N. Vizcaya tribes turn to gods amid woes
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Tribal leaders here are imploring the aid and protection of their deity “Kabunian” amid hardships suffered by tribes, especially involving various mining controversies in the province.
Tribal priests from various indigenous groups in Nueva Vizcaya staged the “Baki ni Halupay” at the provincial office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) here Thursday following the
series of “unfortunate” events that have been plaguing indigenous communities.
NCIP Commissioner Rizalino Segundo said the ritual is meant to block bad spirits and mislead the mind of enemies that are believed to have been responsible for the difficulties currently faced by the tribes.
The ritual, which lasted for about two hours, featured prayers by three priests from various Cordillera tribes here, followed by an offering of a native pig. The pork was later shared among participants in a feast that was accompanied by native rice wine or “tapey”.
The bloodied wooden spear that was used to kill the boar was later hung at the entrance of the NCIP office, its sharp tip pointed outward, to scare off bad spirits, Segundo said.
“It also aims to stall such untimely death of NCIP officials and personnel,” he said, alluding to the recent demise of Tommy Dawang, tribal assistance affairs director; Dr. Belino Osingat Sr., Region 4 director; and Rafaelito Jandoc, acting region 12 director.
The NCIP official expressed concern over the series of struggles faced by tribes in the province, primarily in areas affected by the entry of mining projects carried out by three foreign companies.
He cited the supposed human rights abuses faced by Ifugaos who are opposing the planned gold-copper project of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc., an Australian firm.
In a visit to the area early this month, an NCIP team affirmed earlier reports of the company’s alleged non-payment to Ifugao landowners and alleged acts of harassment, in connection with its ongoing efforts to
acquire access to lands in the area and clear these villagers’ houses for its US$117-million project.
Lawyer Basilio Wandag, NCIP legal affairs director, earlier asked OceanaGold to stop demolition of properties of tribal residents until their complaints are addressed by the company.
This request, however, was turned down by company, with company lawyers citing the supposed legality of their operations in Didipio.
In nearby upland Pa-o village in Kasibu, tribal members belonging to Ibaloi, Kalanguya and Bugkalot are bracing for what could be a bloody face-off with pro-mining Bugkalot members, who are pushing the entry
of drilling equipment for exploration activities of RoyalCo Resources Limited, also an Australian firm.
Since November, the anti-mining group has set up a barricade at the entry of RoyalCo’s 3,000-hectare exploration area in Pa-o. A group of Bugkalots, however, have insisted on their right to allow the
Pa-o is within an ancestral domain area granted to the Bugkalot of eastern Sierra Madre.
On Tuesday, the Philippine National Police deployed a team from its Special Action Force to diffuse tension in the area, following reports that both factions have taken up arms in anticipation of an encounter with rival forces.
Tribal communities have likewise expressed outrage over the unabated drilling operations of Metals Exploration Inc. (MTL) in Runruno village in nearby Quezon town, which has been declared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau as a geo-hazard area.
The provincial board has earlier asked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to suspend MTL’s operations, amid fears of a repeat of the 2005 tragedy wherein landslides and flashfloods ravaged the village and killed 13 residents.
On April 8, the main office in Barangay Don Tomas Maddela here of the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (Pafid), a partner non-government organization of the NCIP, was razed. No one was hurt in the fire.