(Photo credits to the owner)
I am not an indigenous people (IP). I neither have any lineage to Mandaya tribe nor traces of blood relation in my genealogy, even if I want to. But I do have relatives who belong to the indigenous cultural communities (ICC), by affinity of course. Among others, I do have thousands of friends.
But without doubt, I am proud of being associated with indigenous people of one of the barangays of my town. Not because I have always been available when they need my little knowledge and skills, but because of my commitment and passion to serve the people, especially the vulnerable sector.
More than three (3) years ago, I was invited by and had the privilege to give lectures on development prospects in relation to the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) with the members of the Barangay Tribal Council of Mandaya tribe of Barangay Mangayon, Compostela, Compostela Valley, Philippines. ( I thank Ondoy for preserving my notes.)
Admittedly, at that time and even today, I was and I am not an expert on the legal construction of IPRA. However, what I did share were points to primarily consider as far as the provisions of the law were concern.
I did not dwell on the specifics of the law but for the purpose simplifying toward profound understanding of the subject, I summarized my teaching on three (3) important and basic principles. These are:
- Take care of the Rights and Welfare of the indigenous people and the indigenous cultural communities
- Protect and Preserve the Ancestral Land
- Manage and Sustain economic benefits from resources
For a starter, the indigenous people are mandated by law to formulate and adopt Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP). By emphasizing that ADSDPP shall be the bible and fundamental reference of development and protection of the ancestral domain, I purposely compartmentalized the components of the concept and definition of ancestral domain which are PEOPLE, LAND and RESOURCES.
Here are the highlights of my discussion:
- First and foremost, put premium and special attention to the people, the indigenous people themselves, and the indigenous cultural communities these people belong.
- By making these people and communities learn, understand and acknowledge their importance and value, they will be empowered to decide on their own and be proud of who they are.
- By doing so, they will have the privileges of utilizing their skills, knowledge and experiences toward self-determination and free themselves from the bondage of social alienation and unfavourable economic condition.
- Make their culture endure.
- Thus, IP leadership must and should take good care of the rights and welfare of its people and communities.
- Second, without the land, IP’s and ICC’s are nothing.
- The land, defined by their ownership since time immemorial, shall be the determinant of their lives and sources of living.
- Within the land are cultural sites and place made sacred by their ancestors which need to be preserved and protected.
- It has been the hunting grounds and farm areas for survival, thereby up to this date the tribe thrives.
- It is the territory they can legally and socially claimed their own.
- Therefore, IP/ICC leadership must and should look and find means and ways to protect and preserve the Ancestral Land.
ON USE OF RESOURCES
- And finally, the resources found in the people and the land shall be harnessed to ensure that their benefits shall be enjoyed by all.
- The resources are vast and varied. However vast and varied, these are limited by the passage of time.
- These may be enjoyed in the moment but with the next generation in mind, always.
- Toward this end, IP/ICC leadership must and should manage and sustain the economic benefits for the good not only of the present generation but also those who coming after the present.
- And economic benefits shall be enjoyed by all.
I ended my lecture with a reminder:
By order of priorities, think of and act for- first the people, then the land and lastly the economic benefits, not the other way around.
I am not an IP. But I do have time for them.