by Luz Maria Martinez
Indigenous people around the world share a commonality—they have paid a price for being the original inhabitants of their countries.
With the onset of colonization this cycle of oppression continues until today. Whether through expansionism or migration, the original inhabitants of the lands we inhabit have suffered and in some instances have been wiped off the face of the earth.
At a recent forum on the plight of the Lumads at Miriam College in the Philippines, I had the chance to hear and talk to a peace advocate from the Lumad indigenous group.
"My husband was killed by the Cafgu’s (paramilitary forces)," says Beting Colmo. "I could blame government solely for these killings but my best friend lost her husband to the violence of the revolutionary forces”. The Revolutionaries are a Maoist ideological group called the New Peoples Army (NPA). “So who then should I blame for these killings?” she asks. Beting does not say these things with rancour nor overt sadness, she states them as facts and they are facts.
The Lumad killings she says are trending right now. And she is right. The media in recent months has given attention to two Lumads who were killed allegedly by a paramilitary group in Surigao (Southern Philippines). Throughout the city, military buildings had portrayed posters saying “Stop the Lumads killings.” Meanwhile spray painted walls in red around the city shouted “Stop the Lumads killings” signed by sympathizers of the NPA. The military propaganda machines highlight the killings done by the New People’s Army and the progressive groups holds rallies calling the military to stop the Lumad killings.
"This war, Beting says is over resources and ideologies. The military is pursuing the defense of democracy while the NPA is interested in over throwing government. Both groups claim they protect the interest of this country, a country that they love and are ready to die for it. But who is dying in this war are the Lumads."
A tragic and ironic twist is that these indigenous groups made up of 33 different groups called Lumads are to die for ideals that are foreign to the philosophy that has guided them for centuries. “We are originally peace loving people," says Beting, "we have 2 important mandates from “Monama” our God; (1) to take care of our mother earth and (2) to sustain peace. How we keep that peace is also very clear. We are to respect our neighbor, we are to respect the multi-voices of our people, and we are sensitive to each other’s particular cultural traditions. In our history, boundaries among each Lumad group are clear and we respect them”.
Both the government and the revolutionary group are pursuing foreign imposed ideals. The government support a Western based neoliberal economic agenda that allows national and foreign interest access to their lands. Mostly, she says, foreign mining companies who exploit the land for natural resources while plantation owners grab lands for cash crops then hiring their own security forces to keep the Lumads out. The revolutionary group in pursuing a Maoist type war use strategies that keep Lumad communities impoverished and vulnerable. Add to this the illegal loggers who cut down their forest for profit and you have a mix of players who are trying to gain power and money off the backs of the Lumads.
This behavior of violence and cultural insensitivity and lack of sincerity by those who exploit and even those who try to help are escalating the problems says Beting. Some of our tribal leaders are being co-opted by those with money, our communities are so poor that due to lack of opportunities young men go into both warring factions. Our women and girls are unsafe in the communities due to the exposure to bullets and bombs, and when they are recruited for jobs in the metropolis areas, they are sometimes abused or exploited. If the government agencies would provide free education including tertiary level and provide basic services to hinterlands, these problems would not be happening to our young men and women, she says.
Beting emphasizes the complexities that have created this war but most importantly she is able to connect the dots and see the linkages that have created this web of violence. When asked, what is the solution to bring about peace? She quickly says, “the government must admit that there is a flaw to the neoliberal system they are pursuing, and the revolutionary Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, National Democratic Front they must come to the peace table” she says
"Stop the Lumad Killings”-- "Yes," she says. "This must be stopped by all."
Isis International launched its The Feminist Cinematheque Project on October 17, 2015. It provides an alternative film space for feminist filmmakers to show the lived lives of women in the global South.
This project is a platform for activism, using cinema as an instrument to encourage critical communication on issues affecting women in the global South with a vision of fostering solidarity, empowering communities, strengthening social justice movements, and advocating social change.
Luz Maria Martinez is a faculty member in the Social Work Department and the International Studies Department of Miriam College, Philippines. She served as Editor-in-Chief of WiA and is a General Member of Isis International