[BUKIDNON VIEWS] In honor of a versatile tribal elder, Datu Dumapal

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Datu Dumapal, supplied photo

Datu Dumapal, supplied photo

By Ma. Easterluna Canoy

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/25 September 2021) Remembering a cultural expert and wisdom keeper--the late Datu Dumapal Benecio Docenos of the Daraghuyan-Bukidnon Tribe of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park. He passed away in August 2020.

In his honor, I'd like to share my fond memories of him as a forest guardian, a wisdom keeper, a cultural adviser, a smart fellow whom we regarded as the "summa cum laude of KIN trainings," a versatile artist, and a blacksmith. Best of all, he was a friend, an ally and a gatekeeper of the sacred spaces inside the protected area national park, part of their ancestral domains.

Datu Dumapal was introduced to me by then Park Superintendent Dr. Felix Mirasol right after the first PAMB meeting that we both attended in 1996. He came to the meeting trying to understand "how come their area was made a national park?" He understood that the protected area will include their ancestral domains. He was relieved in hearing about a declaration in the park management meeting that their tribal family rights will be respected and that there will be support for livelihoods and trainings meant for IPs and tenured migrants. He was glad to know that there will be a non-government organization who will bridge and assist them for those benefits.

PASu Felix introduced us formally. We shook hands. Dressed simply in collared white shirt and faded loose slacks, he spoke with a kind and respectful voice. He invited me and my staff in KIN to visit their village in Sitio Inhandig. He warned about crossing the 'waist deep' waters of Sawaga River. KIN staff Jovita and Roy protested - it’s actually "shoulder to neck” deep. They begged not to be sent there again as the village was 'verrrrry' far and cold. They said they held their meeting under a tree, Good heavens!

Datu Dumapal assured us several times that he and his members would assist us in crossing the river, with strong water current if it rained some hours earlier. He said they will accompany us in our trek.

One of my striking memories of him was seeing him going around on barefoot in few occasions, in attending Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) meetings and in coming to the KIN Office.

In two years, Datu Dumapal was awarded as among the Outstanding Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGVs) for their successful feat in forest protection. The awarding ceremony was held in the DENR Regional Office in Cagayan de Oro. Then, Regional Executive Director Vicente Paragas deputized the KGVs as community-based forest protectors.

The KGVs served as the "eyes and ears" of the PAMB and informal DENR extension forest officers. They were tasked to stop illegal logging, to suppress forest fires and to educate residents on the importance of forests and biodiversity. For that occasion, I remembered rushing to a department store to buy him a pair of rubber shoes. For me, "Cagayan de Oro is not a good place to walk on bare feet!" Datu wore his rubber shoes on stage alright. But quickly removed them after the awarding program. For a time, Datu prided his shoes like a trophy to be displayed.

What saddened me to this day is the fact that Datu Dumapal passed away unnoticed. Being the eldest and high chieftain of the Daraghuyan-Bukidnon tribe, he died unheralded by partners in environmental protection especially in government, the civil society and the public in general.

Bae Inatlawan, his younger sister, whom he designated to be the next tribal chieftain in 1998 wanted to give him a decent burial, unlike the traditional way they do it.

Hearing her wish, we immediately went fund sourcing for the burial ceremony.

Thanks to Facebook and closest friends, we raised funds in a day and Bae Inatlawan and daughter Lorie bought him a white casket. His body was properly buried in their own cemetery in Olanguhon where the Mt. Kitanglad Cultural Heritage Center, the tribe’s Tulugan or tribal hall stands. Built in 2007, this elegant tribal heritage structure was his first accomplishment as tribal engineer working in collaboration with Datu Doms Aligpulos Decano and up to speed technical assistance from Archt. Anna Maria Gonzales and two UP Architecture students Paolo Aguila and Jhun Fabre. The engagement of these three architects is another story to be told among many outstanding episodes on tribal creativity, determination, and governance.

Thank you very much Datu Dumapal for your trust and high regard for us in KIN. We cherish you and your memories in our hearts, always. May your soul rest in peace. We miss you, we love you.  


Ma. Easterluna Canoy is Executive Director of Kitanglad Integrated NGOs (KIN). FIRST PERSON is a section in the BukidnonNews.Net website dedicated to select statements, speeches, comments and other views on public matters. If you want to contribute to FIRST PERSON, email your piece, contact details and bio profile to editor.bukidnonnews@gmail.com.

Datu Dumapal presides on a ritual with Bae Mangunguyamo Inay Juling, supplied photo.

Datu Dumapal presides on a ritual with Bae Mangunguyamo Inay Juling, supplied photo.

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