March 7-8, 2012. The sound of the jembe drums greets us as we enter the Talaandig Ancestral Territory in Barangay Sungko, Municipality of Lantapan, Bukidnon Province. The long dirt road is lined with flags, each one representing a different tribe of Mindanao in honor of the guests who will arrive today for a historic gathering.
It is an exciting time for the PBCI staff, as we join over 1,000 people at the Talaandig Ancestral Territory for the “Reaffirmation of Kinship Ceremony”. For the first time in 492 years, 13 Bangsamoro tribes have come together with 18 non-Islamized indigenous tribes to reaffirm their shared ancestry and commit to the 5 pillars of Kinship established in the traditional peace pact of their ancestors:
- Mutual Sharing of Information;
- Mutual Protection of Life;
- Recognition and Respect; and,
- Mutual Obligation to Help the Needy.
These tribes, many who have spent the last decade fighting against one another, have chosen to come together today to not only acknowledge their shared ancestry, but commit themselves to respect and protect one another.
“This is an historic event that no historian should miss. We are writing a new chapter in the history of Mindanao.” Historian Rudy Rodil offers us his perspective on the Ceremony and its significance for the future of Mindanao.
As the introductions begin, leaders from the tribes represented, both Bangsamoro and non-islamized, give impassioned speeches about why they have traveled today – some from the far islands of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi – to take part in this historical ceremony. “We must set aside our interests and re-emphasize our kinship. We must walk together towards peace in Mindanao. We are answerable to Allah, to one another, to our future generation.” A Maranao leader calls those present to live out the kinship pact – to pave the way towards peace. The hope for peace in Mindanao is palpable.
One by one the leaders of each tribe come forward to retell their history. The descendants of the original peace pact between the tribes call us to unite as kin, to protect one another, to help build a new Mindanao based on the ancient practices of the ancestors. “Normally I see myself as an educator,” Army Lt Col Ronald Alcudia says “but today I am a student. I am learning of the history of Mindanao from the true tribal elders – a history I did not know until today.”
The tribes, adorned in their traditional regalia, gather under a new monument that the Talaandig artists carved in honor of this historic event. Datu (Chief) Victorino Saway calls the Carabao (water buffalo) forward and begins the traditional prayers, invoking the ancestors of the Talaandig. The non-islamized and Islamized tribal elders also come forward to offer a prayer – calling on Allah, the ancestors and Magbabaya to be present in the ceremony. As the prayers come to an end, the tribal elders move forward and prepare to sacrifice the Carabao.
The blood of the Carabao is used to cleanse the land of the ancestors – to heal the wounds of the past so that all the tribes, together with their ancestors and their God – may move together towards a future of peace in Mindanao.
Datu Vic calls the descendants of the peace pact forward to sign their names, committing to the 5 pillars of kinship.The Ceremony is not just about a ritual for those present, but about a renewed commitment to one another to uphold peace, protect life and respect one another as kin. After precious tokens of kinship are exchanged between the Bangsamoro and the non-Islamized indigenous tribes, the Talaandig reveal a new monument their artists created for this special occasion. A large carving of an intricate Jar stands before us– the jar that will hold the new peace pact and the sacred oil of the Talaandig. The monument reads: “This monument is a symbol of the historic kinship of the Indigenous Peoples and Moro in Mindanao who existed as First Nations inhabiting their respective ancestral territories duly covered by traditional peace pacts and treaties long before the colonial era.”
Today, we witnessed a new chapter in Mindanao’s history. We came together with the Moro and IP to uphold the ancient kinship of their ancestors and acknowledge the traditional peace pacts made long before the colonial era. We witnessed the beginning of a renewed relationship between the tribal people of Mindanao. And we joined together to begin building the way towards sustainable peace in Mindanao – a peace built on a 400 year old relationship – a relationship that today, the tribal leaders have embraced once more.
Reported by Angie Lederach
Photo Credit: Daniel Byron Pantoja