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First Philippine Tribal North-South Brotherhood and Friendship pact process initiated

Posted on February 1, 2012

A pact of brotherhood and friendship was initiated today between the Talaandig tribe of Bukidnon and the Maeng tribe of Tubod, Abra, the first pact in Philippine history established between a northern tribe and a southern tribe. The pact was initiated by the exchange of gifts between two tribes during the IP Champions and Allies: National Workshop Conference on Mainstreaming Indigenous People’s Development Agenda and Participation in Environmental Governance, held from November 21-24, 2011 at the Malasag Eco-tourism Village, Cagayan De Oro City.

Maeng elder Mariano Dangatan and Talaandig Datu Migketay Victorino Saway exchanged tokens of brotherhood and friendship as the first step in the process of finalizing a pact between two tribes. The Maeng tribe presented Datu Saway with a complete set of traditional Maeng tribal wear, while Datu Saway presented tribal elder Dangatan with a set of handcrafted musical instruments. In his acceptance response, Datu Saway said the Talaandig’s offering carries with it the hopes that the music that is one of the similarities of the two tribes will continue to be heard, strengthen and grow as one in the coming years.

The pact resulted from a cultural exposure visit of the participants in the said National Workshop to the ancestral domain of the Talaandig tribe in the municipality of Lantapan, Bukidnon. The Talaandig exercises tribal governance over large areas covering portions of four provinces: Bukidnon, Cotabato, Misamis Oriental, Agusan Norte which was created by virtue of agreements in a pre-Spanish Philippine peace pact between tribes of Malanao, Magindanaw, Manuvo and Talaandig.

In the course of the visit, the Maeng delegates observed the great similarities in the tribal rituals and cultural practice between their tribe and the Talaandig tribe. This prompted the Maeng delegation leaders to engage Datu Saway in a close and intense discussion over geneology, culture and tradition. After the discussion, the Maeng delegation offered Datu Saway a pact of brotherhood and friendship, which Datu Saway, in behalf of all Talaandigs, accepted.

“I accepted this offering because it is in line with the basic principles of the Talaandigs, which is to promote peace and brotherhood among the tribes of the indigenous peoples,” Datu Saway said. “This historic pact will be the first time for the north to establish a brotherhood with the south, and we hope that this will be a pattern that other IP groups and nations can in their turn establish,” he added.

The Talaandig were historically peacemakers, bringing together warring tribes in the neighboring areas in Mindanao and negotiating a peace agreement that defined the tribal boundaries of their tribe, and that of the warring Maranao, Maguindanao, Manuvo tribes. A landmark at the foot of Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon continues to be respected as the site of this original tribal peace pact.

This is because Talaandig believes that their tribe was entrusted by a revered ancestor of the jar of sacred oil which was accepted by all the neighboring tribes as a symbol of peacekeeping for all generations. To date, the Talaandig continues to play a significant role in protecting indigenous people’s rights in the area, including initiating discussions with the armed separatist Mindanao Independent Liberation Front (MILF) over the proposed BangsaMoro Juridical entity proposal that would have encroached on their ancestral domains.

On the part of the Maeng, the Mr. Renato Iban of the Maeng, said, “After a careful observation of their rituals, their songs and dances, the explanation of their historical origins as well as their physical features, we realized the similarities between both our culture, and we immediately sought the agreement of Datu Saway to establish a “Sipat”, or a pact of kinship and friendship”.

Atty. Ma. Vicenta De Guzman, IP cluster head of the alternative Law Groups (ALG) also spoke as witness to the exchange. “It is a great honor to be a witness to the exchange of symbols of unity and kinship between the two tribes of Talandig and Maeng. We at the Alternative law Groups have had a long journey with the indigenous peoples in their struggle for their rights, and this is one of the happiest moments of the journey, where two tribes met and exchange tokens of unity. It is our fond hope that more of these opportunities happen, and that all the tribes of indigenous peoples in the country will be united not only for their welfare but also for whole country,” she said.

“This is a happy although unexpected development and we are happy to have become part of the process of bringing together in brotherhood and friendship of the Maeng and Talaandig tribes. We hope that this will be a pattern that the rest of the indigenous peoples in the four project areas where we currently run this project would consider adopting. Thank you. We believe that this initiative will be a success,” another witness, FPE’s Executive Director Godofredo Villapando, Jr., said.

Dave de Vera, executive director of Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), also expressed his well-wishes. “What you have just done today is unique, because this is the first of its kind in the history of this country, and also because it also emphasizes the fact that if the tribes themselves decide to speak with their cultures, nothing is truly impossible. The secret of communion and unity, like the links between environment and people, is their culture. I know that you still have issues to be resolved, but now that you are united, not just in history but also in culture, I am confident that your exchanges in experience and knowledge, nothing is impossible. What you have started here will inspire other groups to repeat this, and this will pave the way to strengthen the indigenous peoples of the Philippines,” he said.

The IP Champions and Allies National Workshop Conference was organized by the Foundation for Philippine Environment (FPE), in partnership with the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), with support from the European Union and the Fundacion Desarrollo Sustenido (FUNDESO).

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