Editorial: Divine intercessions for peace

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Monday, March 30, 2015

LAST Saturday at noon, tribal folks in different villages in South Central Mindanao conducted rituals for peace or “pengapor” (ritual in the Erumanun Manuvu dialect). The tribal people -- Teduray, Lambangian, Uvo Manuvu, and Erumenun Manuvu in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat are as much a part of the so-called Bangsamoro as the Moro people are.

Those familiar with tribal myths, legends, and oral history of Mindanao must have encountered Mamalu and Tabonaway.

Oral history of both indigenous peoples and the Moro people of Cotabato talk of a common origin – the brothers Mamalu and Tabonaway. It is said that one of the brothers embraced Islam with the coming of Sharif Kabungsuan, while the other opted to remain in his tribe’s original beliefs. There may be some disagreements on who became Islamized. In the Manuvu version, it was Mamalu who became a Muslim, in the Teduray and Maguindanao version, it was Tabonaway.


Whoever it was, one thing is agreed on, these peoples share the same ascendants. They may be of different tribes, but they all believe they came from Mamalu and Tabonaway.

Thus, as areas in South Central Mindanao becomes caught up again in conflict, the lumad leaders saw it fit to hold sacred rituals for peace on their identified sacred grounds.

Again, let us segue to understand better. Among lumads, praying (panubad to some) is not a daily and even every meal thing. Rather, it is one big event, a whole ritual that they do not practice like an everyday routine. As one Matigsalug datu explained, they only seek help from the Supreme Creator (Manama to the Matigsalugs) for things they barely have control of. They hold rituals just before planting, they hold rituals before harvest and right after harvest, they hold rituals for peace, they hold rituals for wisdom.

“Kanang kaonon nato karon, dili na ‘mi dapat mangadyi niaana kay gipangadyian na man na kay Manama sa pag-harvest (The food we are about to eat now, traditionally, we no longer pray for it because we already thanked Manama for the harvest),” the datu said, although he added that to show respect for the Chrstians among them, they do pray before every meal. He then cited the fact that not everyone can approach the President of a country just for anything. Only the big issues are presented to the president, he said. Manama, the Supreme Creator, is much more than a President, so why should they go bother him with everyday things?

These may not sit well with the belief systems of others, but we are not here to argue. We are here to explain how people think based on their beliefs so that we can best understand how they act. (Although, honestly, they do have a valid point there).

Back to the rituals for peace: their prayer is not just for peace, but also for the continued protection of their people, to lessen the sufferings of their villages, and to serve as “a unifying act of indigenous peoples not to inflict pain toward their fellow creatures”, as they believe that “inflicting pain on fellow creature and of all creation is not the answer to the ongoing crisis of our beloved Mindanao”.

Indeed, the indigenous peoples for so long may have been looked down on by settlers who think being civilized means living in concrete jungles, but the indigenous peoples are so much more connected as they pray not only for humans but for all creatures and creations, knowing that in the conflict that they constantly find themselves fleeing from, they and their farm animals and pets are not the only ones caught in the crossfire, their lands are also caught in the tug-of-war for territories.

Understanding all these, we pray with our lumad brothers for peace in and protection of their lands.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 30, 2015.


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