The Cordillera Women`s Education Action Research Center and the All UP Academic Employees’ Union of the University of the Philippines-Baguio conducted the Regional Women’s Human Rights Summit in response to the relentless attacks against critics of the present administration, human rights defenders, including indigenous peoples and other marginalized sectors of the society.
The summit made me see the blatant disregard of our leaders of the basic concepts of human rights, an evidence that an unjust system is reigning in the country. This also provoked me in writing this poem as my reflection of the cruelty that our indigenous peoples are experiencing:
Undas na ulit,
May iba sa ating humihikbi sa gilid,
May iba sa ating masayang nakadalaw sa taong lumisan na, na sa kanilang puso ay malapit,
Mayroon din ‘yung humuhugot dahil ipinagpalit,
Subalit para sa ating mga katutubong pilit ninanakawan ay araw-araw na undas na napakapait,
Araw-araw ay ginigipit,
Pinapatay ng paulit-ulit,
Upang sa ganoon ay maipatayo ang mga imprastaktura na sa kanila ay bubura,
Maisagawa ang plano na kung saan ang kanilang lupa ay magiging pataba ng kanilang pitaka,
At ang ating karapatan ay lalapastangin para sa tagumpay ng iba,
Sabi nila, matutong magsakripisyo para sa ikabubuti ng nakararami,
Ngunit sino ba ang totoong makikinabang sa sakripisyo na kanilang idinidiin?
Ang nakararami nga ba? O ang mga taong nakasuot ng maskara?
I saw the worsening human rights situation in the Cordillera and the rest of the Philippines. This situation fuels the solidarity among the women and LGBT who attended the summit. The event raised the necessity to act against human rights violations.
However, no matter how inspiring it is to witness the strong solidarity of the women in the Cordillera, their determination, and hear their breath-taking chants for change, I would still prefer not to witness this. I’d rather see them freely walking around their homeland without being threatened. Watch them wash their clothes with bright smiles on their faces in the free-flowing river. Watch the kids play all day without the trauma that children today are experiencing as a result of prolonged militarization of their communities. And reap the bounty that their ancestral lands have to offer.
I firmly believe that all of these can happen if our leaders and everyone else involved will respect the indigenous peoples` right to their ancestral domain and to self-determination. It has always been said that for our indigenous peoples, LAND IS LIFE. A phrase emphasized countless times, yet, those who wield power are willing to do everything to fill their insatiable greed even if it would spell death to indigenous peoples. These people can`t seem to understand the significance of the land they are trying to conquer those inhabiting it. The land is where indigenous peoples are rooted. It is where they were born and raised, and it will be that which will embrace them when they will die. It is the land owned by the future generation. That is why indigenous peoples struggle so much to protect their ancestral lands because they want to give the next generation a better world to live in.
Now, if sacrificing all of this is what our leaders call “change for the better,” obviously, the change they are referring to does not include indigenous peoples. They are treating indigenous peoples as sacrificial lambs not for the sake of the majority but for their own welfare and interest. Why build dams if we can let the river freely flow for everyone to use? Why attack development workers if you can team up with him or her in bringing better social services to the people? Why use violence to control the people if you can instead listen to their desperate cries for genuine peace and freedom? Why claim it is for the better if it is not inclusive of everyone, primarily indigenous peoples?
When money comes above everything else, above the interest of the majority of the toiling masses, no substantial change will come. Even with this, I am comforted with the knowledge that Cordillera women will never be cowed. With clenched fists, they will stand taller than ever, stronger as they empower, and bolder as they resist fascism.