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Who's afraid of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? Well, not this woman who swears, during my interview with her, that the president will get a mouthful from her, if ever they meet. She blames the President (and the past Presidents) for what have become of the lumad people now.

This is a special story for me as it signalled my coming back to my roots; sort of retracing of the past. What is inevitable now is for me to ask the self--Why am I meeting these people now? It feels weird. Kind of an omen.

Recently, I also interviewed another lumad leader, Datu Duloman Dawsay, an Ata-Manobo tribal leader wanted by the government after they declared pangayaw (tribal war) against the giant logging company Alcantara and Sons (Alsons)in in late 1990s.

The Pangayaw, which came after Alsons allegedly encroached into the ancestral lands of the Ata-Manobos, was led by another leader Datu Guibang Apoga, also wanted by the government. Anyone who catches them gets a million peso reward.

Bigkay, Dawsay and Apoga are my grandfather's relatives.




INQUIRER MINDANAO
The war of Bae Bibiyaon Likayan Bigkay
By Jeffrey M. Tupas
Inquirer
Last updated 03:59am (Mla time) 10/28/2007

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—She riffled through the pages of the Inquirer, her hand steady and careful, and hurriedly flipped back to the front page and stared at the photos.

Bae Bibiyaon Likayan Bigkay recognized the images: the man was “Pek’yeo” while the woman between two Indian officials was “Ori’yeo.”

Slowly chewing a betel nut—traces of being a longtime partner evident in her lips—the Ata-Manobo chieftain from the hinterlands of Bukidnon said she admired Pek’yeo because the man fought well. Pek’yeo is Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, whom she saw on television in Davao City several months ago.

She’s not afraid of him, she said, and would even willingly face him in the ring for a match. With a bland smile, she said, Pek’yeo might have strong punches but nothing could beat her arrows.

From a bitter derision as she talked of how to beat Pek’yeo came a chafed indignation over Ori’yeo, or President Macapagal-Arroyo.

‘Limbungan’

“If I get to meet her, I will confront her and tell her that she’s the reason many “lumad” (indigenous peoples) in the hinterlands do not have food, why we suffer from poverty … why many of us have lost access to our ancestral lands ... why many of us have gone into hiding … why many of us have lost their loved ones,” Bigkay said through an interpreter.

“She’s a big reason for all these sufferings,” the old woman said in an interview at a human rights center in Davao City recently. She stiffened and walked toward the glass windows.

Bigkay described the President as “limbungan” (cheater).

“She’s taken advantage of the people, especially the lumad. Look at her—she’s so rich—while we cannot even go to our farms and till the land without fear that the military will again suspect us of supporting the rebels, thus putting our lives in danger,” Bigkay said in her native tongue.

That she is dauntlessly confrontational when provoked and passionate about fighting for the rights of her people come along Bigkay’s being a bibiyaon or a woman tribal leader. It was a responsibility bequeathed to her by the Ata-Manobo elders when she was still a child. (This was the time when she convinced the elders to let her borrow a horse in behalf of her father, a negotiation carried out only by matured men.)

Now, she is one of the few women lumad leaders who is respected not only for her wisdom but also for being a fearless warrior. She punctuates this prominence by never failing to be at the forefront of her people’s opposition to government projects that are deemed destructive to their ancestral lands.

Pantaron Range

Thrice a week, Bigkay gathers the people of her small village of Natulinan in San Fernando, Bukidnon, to discuss how to keep their defenses strong against mining and plantation companies. Central topic is how to keep the Pantaron Range free from “foreign intrusion.”

“Pantaron is what is left to us. Without it, we will have nowhere to go,” she said as she described the land still rich with fauna and flora, including herbs that the people use as medicine.

Bigkay recalled how, as a little girl, she would dare go to Pantaron to hunt with her uncle. Sometimes, she said, she would stay there for many months.

Alamara

But the woman warrior is also wanted by the Alamara, a paramilitary group of Ata-Manobos allegedly funded by the military and other tribal leaders who do not share her stand. She said she often moved around the community and into the forest, where she is most protected.

The Alamara has also become a ruthless group going after suspected supporters of communist rebels.

What concerns Bigkay more than herself is that her people might shed blood again as what happened to her niece who died several months ago when Alamara members looking for her fired at a hinterland school in Bukidnon.

People close to Bigkay claim that she is in the military’s battle list on suspicion of supporting the New People’s Army, along with other lumad leaders Datu Guibang Apoga and Datu Duloman Dawsay.

Bigkay said that the presence of soldiers had always been the community’s problem as they prevent residents from doing their usual farming and other activities.

And because her farm is spacious, she said, the military would always regard her as “farming to feed the rebels.”


Logging days

The government has been watching her, she admitted, being one of the few remaining lumad leaders who are critical of its “development” projects.

She cited the experience of the Ata-Manobos at the time of the giant logging company, Alcantara and Sons (Alsons). “They’ve (company owners) abused the mountains, leaving us with almost nothing at all. They have abused the land, our ancestral home. What they have already destroyed can no longer be restored. Now, look at us … look at our children,” she said.

Mining and other agricultural development projects are “maruot” (ugly), she said. Despite their many faces, these will never get her approval or that of the people who have already seen the destruction they have brought to them.

“I will die fighting for our land against those who only desire to get its resources and destroy it. If I, as bibiyaon, will allow them to desecrate the mountain again, it will mean that I have also allowed the destruction of my people because the mountain is our home, it is our life,” Bigkay said.

Ipra

She cited as an example how the government sold out lumad land to investors using the legal instrument that is supposed to protect their rights—the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (Ipra). The development thrusts are packaged as the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Priorities Plan (ADSDPP).

The law, signed on Oct. 29, 1997, by then President Fidel V. Ramos, facilitated government interventions when ancestral lands have already been formally titled, Bigkay said. Government representatives have convinced other lumad leaders to enter into agreements with businessmen interested in turning their areas into banana and pineapple plantations or mining sites.

“This is the very reason I hate this law. It never served its purpose but instead it facilitated the oppression of the indigenous people,” she said.

Now, Bigkay is among the tribal leaders in Bukidnon, Talaingod and other areas in the Davao provinces, North Cotabato and Agusan who are blocking moves to include their lands into areas whose formal titling is being processed by the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Tribal leaders, who met in Davao City recently, stormed the office of the NCIP-Southern Mindanao and lodged their complaints over the inutility of Ipra and how it had actually worked against them.

Roque Agton, director of NCIP-Southern Mindanao, said his office aimed to deliver to the lumad their lands by issuing titles to them. “Their lands are very vulnerable to the same developments that they are opposing if their lands are not titled,” he said.

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More and more people were coming in, most of them men who flashed outfits that made them appear like they're clones of each other. Sitting next to another one who was anxiously puffing his cigarette as if under pressure, I looked like I just came straight from bed.

The sight of it frozen me. It scared me, actually. This was the same place that became the reason for my depression last year. Well, it was not because of Station 183 but because of the superficiality married to the entire compound that housed 183--Rizal Promenade.

I wanted to tell Gwapo to persuade housemate and Queen Nostrelia put down the plan and hit a "sober" place instead. Earlier, Gwapo said he wanted a place much dimmer than 183. I said it was a 50-50 battle because I soooo dreaded 183. But even before an actual pleading can happen, housemate and Queen Nostrelia have already bought us four tickets.

So I was there, feeling like one the many excess passengers of an overly loaded boat waiting for it to sink. Everyone were in a frenzy while I was barely moving, afraid that the whole place will explode (And if that happens, at least 60 percent of homosexuals in Davao will be listed as victims).But after few shots of that blue liquid, I loosened up and it was not too long until I realized I am already as deranged as the others.

Gwapo, while he refused to leave the wall for fear that somebody might assume the spot, was also starting to gyrate and this woman kept on brushing her back on his body. Suddenly, a goodlooking male stood beside me, his right hand holding a bottle of beer. He looked dazed and despite the air of delirium that ovewhelmed the place, his only dance step was that left-and-right sway that led his arm and a portion of his body to constantly touch mine. He looked dazed and controlled. He looked like a good looking battery-operated machine.

I dismissed him and instead tried to engage the guy who later told me that I am cool in front of his girlfriend.

Gwapo was supposed to be out for only two hours and three hours have passed and we were still dancing like there was no bukas. I wasn't expecting to stay that long inside a place to crammed up one can barely feel that his crotch is already undergoing dissection or can feel the complaint of an abused butt (only that this abuse is the kind that one would always like, more or less, depending on the abuser).

And that night, I was abused. And I don't know if I liked it. Maybe, I allowed the abuse. It happened while people were slowly leaving the bar, collecting their reserved sanity. The abuser was shorter that I am and much shoter than the dazed man who later I realized had a band-aid on his nape.

Like the dazed and band-aided man, abuser was also holding a beer, drinking the bottle up with that kind of sexy smirk. Abuser came near me. Then close enough for me to smell the sweet breath. Abuser was a big tease, a huge contrary to the toned built covered by a body-tight shirt. I grabbed abuser by the waist and turned the body around as the music remained up, challenging the tympanic membrane.

Suddenly I forgot about everything as I entertained the thought of being laid that night. And as I was basking on the lights of the bar, I knew my friends' eyes were witnessing yet another moment of me being wasted.

I felt my abuser's butt pressed against my crotch and it felt good. My hands travelled slowly from the flat stomach up. There I realized that abuser has (swollen) breasts. Abuser was a woman.

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My memory cannot perfect a recollection of this story where government operatives arrested an alleged terrorist in General Santos City after one bloody bombing incident many years ago. Just recently, this story was again told in a gathering of student journalists.

That the government arrested a suspected terrorist--allegedly an operative of Al Qaeda--was not new at all for someone from Mindanao, with the government's left and right arrests.

What was surprising was that the suspect was gay.

Well, this is not to say that gays cannot possibly carry out a terror attack, just like any other individual regardless of sex and gender.Remember that film where a woman went up a stage and embraced a Middle Eastern official, detonating the contraption placed all over her body? She succeeded in killing the target and killing herself. Hers was an act of suicide that this man, in another film that introduced me to sisha, failed to do.

I think that gay in General Santos City was the first case of a wrongly accused gay terror suspect, aside from being the first gay terror suspect in the Philippines. His only crime was having a name that sounds almost exactly like that of one of the terror suspects in the government's long list of suspects. In a world overwhelmed by paranoia, despair and impunity, and everything in between, anyone can be a suspect that even officials of the government are not spared.

Concrete example of this is when a former Philippine Constabulary general accused the government of masterminding the deadly explosion in Glorieta 2 last week ( I heard this over ABS-CBN radio this morning). The father of one of the victims said the hand of the government is apparent in the explosion that killed more than a dozen and hurt scores of others. His loss allowed him to see and suspect the supposed desperation of the government to escape from the waves of scandals that refused to ebb from its shores as the reason for this.

The same suspicion was also aired by some quarters with the bombing of the Davao City International Airport and the wharf in Sasa in 2003, shortly after the government declared an all-out-war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Not everyone were convinced that the airport bombing was carried out by Montasser Sudang, a young father from a small village in Kabacan in North Cotabato--the town where I also came from. I remember interviewing some of his relatives after his name was pressed by authorities as the primary suspect in the bombing. He was supposedly excited. It was his first time to go to Davao.

An INQUIRER editorial entitled "An innocent man" stressed out the impossibility of Sudang being behind the explosion that killed almost 20 individuals, including himself: he just got himself a son, he went to the airport tagging almost the entire village with him, including very young children, to pick up a relative from Egypt, and that whether he was a member of the MILF, the former reasons will dilute any desire, if there was any, to become suicidal.

The INQUIRER editorial was blunt in saying: "Unlike the real suicide bombers in, say, Israel, his body parts are accounted for, and his face is still recognizable. It has the look of innocence, as if Montasser Sudang didn't know the end was near."

With that came suspicion that the government was actually behind the attack with traces of C4 allegedly all over the explosition site. As I was saying, anybody can become a suspect.

The gay terror suspect in General Santos City was released without any case filed against him, I was told.He spent (many cold) days inside the cell totally oblivious of the kind of people being linked to his name as much as how he was literally unaware his alleged crime.

But it was because of this that he was able to personally meet with his number one accuser, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself ( Note--Not sure if it was in the Palace or in his GenSan cell).

It was also because of this that he finally found someone to own as she would quickly tell his interrogators, those who insist that he knew people in the list of terrorists, as: "Asawa ko yan (That one is my husband)!"

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There's this oyster restaurant in Davao City called Talaba Joe where the food is almost great but the service sucks up to the hilt. I guess the owners still do not realize that with their kind of service, people are going out of their small place puking the almost great food out, minus the refund.

The place cannot deny its pretensions: charming on the outside and nothing follows. Well, a lot of things follow actually, only that these will make you feel that you are caught in the middle of a grand rip off. And you are privy to it. And you cannot do anything about it but pay for the expensive food and the service that sucks. And instead of going home feeling satisfied, you'd feel like you the greatest loser in the tanan-tanang kalibutan (wide, wide world).

This place closes at 10pm during weekdays and an hour earlier during Sundays. Good for someone like me who often eats dinner late. One Tuesday night though, with Athan in tow, I went to the place, entered into a half-openned door, and welcomed by the emptiness.

That it was already empty was perfect because we found out that the restaurant's cooling system malfunctioned, the reason why the main door had to be kept half-open.

Ten minutes after we've taken a table, the waiter appeared from the kitchen which was just few meters away from us--beads of sweats running from his forehead down to his neck. He took our order--mine was a pesto-flavored oyster while Athan wanted a t-bone; 2 cups of rice, and their famous chocolate cake.

Ten minutes after, the waiter arrived with no pestoed-oyster, t-bone, 2 cups of rice and a slice of chocolate cake.

Why?

"Mag-close na man diay gud mi sir," the waiter said sheepishly while glancing at the clock on the wall. It was still 9pm.

And we were there, like, 20 minutes already.

c(@_@)0

Because I wanted to give this place a chance, I went back after two weeks but this time, I had to make sure that I was earlier than the last time. This time, the aircon was already working. This time, the waiter came to us quickly than before and took our order with a promise that everything would be fast. So I thought...and I was wrong.

"Sir, wala na pong cake."

"Eh, anong meron?"

"Pretzel sir."

I saw Athan making a face.

"Wag na lang...ok na kami don sa ibang order."

The waiter left and came back immediately with his tray. No problem right? Yeah, so we thought until we ordered a bottle of Coca Cola, drank it and were finally ready to pay.

"Check namin."

"Ito po..."

Athan, the numbercian, riffled through the pieces of paper and bowled over something that he caught the attention of other customers.

"Magkano ang Coke ninyo?"

"Forty po."

"Forty? Isang litro, forty?"

"Opo."

"Grabe naman! Overpricing pud kaayo uy!"


(NOTE: Image from www.eatstuff.net)

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A global movement aimed at arresting the overly alarming environmental problem worldwide is scrawling among thousands of bloggers who all pledged to write about the subject. At least 7,500 bloggers have so far signed up and organizers said the number is continouosly swelling. The big day for this event is on Monday--the Blog Action Day.

Needless to say, this will surely hit the red spot. Incidentally, the whole world is also observing the World Food Day on Tuesday. Locally, environmentalists and safe-food advocates will be gathering together that day.

Below is a press release I wrote for the event. If you wish to post this story in you page, pease...please...I'm not suing, I swear. I would be very happy if you will, in fact.


Safe food forum set on World Food Day

Civil society groups in Mindanao will conduct a one-day forum-workshop Tuesday next week (Oct. 16) here in time for the global celebration of the World Food Day and organizers are highlighting the natural way of farming as the answer to the problems confronting food security and healthy environment.

To be conducted at the compound of the Davao Medical School Foundation, Inc. (DMSF) in Bajada, the activity is themed “Celebrating Organic Agriculture in Mindanao : Seizing Opportunities, Overcoming Challenges.”

Lia Jasmin Esquillo, forum co-convener, said that the activity hopesto raise the awareness of the civil society organizations, church organizations, local government units and agencies, and the academe on the status and threats of organic agriculture in Mindanao.

Esquillo, who is also the executive director of the environmental nongovernment organizations Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (Idis), said that organic agriculture holds great potentials both for the practicing farmers and the public who patronize safe food and health environment.

Right now, Esquillo said, organic farmers have been countering the chemical-dependent and monoculture farms with commercial-scale production of organic rice and other food crops which are accessible to the growing market.

“We also hope to be part in the implementation of government programs in organic agriculture and at the same time, strengthening the partnership of people’s organizations and nongovernment organizations involved in community-based organic agriculture in Mindanao ,” Esquillo said.

Participating in the forum are the biodynamic agriculture primemover Don Bosco Foundation for Sustainable Development (Don Bosco), Justice and Peace of the Diocese of Marbel, Idis, Kababayen-an Alang sa Teknolohiya nga Haum sa Kinaiyahan ug Kauswagan (Empowering Women Through Appropriate Technology in Harmony with the Environment) or Katakus, Kinaiyahan Foundation (KFI), Masipag-Mindanao, Mindanao Farmworkers Development Center (MFDC), Third World Network, Upliftment of the Moral, Economic, Technological, Socio-spiritual Aspirations of Persons or Metsa Foundation, Holy Cross of Davao College (HCDC), Sustainable Integrated Area Development Initiatives in Mindanao-Convergenc e of Asset Reform and Regional Development (Simcarrd).

Dr. Emerlito Boromeo, consultant of the Third World Network, will be coming over from Manila to discuss the threats on organic agriculture, particularly on the current developments on the genetically modified food crops in the country.

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Can your teacher read, does your preacher pray?
Does your president have soul?

Have you heard a real good ethnic joke today?

Mama took to speed and daddy ran away
But you mustn't lose control

Let's cut the class, I got some grass
The kids are wild we just can't tame 'em
Do we have the right to blame them

We fed them all our indecisions
We wrecked their minds with television
But what the hell, they're too young to feel pain


But I believe that love can save tomorrow
Believe the truth can make us free
Someone tried to say it, then we nailed Him to a cross
I guess it's still the way it used to be



------Used To Be, Stevie Wonder and Charlene

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For how many times I have almost fallen into decadence without even knowing it that you were the force that stopped me from the internal demise? I blame the self for missing the details; I would have been writing a different story now. For how I failed to notice your beautiful pout as you scoured the litters on the floor this morning, in search for the missing keys? Well, I noticed it but only now that I realized how you've been pouting those lips whenever you need my help--I, whose functionality is put to hold until nine in the morning.

This one is never too late, though. After nine hours, I can clearly recall how you tried to wake me up as you told me about your fears while you were putting on that khaki pants. Last night, you also told me about the examinations that you so scared to take but always end up topping. Remember last year? Did you not take the finals while burning with fever but ended up being on top of the list? I have always been proud of you. I can never be prouder.

And btw, let me tell you about how you really made me happy six hours before eight eyem today--the time when we were talking in whispers, afraid that we might disturb housemate and Maya who were already asleep.

Lest you’ve lost recollection of it, you stopped me from going to the toilet for a moment and I, totally unused to having almost muted conversations with you, had to get closer to you to hear whatever was that that you had to say, only to hear:

“Ing-ania imong buhok… ipadaplin…aron pareho sa mga Koreana…(You keep your hair like this…put this part on the side so it may look like a Koreana’s).”

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Mandy’s notoriety to treat her characters as hapless beings is both unquestionable and acceptable knowing how she, too, self-deprecated in some of her entries.

Never failing to unleash her penchant to brutalize her protagonists, even her own lover, she involves her readers into becoming unsuspecting parties to the spree of slaughters she guiltlessly perpetuate.

Better known as Mandaya Moore-Orlis, she leaves her readers wondering about the difference between fiction and truth and this is spreading like a viral infection.

She succeeds in making her readers believe in the fiction that she wants them to take in as truth. But there is no offense committed because what is truth and fiction in this lifetime, anyway?

Her stories are so real that if they were concocted, they leave imprints in the consciousness that everything doesn’t matter anymore because of the nirvanic relief they create.

These imprints are mixed. Some are disturbing and alarming. Some are vivid and lasting. Some easily left out in the brain’s garbage bin. Some slow to effect but excruciating when already felt.

They are the characters talking to us. Some voices are loud; some are faint. Some speak to us without even trying as they expose our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Some voices are annoyingly persistent and we discover that we are annoyed because it is our own voice that we hear.

They are the faces who own the voices: a future lover, a former friend, a skim boarder, the beggar, your angry mother’s kumare, your loving father’s boyfriend.

Always she creates vortexes in her readers’ emotions, making them laugh while feeling threatened. She makes them cry while tossing them in mid-air of sexual stimulation as she narrates of how her fingers caressed her lover’s chest.

The coercion is flawless maybe, but it’s still coercion that she employs both for her characters and readers to interact like one against the murder of a homo who only desired to have a release.

Mandy has never failed to tell her readers the strangeness of reality confronting people—both for those who live in the glitz of the city and those who are in the countryside.

And the truth is well articulated by the voice that owns Mandy, the character itself, no matter how one suspects that she is a grand example of a manipulative personality split from the other self.

If her stories are not real, what is reality then?











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I'm joining the Mindanao Bloggers Summit on October 27 and kind of excited about it because...I am excited about it. Period.

No. Mandaya Moore-Orlis is playing a huge, huge role in the summit and the bitch is kind of dragging me into the pool and intends to leave me wet--all alone. The bitch is cooking up something with the organizers of the summit after we (I was privy to it no!) kind of "closed" a deal with a mighty-sounding aid agency actively working on how to make peace and development a sustainable experience in Mindanao. (Wait, I guess it's not accurate to say that the deal, if it is a deal, is already closed because negotiations are actually still underway. Labo ko ano?)

Anyways, if anything, what I am really excited about is the integration of the issues of peace and development in a gathering of bloggers. In my experience, these issues are only talked about during gatherings of journalists, peace and development advocates, conflict victims, students, artists and policy makers among the very few others.

I would like to think that Mindanao bloggers are embarking into something that is hardly talked about during gatherings of bloggers in other regions. I guess this is not only totally new to the blogging world (I could be wrong and if, I am sorry) but also very, very timely and relevant.

When I opened this up to somebody from the mighty-sounding funding agency, she said: "Wow...that's very interesting."














c(0_0)a

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