Tuesday, 12 May 2020 07:25

COVID-19 Reflection: How about the Lumad?

Written by Egypt F. del Rosario
Indigenous people stay at their temporary shelter at UP Diliman amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Save Our Schools Network. Indigenous people stay at their temporary shelter at UP Diliman amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Save Our Schools Network.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece by Egypt F. del Rosario, a Graduate School student from the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines.)
Representation and access to basic needs and services—these are the common struggles of the minorities, especially the Lumads or the Indigenous People in the Philippines. Their plight against the militarization of their groups and the lack of government support are some of the reasons that hinder the progress in their respective communities. Reducing inequalities, such as the situation of the Lumads, is among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations. But how are they doing now that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is sweeping through the country?
Armed conflicts in Mindanao have displaced a group of Lumad students and teachers in Metro Manila last 2017. Until now, they are seeking shelter at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, yet fearing again of another threat to their lives. One of the teachers, Beverly Godofredo, reveals that they worry about their daily survival especially during this time. “We are prone to coronavirus because we are evacuees,” Godofredo said in an interview with news.mongabay.com. “If you think about it, if there’s no militarization in our communities and if the schools are not closed, we wouldn’t be here.”
The situation of the displaced Lumads calls for attention from the local government units to include them on the current relief efforts. However, they are often overlooked by the host LGUs.
Meanwhile, in the actual Lumad communities in Northern Mindanao, traditional rituals are done to ask the protection of their Creators from the present health crisis. The Higaonon Catanico-Tablon-Cugman-Ancestral Domain (CATATCU AD) in Cagayan de Oro City conducted the Panagpeng ritual on March 22 where chicken blood was shed on a white cloth and showed an image that appeared to be a woman. “Our Baylan believes it could be the picture of the woman who could have been the first victim of this virus,” Datu Masikal Jude C. Jabiniar, Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in Barangay Cugman, told the Mindanao Daily News.
While the Lumads do what their culture believes to be necessary to avoid contracting the virus, the government, nevertheless, should not leave them behind especially in availing free health services and inclusion to the amelioration program. Although they have been classified as part of the beneficiaries, some members of their community might have not been included due to a lack of proof of identification. The Commission of Human Rights’ spokesperson, Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, had already stressed before that “the lack of ID cards should not put our ethnic minorities at a major disadvantage.”
Good thing, other organizations that gave attention to the needs of the Lumads. The Philippine Coconut Authority in Caraga Region has allocated Php 5,148,960 to support the IP farmers by incentivizing the growing of seed nuts. In this city, PHINMA Cagayan de Oro College, a private academic institution, donated grocery items and hygiene kits to the Higaonon community in Barangay Dansolihon, in coordination with the Philippine National Police. “As people of Cagayan de Oro City, we should be mindful of our indigenous brothers and sisters as they are also affected by this pandemic. They only have limited access to commodities, not like us residing in accessible barangays,” said Darling May Barcatan, one of the volunteers.
The Lumads’ call for equality echoes louder amidst the crisis. Hence it is just necessary to tap on our public and private institutions to extend our hands to them, whether those who are displaced or those in far-flung communities.
The Baylan (right) of the Higaonon community talks with one of the volunteers, Darling May Barcatan (left), during the relief operations of PHINMA COC in Barangay Dansolihon. Photo courtesy of PHINMA COC CSDL Page.
For Philippines’ displaced indigenous students, COVID-19 is one of many threats https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/for-philippines-displaced-indigenous-students-covid-19-is-one-of-many-threats/
IP rituals can only do so much against COVID-19. Gov’t will have to step in https://nolisoli.ph/77589/government-aid-ips-vulnerable-covid-19-rituals-csanjose-20200406/
CHR urges gov’t to attend to health needs of minority groups as protection vs COVID-19 https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/03/28/chr-urges-govt-to-attend-to-health-needs-of-minority-groups-as-protection-vs-covid-19/