“Bakwit: Mga Tinig at Awit ng Pakikibaka ng mga Batang Lumad” was held earlier today at the 5th floor multipurpose room of the Henry Sy Sr. Hall. Around 30 members of the Lumad community from Manilakbayan presented cultural performances to make their sentiments known about the current situation in Mindanao. The event was organized by the Filipino Department as part of this year’s celebration of the Lasallian Mission Week.
Through acting and musical performances, the Lumads expressed the need to stop Lumad killings, militarization in the region, and exploitation of lands. In the presentations, the Lumad representatives expressed dismay over the lack of support and protection from the government. They shed light on large-scale mining corporations that aim to acquire ancestral land to turn into mining sites, as well as the government’s lack of action towards stopping the rising numbers of human rights violations in the region.
Professor Mae Templa from the Save our Schools Network Mindanao then delivered a lecture on the current militarization for environmental plunder in the region. Mindanao, where a third of the land is used for agriculture, provides 40 percent of the country’s agricultural needs, according to Templa.
Mindanao is also considered the mining capital of Asia. Specifically, in the CARAGA region, Templa mentioned that most mineral-rich areas are being exploited by large-scale companies protected by the Mining Act of 1995. More than 55 combat battalions are stationed over the region, stressed Templa. Because of the presence of the military groups in the area, more than 86 schools have been affected.
Alvin Maribato, a Lumad, was also invited to speak as part of the program. Alvin is a student from Mindanao who spoke about Lumad schools being occupied by military groups because they are suspected of being ran by the New People’s Army.
Alvin, who is now in sixth grade, recounted how his parents, unable to pursue any educational attainment, would ask the government to establish a school in the area in the past. “Hindi pinakinggan ng gobyerno ang panawagan ng aming mga magulang,” Alvin stated in distress. “At ngayong nabigyan na kami ng paaralan, bakit ganito pa ang ginawa [ng gobyerno]? Bakit sundalo ang binibigay ng gobyerno?” Alvin questioned. He expressed that the government had explained that the presence of the soldiers in their schools was for their protection. However, he said that instead of feeling protected, they felt threatened.
A group of Lumads and human rights activists are currently in Manila for Manilakbayan, in hopes of raising awareness about the prevalent killings in Mindanao and calling for a stop to militarization in the region.