Their vividly colored indigenous clothing shout like a blast of dynamite ripping through the mountains they call home. It is Tuesday and they are standing in a busy avenue in the snotty business district of Makati.
“It is where the mining companies are, and if they cannot hear our pleading screams while they kill us in the mountains, we will come here and ask them to stop,” the Lumads said, while raising their heads up the row of highrise office buildings.
They own the mountains and the land but the mining companies have taken them away and continue to do so. They are the Indigenous caretakers of ancestral domains passed on to them from generation to generation, the proud heritage of this country, the Lumads.
But here in this posh Makati street, where most foreign mining companies are located, they are greeted with raised eyebrows and hand-covered noses.
A young office employee in his well-ironed collared shirt angrily shouts at the Lumads and asks them why they came. He then angrily drives his shiny car past them.
Marginalized, exploited, and killed, the Lumads have endured for centuries attacks against them and their land, all in the name of ‘development.’
Bebeth Kalinawan, a Mamanwa from Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, recalls her ordeal as she fought for her life after being hit by government troop’s bullets while having lunch with her family on their farm.
Because of heavy militarization, their community and family took shelter in evacuation shelters for months and found their homes, properties and even their church burned down upon their return.
From the perspective of our indigenous people, large-scale corporate mining does not contribute anything good to their communities.
Bae Likayan Bigkay, a 67-year old Ata-Manobo from Bukidnon laments all the pain and suffering that these mining companies have brought upon them.
The Lumads painstakingly take care of their resource-rich lands but these are systematically taken away from them. Their way of life drastically changes and continues to change. Those who oppose the mining operations were either pushed away from their land or killed.
Data from the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) show that the mining industry’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) ranges only from one percent to 1.7 percent from 2006 to 2010 and an employment contribution of only 0.5 percent from 2008 to third quarter of 2010.
Yet, more than 35 community leaders had been killed in Mindanao under the Aquino administration for defending their land and environment, adding to the thousands who died before them.
Experts have also noted the huge contribution of these mining and logging operations to the floods, causing more death and disaster because the natural protection from the environment are being destroyed at an alarming rate in which the lumads are one of the most affected.
“We are not animals. We are not pigs and chickens that you can just shoot at.” Bae Emil Digkalay-oban, from the Banwaon tribe says as she tells her story and the plight of her community in Agusan del Sur.
“The color of the blood in our veins – you, me, they, us — is all the same,” she says.