieces of Lutya respectively. I have tasted one of the first products, Lutya Chips, of the Talaandig tribe whose ancestral domain is ready to produce 276,000 pieces of Lutya. Headed by Bai Leah Tumbalang, the Tigwahanon tribe in San Fernando would harvest 96,000 pieces of Lutya in a specified period of time.

The Umayamnon tribe in Cabanglasan would have 38,000 pieces of Lutya which would be added to the expected harvest of the Bukidnon and Higaonon tribes, both to have 20,000 each. Atty. Burt Estrada, the son of Datu Manlumakbaw, oversees the project in Tagoloan area. This initiative is hopeful to reduce the 11.9% Filipino households who experienced hunger during the 1st quarter of 2017. While watching the celebrators dance in a wide space, I took my time recalling a portion of the story of Agio when people took in some food that caused them immortals; and one of the food could be Lutya. That was one of the best Kaamulan (gathering) that I have attended in Songco though I failed to visit the Kusina ni Waway (Saway).

Engaging with the communal war against poverty, the IP communities in Bukidnon are facing another challenge of autonomy with regards to the federalism campaign of the Duterte Administration.

Federalism might displace the IPs, both in political and economic aspect. The establishment of the regional states, as they call it in federalism framework, might disturb the IP rights on land and political position like that of the IP mandatory representative in the legislative body.

To secure the right of having lands, the titling of the ancestral domains in Bukidnon must be completed before the possible shift to federalism in the country. The concept of ancestral domain is nowhere to be found in the federalism set-up except for a possible discussion on IP rights during the establishment of organic law in each regional state.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in the province is gearing up for this purpose of accelerating the titling of the ancestral domains. May the IP leaders in the province iron-out conflicts, if there are, to secure the land, eventually the culture and the people.

Land ownership is not enough. An initiative to implement the development plan in an ancestral area completes land ownership. I am inspired to design bamboo structures for a museum, a library, a cafeteria and a gallery to be built in the Dinlayan Ancestral Land that recently accommodated 12,000 bamboo seedlings. This bamboo forestation in Barangay Can-ayan is another initiative for developing ancestral domain.

(BUKIDNON VIEWS is the opinion section of Bukidnon News.Net. Ms. Loreta Sol Dinlayan is a social science educator at Bukidnon State University, where she also works as in-charge of the Bukidnon Studies Center, formerly university museum. A version of this piece first appeared on the author’s blog “Balugto”, Binukid for “rainbow”).