Pinoy Kasi

Who are the ‘lumad’?

/ 01:11 AM October 28, 2015

Manilakbayan 2015 is on, with mostly lumad, indigenous peoples (IPs) from Mindanao, coming to town on an awareness-building campaign. Monday evening, after a long grueling all-day caravan from Baclaran, down Taft to Liwasang Bonifacio, on to Mendiola, they finally arrived in UP Diliman where they will be staying for a week with a Kampuhan.

Who are these lumad and why are they in Manila?


I thought I should start with a global picture of IPs, a collective term with many different definitions that have been proposed. One of the early advocates for IP rights, Jose Martinez Cobo, offers this definition: “[I]ndigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them.”



To most Filipinos, the term “native” is frequently used, sometimes said derisively. Yet, the term “native” does capture what “indigenous” is in terms of first populations (in Canada the term First Nations is used), people who have long ancestral ties to their lands.

IPs throughout the world suffered mainly from western colonialism, pushed off their lands, sometimes even forced to live on reservations. The American Indians are examples—marginalized and neglected, even as they were stigmatized, depicted in mass media and movies (cowboys versus Indians) as barbaric.

In 2007 after more than 30 years of preparations, the United Nations adopted a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with 144 countries in favor, the Philippines included. There were four countries that opposed the declaration: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. The opposition was not surprising because the four countries were settled by Europeans who pushed out the “native” populations. The four countries have since expressed support for the declaration but continue to resist signing one that is legally-binding.

In the Philippines we have IPs from Batanes down to Zamboanga. I didn’t use Tawi-Tawi to indicate the southernmost IPs, because IPs in our context refer to groups that were not Christianized or Islamized. (This is not to say there are no Christian or Muslim IPs; there have been IPs who did eventually convert.)

IPs in the Philippines include many Negrito groups, referred to with names like Aeta, Agta, Atta, with a specific geographic name attached (e.g., Aeta of Zambales).

There are some generic names that are used for IPs living in particular regions. “Igorot” is used to refer to the IPs of the Cordilleras and include the Bontoc, Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Ifugao, Isneg, Kalinga and Kankana-ey. On Mindoro Island, “Mangyan” is the generic term used to refer to the Iraya, Alangan, Tadawan, Taubuid (Batangan), Buhid, Hanunoo and Ratangan.

Lumad, which is Cebuano for “native,” refers to 17 IPs in Mindanao: Atta, Bagobo, Banwaon, B’laan, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaonon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Manguwangan, Manobo, Mansaka, Tagakaolo, Tasaday, T’boli, Teduray (or Tiruray) and Ubo.


The other major geographical area with many IPs is Palawan, but no collective term is used yet for them.

Wherever they are in the Philippines, IPs have suffered as their counterparts in other parts of the world did. Some groups have been able to fight back, exemplified by Macli-ing Dulag (1930-1980), a Kalinga leader who led the opposition against a proposed Chico River dam. Macli-ing was assassinated but the opposition continued and the dam was never built. (Chico River today is a growing tourist destination, known mainly for whitewater rafting and kayaking.)

The situation of the lumad has been more precarious than other IPs in the Philippines because Mindanao is so rich in natural resources. For decades now, the Philippine government encouraged settlers from other parts of the country to migrate to Mindanao, now a Promised Land.

In the 1970s, exploitation of lumad ancestral domains began to accelerate as local and foreign companies established agribusiness plantations and logging concessions. The martial law regime introduced low-intensity warfare, instituted Cafgus (Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Units) to keep IP communities under surveillance.

With massive deforestation, logging has declined, but plantations continue, and, in recent years, large-scale mining for valuable mineral resources. Civil unrest has escalated, with the New People’s Army increasing its influence in the area. In 2008, President Gloria Arroyo ordered the establishment of an Investment Defense Force (IDF) to guard business interests and infrastructure.

Save our schools

That IDF has backfired, alienating the lumad as well as, ironically, becoming a potential deterrent to bringing in business investments. A 2014 US State Department report notes human rights violations such as “extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces; a dysfunctional criminal justice system notable for poor cooperation between police and investigators, few prosecutions, and lengthy procedural delays; and widespread official corruption and abuse of power.”

The report goes on to note that these abuses are reported in the “extractive industries, power generation, agribusiness, real estate and tourism, especially in areas where untrained paramilitary groups have been deployed by the government as part of its Investment Defense Force.”

The Manilakbayan 2015 has a special “Save our Schools” focus, because military and paramilitary forces have been targeting lumad schools, on the suspicion that these are New People’s Army-influenced. The schools are alternatives to mainstream institutions, which tend to downgrade IP culture.

Schools have been raided and in September, three of the leaders of one lumad organization, Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) were assassinated. Ironically, Alcadev members were visiting UP Diliman at that time, and the killings have galvanized the university’s communities to action, from student groups to the Fighting Maroons varsity players, to the barangay.

Visit UP Diliman this week to learn more about the lumad.   Among the highlights will be a College of Music benefit concert for the lumad schools on Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at the GT-Toyota. Thursday the whole day, the Kampuhan, which is on the grounds of the College of Human Kinetics, will be the site for cultural interactions. The closing ceremonies will be on Saturday, when the lumad move on to Liwasang Bonifacio for another three weeks, before heading back home to Mindanao.

There are no easy answers to many of the issues around development and IPs, but I will spend the week listening to the lumad, and sharing back thoughts with readers.

* * *

[email protected]

Subscribe to Inquirer Opinion Newsletter
Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Indigenous Peoples, Lumad, lumad killings, Manilakbayan 2015
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.