BUKIDNON VIEWS: Angaray’s Take: Losing a Tangkulu

By Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/23 January 2016) I worshipped this morning with a cry in my heart. I carefully put back my salay (necklace) to its place. I used it yesterday during the provincial indigenous peoples’ mandatory representative (IPMR) selection held at Kaamulan Folk Arts Theatre.

The provincial IPMR would gain a seat in the legislative body to represent the IP communities in Bukidnon. The activity started with a ritual but ended with an empty seat. This could have been an avenue to bring the concerns of the IPs. It was a big loss for the tribes and with that I’m grieving.

The onset of the Rules and Regulations Implementing Republic Act No. 8371 also known as Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 brought a lot of changes in the lives of indigenous peoples specifically in pursuing self-governance and political leadership system.

Sections 1, 2 and 3 under Rule IV: Right to Self-governance and Empowerment discuss the recognition of authentic leadership, indigenous leadership titles and tribal membership in a community. Section 1 assures that the indigenous structures and systems of the IPs would not be supplanted by non-indigenous principle of governance but a mechanism is set, and has to be implemented, to interface the indigenous system of governance with the national system of governance. Section 3 enumerates the attributes, emerging from the dynamics of customary laws and practices, of indigenous leaders.

Thus, the principle, the content and the mechanics of indigenous leadership, such as IPMR, are now laid down, established and enclosed in a very significant enacted law in the Republic of the Philippines. With this arrangement, the existence of indigenous leadership is secured by legal laws.

Deeper understanding on the idea of ‘interfacing the indigenous system of governance with the national system of governance’ is very necessary to come up with a good result of IPMR selection.

One issue that emerged yesterday was an endorsement, which requires validation, to allow Datu Magdalino Pandian’s son to continue the unfinished three-year term (Datu Pandian died last September 2015) based on the Manobo culture, as claimed. Through the principle of succession, the Manobo community claims that the son has the right to succeed his father’s position as Datu.

This reflects customary law which has to be respected. This idea is authentic especially if the son has walked the customary ways of his father. However, the son’s acquired authority is limited within the Manobo community; and not the entire province that has seven tribes. Datu Pandian’s position as the former provincial IPMR was acquired through the agreement of the seven tribes. The son’s claim to succeed the provincial IPMR position comes short of legal grounds. Such claim must be submitted to the whole IP communities, the IP Consultative Body comprising the municipal and city IPMRs, the tribal chieftains and the head claimants of an ancestral domain/land as clearly spelled out by the IPRA Law.

Datu Pandian’s son should go through the process of selection if he wants to occupy the IPMR seat. This dynamism of interfacing the traditional law and the legal law is one of the greatest challenges the IP leaders have to understand and hurdle.

I religiously noted the characteristics and the gestures of an authentic datu according to the IPMRs of Impasugong, Bukidnon headed by Datu Masilsil (Warlito Sagubay). I joined one of their monthly meetings the other week and had the chance to partake their knowledge on datuship. A datu is meek and not easily angered. A datu has less words but has a ‘weighty’ presence. The hall yesterday was filled with leaders. There was a bangkaso outside for the ritual. There was a table in front where representatives of seven tribes exchanged insights and expected to deliver a decision.

The first stage of the selection process is to agree on what manner of selection would be used.
The expected subject of discussion in that table is what manner of selection has to be implemented; and not who is to be selected. The first stage failed.

I have known from Datu Bagangbangan that a table where datus are seated together would automatically become a sacred table. I saw that sacred table yesterday but not the expected result of what was discussed in that table.

There could have been a new IP leader to represent in the legislative body if we have just proceeded. I believe that the would-be choices have good intentions and are rooted from respected origin and that explains why they consulted the elders, submitted themselves to the bangkaso and approached the respected datus and bai like Datu Masilsil (Warlito Sagubay), Datu Makapukaw (Adolino Saway), Datu Manlumakbaw (Atty. Ben Estrada), Datu Aligpulus (Apolonio Timbangan) and Bai Inatlawan (Adelina Docenos-Tarino).

My attention was caught by the varied tangkulo (head gear that signifies authority) in the hall yesterday as I took pictures. The renowned datus, darantulan ha mga datu, were there. I have known that a leader would never leave or sleep until an issue or a problem is resolved. Ipadayun sa kaglambaga isan ku aglam-agan en. Hadi tag hitendeg o tag-awa sa datu hangtud hadi mapungahan sa kaglalang ku inu sa kabulungan hu tribu. (Discussion and exchange of ideas must continue even until morning. A datu would never stand or leave until a problem of the tribe is solved.) Embracing the IPRA Law demands accountability.

The failure of selecting the provincial IPMR yesterday is a reflection of the IP’s capacity to manage political power and authority. The government provided the resources and the amenities to put in place the opportunity of the IPs to exercise one’s self-governance. That political exercise yesterday was too small to handle for the Bukidnon IPs who are equipped with culture that defines values of kagdatu (leadership). It is a bit disgrace for not finishing a task with less than 200 selectors as participants. With the rest of the Bukidnon IPs, I grieve for insulting the tangkulo of our gin-apuan (ancestors).

Engr. Chona B. Labaon, the provincial officer of the National Commission on Indigenous peoples (NCIP), expressed that her office will set for another date of selection after sending a report (of failure of selection) to the provincial governor Jose Ma. Zubiri and to the NCIP-Region X. For the meantime, the provincial IPMR seat is empty since September 2015. We are counting the loss everyday.

Despite of my disappointment, I keep my head high with this teaching from Datu Bagangbangan:

Malandang sa kagdatu

Hadi agka hanluk ku mahudiyan, ta yan man tag-una

Hadi agka hanluk ku maaminan, ta yan man tag-pangalawatan

Hadi agka hanluk ku mailisan, ta amin din man nabigelan ha bansa.

Bul-og sa kagdatu

Matata-u sa pusung

Hadi saguna tag-balaw

Daw en tag-hitendeg ku napungahan en sa ipandalawit dun hu Migbaya hu alan.*

A datu does a patriarchal responsibility with his ability to stay wise, confident, disciplined and firm to finish a task for the welfare of his people. He is expected to stay calm in the midst of odds.

My morning prayer assured me that the Bukidnon indigenous peoples are still one in pursuing a dream. That, I believe.

(Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan is also the in-charge of the Ethno-cultural Museum of Bukidnon State University, where she teaches social science and other subjects. She is the daughter of Datu Bagangbangan, more commonly known as “Aki” the late Vice Gov. Lorenzo Dinlayan Sr. Angaray’s Take is her column for BUKIDNON VIEWS, the opinion section of BukidnonNews.Net. She can be reached through angaray_bsc@yahoo.com.)