Ms. Odet Niño
Field Visit of Passionist Center-Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, Inc. (PC-JPIC)
To Kiame in Malapatan, Sarangani Province, Strengthening of Customary Law of Indigenous Peoples
26 August 2014
It is of my greatest advantage to be part of a group of JPIC where protection to humanity and of the environment is vital. One of the priorities is the empowerment of Indigenous people who are becoming to be extinct because of marginalization and other factors of societal development.
I’ve always wanted to take part of any community based works where I could extend and share my knowledge and be an inspiration. But, it was the other way around. I was the one who was inspired because of the stories and the determination of the people I met. On the humid day of July 11, I had the chance to be with the group of people working on the ground. We’ll cross 14 rivers and hours of trek to witness something magical as the B’laan community in Brgy. Kiame will have a ritual on their house of “Sabak”- a sacred place where the community can pray, ask guidance, and have a “Kastifun”. Sabak will become a place where every decisions of the Fulong (Leader) are believed to be guided by their God Adwata.
It was my first time to witness a ritual. We were welcomed with their tradition dance “maral” and loud harmony of Agong that invites us to celebrate with them and with their Adwata. I began to realize how rich their culture is. The people are hospitable and pleased to have us. I’ve been in a B’laan community before but this time is different. The people are empowered.
At night, I had the chance to have a dialogue with other members of the community. They shared their experiences that lead them to where they are right now. They aspire that their descendants may protect their territory and embrace the rich B’laan culture. I was moved on how B’laans stays contented and happily living in the far flung areas when in fact, they were the original owner of a larger area of Mindanao. I really have no idea before that this is actually the real situation of these people. It was there that I believed that they were marginalized and to be extinct. I felt guilt when I heard one of the Fulong who spoke “Ang mga Bisaya ginakuha ang among mga kayutaan, tungod niani, naguba ang among kinaiyahan ug kami nagpalayo sa patag”. At this point, I own a land located in one of B’laans’ ancestral domain and I can’t imagine I indirectly became part of the loss of these B’laans.
The experience is worth keeping for. It gives me a broader perspective of the B’laan culture and answers the how and why of mind. I am an open minded person, liberal, respect each tribe and tradition because of the exposure of my theater group in MSU but I never thought there’s more in me. I discover that my understanding before in B’laan tribes is far from what I have right now. My high respect to those Fulong and members of the community who fight for their territory and preserve their customary law which will be pass on to the next generation.
for pdf file of this post with photos of the field visit, please click below: