ATOHAN (Fight! Defend the Ancestral land!)

Community News & Features Apr 13, 2017 at 3:43 pm
By Lui Queaño

By Lui Queaño

The opportunity to meet indigenous persons from Mindanao doesn’t come often. To start with, their visit to Canada was a big decision they had to do. Then they had to fly hundreds of miles from their abodes in the mountains and in the hinterlands of Mindanao to relate to us their miseries and struggles. They came to Canada to tell their side to the stories regarding the status of their ancestral lands blighted by mines. These are the stories shared by Eufemia Campos Cullamat and Nenita Andes Condez, who are both Lumad leaders leading the opposition against mining projects and companies that poison their land and kill their crops, destroy fertile soil, wither their streams, rivers and lakes. As Lumads belonging to indigenous groups in Mindanao, their ancestors have entrusted them to be the guardians of forests, mountains, rivers and plains. In defense of the land, they are determined to resist and fight exploiters and oppressors with the same weight as in their defense of their very lives.

Eufemia Campos Cullamat

Eufemia Campos Cullamat

Since1985, the militarization in their communities has not abated. According to Eufemia, the bombings of the indigenous communities are connected to the mining companies that operate in their ancestral lands. They did not understand at first why there was militarization in their communities. But as the military started to encamp in their communities and asked them if they could see the NPA, they began experiencing the harassment. The troops began to beat them up when they said they could not see any NPA. Eufemia’s uncle himself still has traces of the pain of beatings. The military, they say, have been living in their community but they did not treat them as people.

Massive militarization of their areas (the Zamboanga Penisula and Surigao del Sur) continued as the mining projects flocked into their communities with promises of progress and development.

Before the mining companies came to their lands they lived free, prosperous, happy and peaceful lives. They worked- planting and tending animals, in their simple lifestyle. The trade they learned from their ancestor was enough to supply their needs and contributed well to the economic development of their communities. But everything changed when large-scale mining by foreign and local elite corporations started. The throng of military including paramilitary groups encamped in their land, occupying schools and basketball courts . They had to leave their farms, crops and livestock and evacuate their land to find a safe place for their children and the threatened members of their community. They were hoping to harvest their crops but that could never happen because of massive militarization. They could not even perform rituals in the mountains to say grace for their harvest as the military and paramilitary groups threatened them with guns.

Resist, fight and defend!

Nenita Andrea Condez

Nenita Andrea Condez

Although there is a big threat to their lives due to rampant militarization protecting the foreign mining companies, still the Lumads stand firm to defend and reclaim their land. According to Eufemia, as an indigenous people, their culture is rooted in the ground. Without the land, their culture with the traditional leadership and dignity of their being Lumads are lost with the land. The murder of their leaders did not hinder their struggle for their land. The resistance is all offered for the survival of their culture and the next generation. The fight is also preparing for their future. The defense and care of nature is not only for indigenous peoples but to all mankind. If so they will not hesitate to defend their land which will bring lasting peace and justice.

Mining Act of 1995 and IPRA

Their call is stop the entry of foreign corporations mines which is now protected by law in accordance with the Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). With these laws, although there are some provisions in favor of the natives, they were not used for the benefit of the indigenous peoples. Due to these laws, companies and the military directly oppressed, exploited and violated the human rights of indigenous peoples. The United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights is what Eufemia and Nenita firmly stand on, and is a source of their strength, in addition to their own determination and commitment to the defense of indigenous lands. For them, this document upholds their correctness wherever they go, speaking about their world and their dire situation in a militarized Mindanao. They also will continue to ask for support for anyone who struggles for the defense of ancestral lands and for the rights of indigenous peoples. Since the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples is cearly written on the declaration, they stand with other peoples who have lived though the document was used it against them.

Eufemia Cullamat, extreme right with Bishop Antonio Ablon, Dr. Anie Bautista and supporters from KAIROS and solidarity groups.

Eufemia Cullamat, extreme right with Bishop Antonio Ablon, Dr. Anie Bautista and supporters from KAIROS and solidarity groups.

On March 22 there was a chance during the visit of Eufemia and Nenita to meet people of the First Nations community, with the help of KAIROS Canada.
In their discussions with the First Nations people, they felt validated about their stories, and by the similarities in the stories of the struggles of the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide. In Ottawa, they also met the three groups of the First Nations. For them, this was strong evidence that all indigenous peoples around the world equally experience abuse, discrimination and exploitation.

From left: Jennifer Henry, Executive Director; Fay Edmunds,  Steering Committee Chair; and Connie Sorio of KAIROS. (Photo: HG)

From left: Jennifer Henry, Executive Director; Fay Edmunds,
Steering Committee Chair; and Connie Sorio of KAIROS. (Photo: HG)

They traveled to the cities and communities in Canada to tell the narrative of their evacuation due to militarization in their communities: the destruction of the mountain where the minerals are wasted in the name of profit and greed of business and capital. In the current methods practiced by mining giant corporations in their native land, they clearly see the causes of the destruction of the whole of nature around them – the corporations extract the riches of their land without prudence and deference. They know this is not what their ancestors taught them. They practice diligently what they were told: to take only what the community needs.

The lumads live a simple life. They strive to the meet the basic needs of their community. They send their children to school. They seek medical care when they get sick. They perform rituals in the mountains, where they get the medicine. They live in a plain simple dwelling. This is how they live a simple life, as their ancestors taught them – as keepers and guardians of the land that they fight to keep.
They can only tell the stories and the whole enduring struggle of the Lumad. Then they utter in defiance: ATOHAN! (Fight! Defend the Ancestral land!)


Matagal nang nagsumbong ang kabundukan

At Umuungol ang lupa

Tumataghoy ang kagubatan

Lumuluha ang lanaw, ilog at sapa!

Nang gumulong ang makina

At ukabin ang bundok

Lasunin ang tubig at sakahan

Parang kung anong sumpa

Ang pumatay sa kalikasan

Habang nagpipiyesta sa tubo at kapital

Ang mga dayuhang mandarambong

Ngunit may namuong tigas at tapang

Kinakailangang ipaglaban

Depensahan ng tagapagbantay

Sapagkat ang lupa ay buhay ng sangkatauhan

At ang ritwal sa kabundukan

Ang ritwal sa kagubatan

Ang ritwal sa malinis na lanaw, ilog at sapa

Ay dumadagundong nang sama-sama

Atohan! Atohan!

Ang katutubo’y lalaban

Hanggang sa huling hininga

Depensahan ang lupang ansestral!