Lakbayan Animo 2k17, an event highlighting the experiences of the members of the Lumad community that visited the University was held last September 12 to September 21. A LAKBAYAN exhibit was also launched last September 12 in the Learning Commons, which was followed by a forum about National Minority Issues.
The Lumad were welcomed last September 18 with a welcoming committee headed by different organizations from both undergraduate and graduate student groups. The Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya, Bangsamoro Forum 2017, and a cultural program was also held in the same day. Last September 19, alternative classroom learning experiences was done by the Lumad, which involved classroom discussions and storytelling for students that day.
A grand cultural night entitled Salugpungan: Gabi ng Pakikiisa sa Pambansang Minorya sa Saliw ng Sayaw at Musika was held last September 20 at the sixth floor of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall Building (HSSH). The event was spearheaded by the Tanggulan Youth Network – Vito Cruz partnered with different organizations, students, and professors from the University. The event showcased the culture of the Lumad. Students and professors showed support for the Lumad through reciting poems and performing songs. The activities were for the benefit of the Lumad, who were seen earlier this month going through room to room visits around campus.
The activities were of big help to spread awareness about the Lumad’s current situation in Mindanao. They are imploring for equality regardless of one’s sector in the country, proper education for their youth, immediate halt of Lumad killings, and military oppression in their communities.
On the current situation in Mindanao
During the culmination night, various Lasallian students and professors performed as well as different Lumad members. One of the Lumad who performed was a Grade 12 student named Beverly Gofredo. She recited a poem that centered on the main problems of a Lumad child, namely the violent acts of the military to their people and the lack of proper and safe education.
Beverly explains that the main purpose of her people coming to Manila was to inform everyone and to ask for help. She said, “Yung laban namin ng taga-Mindanao ay gusto din namin iparating dito na hindi lang ito laban namin kundi laban natin lahat. Ganun po.” (We want our struggles in Mindanao to be known as not just the struggle of us Lumad, but as the whole nation’s struggle.)
The Lumad, along with the other national minorities, are currently facing multiple threats of violence in their communities. Beverly explains that there are multiple cases of student deaths in the past, the most recent case being the death of a 19-year old who was shot multiple times on her way home. Their teachers are not safe either as some of them are being arrested on false claims of being part of the New People’s Army (NPA). Different schools are also being torn down in order to serve as barracks for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Beverly claims that this makes them feel more unsafe and ruins the already declining state of proper education for their youth.
Other problems that they face are the desecration and destruction of their lands. Beverly states that certain corporations are trying to claim their lands and mountains for mining projects, which many of her people are against. She stressed this, saying, “Kasi, ang tingin namin ang para sa amin, ang lupa ay hindi lang siya tinitirikan ng bahay, lupa na tinitirikan ng eskwelahan. Kung hindi, ang lupa, ito ang buhay namin kasi doon nakasalalay yung gamot, pagkain, iniinom, dun po, gusto nila kunin sa amin.” (The way we see it, our lands aren’t only for putting up houses and schools, but for getting our sources of living as well. We get our medicine, food and water from these lands, and they want to take it from us.)
Beverly also claims that different AFP units and some policemen are siding more with the big corporations and politicians in the area rather than protecting their people. She says this happens because those who do so are more interested in the salary they could receive, which has already led to different deaths in the past of the Lumad who were considered hindrances to said corporations and politicians. When asked what message she wants to share to her fellow countrymen, Beverly stated that she asks for the AFP to move out of their communities and schools. She mentions, “Yung panawagan ay yung palayasin na po yung AFP sa amin sa mga komunidad sa eskwelahan. Yung stop large scale mining, end na ang martial law at yung Save our Schools, stop Lumad killings, ganun.” (We ask the AFP to move out of our communities and schools. Stop large scale mining, end Martial Law, save our schools, stop Lumad killings and the like.)
Beverly also mentioned that visiting schools to do room to room is helpful to ask for assistance in their communities. She states, “Yung ginagawa namin na mag-room to room kami sa mga eskwelahan. Yung pagpunta din sa kampo namin para makipag-integrate, yun din po ay isang paraan para may malaman sila dun sa mga nangyayari sa amin.” (We do room to room in schools. We also visit camps so that we could integrate, it is also a way for them to know about our current situation.)
Beverly is also the chairman of her school’s “Liga ng mga Iskolar ng Bayan”, which is directly under the Save our Schools Network. She believes that her position has helped greatly in her community’s mission, saying that having the opportunity to visit schools like De La Salle University, St. Scholastica’s College, and the University of Santo Tomas has paved ways for them to reach out to more audiences than they did before.
After their stay in DLSU has ended, she and the other minority groups joined the rally in Luneta on September 21 in order to further spread awareness about their cause.