Thursday, April 14, 2011

Anthropologist nixes declaration of Manobo ancestor’s burial ground as cultural treasure

CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Feb. 14, 2011—An anthropologist who has been appointed to the Panel of Experts to helped review the proposal by a non-government organization to declare the alleged burial ground of the ancestor of the Manobo tribe as National Cultural Treasure has strongly opposed such declaration.

In his letter to National Museum of the Philippines director Jeremy Barns, Antonio J. Montalvan II, Ph.D. said that he is opposed to the declaration of the alleged Apo Mamalu burial ground in Damulog, Bukidnon for two reasons—opposing documentary evidence that the site is indeed the burial ground of Apu Mamalu and lack of material evidence.

Montalvan’s opposition gave a blow to the organization campaigning against the Pulangi 5 Hydro-electric Plant Project that would be built on the Manobo’s ancestral domain.

For these reasons, “I therefore request to put on record my opposition to the declaration of the assumed Apu Mamalu Burial Ground in Sitio Mikasili, Barangay Tangkulan, municipality of Damulog, Bukidnon province, as a possible National Cultural Treasure. Such an important declaration cannot be made when the assumptions lack unanimity and more so in material evidence. This may only lead to an obfuscation of the ethno-cultural importance and beautiful traditions of the ancient Manobo peoples,” Montalvan said in his letter to Barns dated February 6, 2011.

Apo Mamalu and his brother Apo Tabunaway are believed to be forefathers of the Mindanao lumads.

Carl Cesar Rebuta of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friend of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils.) said the Apo Mamalu remained an animist while Apo Tabunaway was converted to Islam.

And it was in Pulangi that the brothers’ path diverged.

But Montalvan pointed out that “there are opposing versions as to the ancestry of the non-Muslim tribes of this part of Mindanao.”

Citing the “Ulahingan: An Epic of the Southern Philippines” by Elena G. Maquiso which details the story of the brothers, Montalvan said “it was the younger brother Mamaly who became Islamized, not Tabunaway.”
Also, in “The Ulahingan: Turning Grief into Courage” writer Mila D. Aguilar said that “when Sarip Kabungsuwan and Rajah Baginda arrived from the west to spread Islam, Tabunaway refused to accept the new religion, but instructed his brother [Mamalu] to do so.”

Tabunaway was the elder brother and therefore the timuay or chief.

With this discrepancy, Montalvan said that “the latter [Tabunaway] then should appear to have been the subject of the proposed declaration, not Mamalu.”

Montalvan also pointed out that “in the proceedings of the Forum on Manobo Ethnohistory sponsored by the Pulangi 5 dam proponents (First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative [FIBECO] and Greenergy) conducted at Central Mindanao University on May 20, 2010, the participating indigenous people clearly had opposing views as to the referred ancestry. Those of the Lower Pulangi claim Mamalu, while those of the Upper Pulangi claim Tabunaway. The 22 signatories of November 11, 2009, all indigenous people from Bukidnon (and hence of the Upper Pulangi), claim that it was ‘Tambunaway’ who was Islamized and Mamalu their ancestor.”

He said that because of the lack of unanimity among the IPs as to their ancestral identity, “It would be divisive to claim Apo Mamalu as the ancestor of these peoples. For certain, there would be no unanimity. A declaration at this point would be open to further contestations.”

Montalvan had earlier signed the petition to have Sitio Mikasili, Barangay Tangukan, Damulog, Bukidnon declared a heritage site when several personnel of the National Museum visited the alleged burial site early November 2010.

This visit so angered Feliciano “Datu Mansalida” Angaan, Manobo chieftain of Damulog and chairperson of Barangay Angaan Damulog, Bukidnon, who told journalists in a press conference that the proponents to have the alleged burial site declared a heritage site “have not respect for us. They went to the burial site without even bothering to ask our permission.”

Rebuta, former leader of the LRC-KsK/FoE Cagayan de Oro City Team and now LRC project development officer, said that they want to declare the Apo Mamalu burial site a National Cultural Treasure or a heritage site so that it will not be disturbed by projects such as the Pulangi 5 Hydro-electric Plant project.

But revered “Father of Arakan Valley” Apo Caid Lansawan, 96, the most senior Manobo elder in Bukidnon and North Cotabato provinces, said that “traditional oral chants brought down from our ancestors by our Baylans and Timuays made no mention of that Mikasili is a sacred Manobo burial ground. I have not known or participated in a ritual in Mikasili to honor any of our Manobo ancestors.”

“In short, their declaration is not in line with the truth and it is a dangerous external intervention to the Manobo culture, especially on the subject of the ancestry of the Manobo tribe,” Angaan said.

Like Lansawan and Angaan, Josefino “Datu Mampaatlaw” Gonlibo, a tribal adviser; Dominggo “Datu Takutak” Asupra, Kibawe Tribal Council of Elders (KTCE) vice chairperson; Datu Nilo Balang, municipal tribal chieftain of President Roxas, North Cotabato; and other datus also said that the claim of LRC that Apo Mamalu was buried in Sitio Mikasili, has no basis in fact and in their traditions.

All said that their ancestors did not die but went straight up to heaven alive as they were raptured and they became immortal.

They also revealed that it was only when they voiced their support to the Pulangi 5 Hydro-electric Plant project that the burial site of Apo Mamalu was pinpointed by those who are opposing the project. (Bong D. Fabe)

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