CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Oct. 18, 2012—Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao have thrown their support behind the recently signed Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), as the former head of the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue (ECID) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urges unity among and with all communities in Mindanao for peace to bloom in the island.
“We IPs (indigenous peoples) are supportive of this agreement that will usher peace in our homeland and benefit all,” said Victorino “Datu Migketay” Saway of the Talaandig tribe of Lantapan, Bukidnon.
Saway — a member of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), a grassroots network of Indigenous Peoples, Bangsamoro and Christian communities and leaders who have common vision for peace in Mindanao — said that the FAB is a positive development for all IPs in Mindanao as it “expanded the IPs’ vision of a genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao.”
The FAB, signed last Monday, “signals the start of trust of our Moro brothers and sisters in our government. For our Moro fellows, congratulations, and mabuhay to our government for addressing peace in the south,” he added.
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, former head of CBCP-ECID and a very active member of the Bishops-Ulama Forum (BUF), said that genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao will not automatically come after last Monday’s signing of the FAB.
“We have to work now in the grassroots for peacebuilding and reconciliation,” he said, reiterating his earlier statements that the FAB is just “the beginning of the transformation of the whole Mindanao towards a culture of peace.”
Ledesma, primemover of the Interfaith Forum for Peace, Harmony and Solidarity based here, said that sincerity to attain genuine and lasting peace in Mindanao from both government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is needed more than ever since the “roadmap to peace” has already been signed.
He said the FAB is just “part of the whole process to attain unity and solidarity” between and among the IPs, Bangsamoro and Christian settlers in Mindanao.
Saway, however, said that that tri-peoples of Mindanao have already reaffirmed their kinship, thus they are united and solid behind the FAB.
Last March 8, at least 18 IP tribes and 13 Bangsamoro tribes came together in Sungko, Lantapan, Bukidnon to perform the Reaffirmation of Kinship Ritual, last done 492 years ago.
The ritual reaffirmed their shared ancestry and all those who attended, including Christian settlers and visitors who witnessed the historic event, vow to respect and protect each other.
The reaffirmation of kinship by the descendants of the brothers Apu Mamalu and Apu Tabunaway was witnessed by representatives of various government agencies, the MILF peace panel members and the international community.
The last time the ritual took place was in Tikalaan, Talakag, Bukidnon in 1520, a year before the “discovery” of the Philippine islands by Ferdinand Magellan.
Part of the ritual was the signing of a covenant on the observation of the Five Pillars of Kinship: mutual recognition and respect (kilalaha), mutual sharing of information (sayuda), cooperation (buliga), mutual protection and preservation of life (uyaga), and mutual obligation to help the needy (pagbatunbatuna). A marker commemorating the historic event was unveiled at the grounds of the School of Living Traditions of the Talaandig tribe.
“This event gives us the opportunity to remind us that we are one people, we have one goal and our struggle is also one,” stressed Abhoud Syed Lingga, a member of the MILF peace negotiating panel. “This is a very significant event because we also have a common problem regarding our land. And this will bind us together to preserve whatever remains of our homeland, our culture, political power and economic resources.”
Historically, the Islamized and non-Islamized natives of Mindanao are all “descended from Apu Agbibilin and Bae Ginamayung,” said Talaandig tribal chieftain, Adolino “Datu Makapukaw Kinulintang” Saway, elder brother of Datu Migketay.
Early last month, Saway led another ritual reaffirming the Bangsamoro and IPs kinship during the Northern Mindanao Regional Peace Forum of the 3rd Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Agenda at the International Center for Peace (IC Peace) in Mindanaw building of the Balay Mindanaw Group of NGOs.
Because of this reaffirmation of their kinship, the younger but more famous Saway said the IPs will no longer pursue their assertion to be represented in both peace negotiating panels.
The Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), meanwhile, urged everyone in Mindanao to support the FAB.
“The peace talks have been an important, integral part of our social agenda for the past many years, and before us now stands the most crucial moments in our joint concern and unrelenting effort. Peace is in our hands, as we often say,” the IRSMP said in a statement.
The IRSMP said that the journey in the long road to peace has just begun with the signing of the FAB. And because the road is long, perseverance is needed towards the attainment of peace.
“No political agreement is perfect on paper, until we make it perfect and most of all fair and fulfilling to all by dint of our deed,” he said.
“Love peace, talk peace, do peace, pray peace. Goodwill and platitudes are not enough. Peace is the highest prize, and because it is so it requires also the toughest of tasks. But with all of us working together, with the Framework Agreement showing the high way, the golden prize will soon be ours as a gift of God and reward for our tears,” IRSMP added. (Bong D. Fabe)