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Youth opinion on the denunciation of the word LUMAD

Youth opinion on the denunciation of the word LUMAD

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For several years, Indigenous Peoples (IPs) have experienced discrimination and marginalization due to the perception that they are inferior and incapable of defending their rights. As youth members of the Manobo tribe, we are very concerned about the resolution passed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to no longer use the term Lumad because it is allegedly used by leftist groups.

Since childhood, this is what we are used to calling all tribes here in Mindanao, and it was suddenly removed by the NCIP simply because they said it was a word used by leftist groups. Even though there is not enough and clear evidence that this word (Lumad) is from the leftist groups, they insist that it should no longer be used.

According to our Elder “Datu Makalipay,” the use of the word Lumad began at the meeting of the different tribes of Mindanao who agreed to use the word Lumad so there would not be any discrimination of one tribe over another. The word “Lumad” was borrowed from the Cebuano language to unite the different tribes in Mindanao, finding a common term to use that would be inclusive.

That meeting was when drafting began for the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) or Republic Act (RA) 8371. The IPRA mandates the NCIP to protect and promote the interests and well-being of Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs)/IPs with respect to their beliefs, customs, traditions, and institutions.

However, making this resolution denouncing the use of the word Lumad contrary to this mandate makes IPs more vulnerable to discrimination and abuse because they are more easily “red-tagged”* just for using the word. Instead of providing services and programs that can improve the situation of the IP communities, they are creating a problem. Of the many issues faced by IPs, there is more attention paid to this issue than more pressing concerns. The word Lumad should not have been a problem or removed because it is already part of the traditional tribal vocabulary. They said that it was causing a lot of trouble or unrest within the tribes, but we have never heard any leader complain about the use of the word Lumad. The government agencies were the only ones who said that it was causing unrest among the tribes.

The word Lumad is used by all the tribes here in Mindanao, just like the word Katutubo, which is generally used by the tribes in Luzon. So, does it also mean that the word Katutubo is also used by the leftist groups? The government should check things carefully before they take actions that will affect the tribe. We also need a single way to call the tribes of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao because there are just too many to refer to them individually. If you say Lumad or Katutubo, you cover all the tribes in the Philippines.

The agency that was supposed to help stop red-tagging of IPs just for using the word Lumad ended up adding to the tribes’ concerns. It is inevitable that there will be some Lumads who would join the leftist groups due to injustice and lack of wisdom and knowledge because they have not been to school and are more easily tempted by promises. The majority of those belonging to the leftist groups are not Lumad, and as such indicates to us that the word Lumad is not the motivation for IPs to join these groups. Therefore, we do not agree that just because we use the word Lumad, we are members of leftist organizations.

The insurgency campaign and other measures taken by the government to stop the war in Mindanao with the leftist groups for several years have been ineffective due to the failure to consult with those most affected by the unrest, which are the indigenous people. The ancestral domains have been the battlegrounds since the beginning, and tribal members are the ones always affected.

We, as Manobo youth, believe that lasting peace can be achieved if the root causes of the conflict are addressed. As the successor generation, we have great confidence that the youth will be effective peacebuilders if given an equal opportunity to hone their wisdom and capacity, whether IP or not.

The opportunity that the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute provides to the youth is one of the ways we have seen to help the youth, especially the IPs who are always vulnerable to conflict and recruitment both by the government and leftist groups.

Ailyn G. Barrios is a social worker. She volunteered with PASAKK Inc. from January 2020 to June 2021. As a scholar of MPI, she completed The Praxis of Conflict Transformation online course. Ailyn is currently employed at the Commission on Human Rights Region 13 as a monitoring officer of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict (CSAC).

Theresa Fe Oliver has been employed at PASAKK Inc. for eight years. She is currently a Training Officer in the Peacebuilding Program. She is a scholar of MPI’s Annual Peacebuilding Training and Grassroots Peacebuilding Mentors Training Program. She also completed the Conflict Sensitivity and Do No Harm – Theory, Method and Application and Peace Education: Designing Pedagogies for Change virtual courses. She mentored Ailyn during the Grassroots Peacebuilding Mentors Training Program.

* Red-tagging in the Philippines refers to the malicious blacklisting of individuals or organizations critical or not fully supportive of the actions of a sitting government administration in the country. These individuals and organizations are "tagged" as either communist or terrorist or both, regardless of their actual political beliefs or affiliations (

Photo: Constantine Agustin, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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