AuthorEspiritu, Belinda F.


The Lumad, a collective term for the indigenous people in Southern Philippines known as the island of Mindanao, is part of nearly 17 million indigenous people in the country. Lumad is a Bisayan term meaning "native" or "indigenous." It is adopted by a group of fifteen or more than eighteen Mindanao ethnic groups in their Cotabato Congress in June 1986 to distinguish them from the other Mindanaoans, Moro or Christian. (1) The Lumad are located in various parts of Mindanao, the group of islands in the Southern Philippines. Those located in South Central Mindanao (esp. Davao, Bukidnon, Cotabato) are the following: Bagobo, Tagakaolo, Teduray, Manobo, Kulaman, Blaan, T'boli; Eastern Mindanao (esp. Agusan, Bukidnon, Davao, Surigao): Mandaya, Ata, Mansaka, Dibabawon; North Central Mindanao (esp. Bukidnon): Bukidnon/Higaonon; and Western Mindanao and the Sulu Islands (esp. Zamboanga, Cotabato, Lanao): Maguindanao, Iranun, Maranao, Tausug, Samal, Yakan, Kalibugan, and Subanen. The Lumad who live within the southern highland ranges are swidden farmers and practice little trade. They are known for their elaborate dress and personal adornment. The T'boli and Teduray in particular are known for their baskets, trinkets, bracelets, and earrings made of brass. The T'bolis t'nalak are prized fabrics believed to be inspired by the dreams of the woman weavers. The indigenous communities are ruled by a class of warriors headed by a datu. (2)

With little access to social services including education and healthcare, they are among the poorest cultural minorities in the country. Their suffering and struggle for their rights to maintain their culture and ancestral lands stem from the fact that they have been caught in the middle of a five-decade-old insurgency by the New People's Army the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines, as well as a push by logging, agribusiness, and mining companies to tap Mindanao's rich resources, which include gold, copper, and nickel after President Rodrigo Duterte said he would welcome investors. (3)

The suffering of the Lumad people was heightened and brought to the attention of the mainstream Filipinos when news with photos of the gruesome killing of Emerito Samarca, the beloved director of a Lumad alternative school, the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc. (ALCADEV), and two Lumad leaders in the same Lumad community in Diatagon, Surigao, on September 1, 2015, was reported in national media and became the catalyst for the social advocacy campaign known as #StopLumad-Killings. The plight of the suffering Lumad people was brought to the attention of Filipinos nationwide through the Lakbayan (roughly translated in English as "Journeying Together") by which civil society groups and organizations sponsored the travel of hundreds of Lumad people from Mindanao to Manila, the nation's capital, to make known to other Filipinos, especially those in authority, their grievances, struggle for their rights, and protest against the killings of Lumad leaders and the militarization of their communities and schools. (4) These killings and militarization forced them to evacuate from their lands and become bakwits, people who are internal refugees.

With the Philippine government's adoption of a neoliberal capitalist economy and its Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the government allowed the entry of big extractive and agribusiness corporations into the country and used the military to quell opposition by local communities and indigenous people to the entry of these large corporations. Maranan writes of the atrocities inflicted by the state and its military to advance its neoliberal capitalist policies in the following words:

Well-documented reports by institutions such as Karapatan, Katribu, the Church and other religious groups, and even radio station DZRH have focused not only on the massacres and forced evacuations inflicted on the Lumad but also on the perceived root cause of the conflict: attempts by big local capitalists and multinational companies, with government approval, to exploit the huge mineral deposits in Mindanao for the sake of super-profits. (5) The atrocities against the indigenous people had been recorded from the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo until the time of President Noynoy Aquino and President Rodrigo Duterte. Ambay writes that when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stepped down in 2010 after nine years as president of the Philippines, she left behind a bloody trail of Lumad killings. (6) Human rights organization Karapatan documented a total of eighty-nine cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples during the Arroyo administration, and many of these were Lumad. Under the previous Aquino administration (2010-2015), the indigenous people continued to suffer, with seventy-one indigenous leaders killed and ninety-five attacks against eighty-seven alternative schools for indigenous children recorded. (7) As a result of the killings of their leaders and the attacks on their schools, more than 40,000 indigenous peoples, whole communities whose social, political, and economic lives had been disrupted as they were evacuated from their homes and displaced to numerous evacuation centers. Government military forces, in the guise of counterinsurgency, encamped and sowed terror in indigenous communities while their paramilitary groups did the dirty work for them. (8) In 2018, Global Witness described the Philippines as the "world's deadliest country" for defenders of land and the environment. The group recorded thirty defenders killed in the Philippines that year, (9) while at least sixty indigenous people have been killed since President Duterte came to power in 2016, many of them in Mindanao. (10)

The Philippine military employs paramilitary groups (sometimes referred to as vigilante groups) for counter-insurgency work against separatist and communist groups. (11) The US Defense Department defines paramilitary as "forces or groups distinct from the regular armed forces of any country but resembling them in the organization, equipment, training or mission." (12) Civil society organizations like Human Rights Watch, Karapatan, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines have documented that paramilitary groups in Mindanao have carried out torture, murder, extrajudicial killings, rape, looting of property, forced disappearances, and arson, showing that these groups had been used by the Philippine military to carry out dirty works in their counter-insurgency campaign. Indigenous peoples had been recruited by the military to join these paramilitary groups to create division and conflict among the indigenous tribes. Alamon elaborates on the divide-and-conquer tactic of the state-militarybusiness nexus in these words:

The tactic of coopting indigenous leadership and culture through bribery and brute force has endured from the time of colonialism up to the present in the contemporary state-military-business nexus because of the singular logic of resource extraction both periods share. The paramilitary groups that wreak havoc in indigenous communities also come from among their ranks coopted and corrupted to push for the appropriation of ancestral lands in favor of big logging, mining, and agricultural expansion. The Philippine military plays a big role in the establishment of these militias, with many of them armed and conscripted under the legal mandate of Executive Order 264, issued during the time of former President Cory Aquino that sought the formation of a Citizens Armed Force Geographic Unit (CAFGU) against a persistent armed insurgency in the Philippine countryside. (13) Many Lumad people stand firm and resist these atrocities in their desire to maintain their culture and sustainable way of life. Their response is to resist the atrocities, oppression, and harassment through protest rallies and marches, petitions, and a united stand in cooperation with environmental groups, NGO networks, and religious groups, as will be shown in the next section.


Neoliberal capitalism has dominated the discourse and logic regarding economic, political, and environmental decision-making and has succeeded in marginalizing alternative conceptions of the economy, society, and the environment. (14) Neoliberalism elevates the market and profit above considerations of climate change and environmental sustainability In terms of education, learning is valued primarily in terms of its contribution to economic growth. (15) People all over the world, particularly those in civil society movements and the indigenous people, have resisted this hegemonic neoliberal discourse and logic "in which individuals are responsible only for themselves and all decisions are supposedly made by the market" with the belief that "we have responsibility for our relationships with one another and our built and natural environment." (16) Gramsci's theory of hegemony and the resistance by subaltern forces against hegemonic powers leads to the concept of counterhegemony Carroll posits that in a Gramscian problem, a "viable counterhegemony draws together subaltern social forces around an alternative ethico-political conception of the world, constructing a common interest that transcends narrower interests situated in the defensive routines of various groups." (17) Moreover, such counterhegemony "has to adopt the organizational capacity to establish a rival historical bloc to the prevailing hegemony by sustaining a long war of position." (18) Nancy Fraser's contribution to rethinking counterhegemony lies in the idea that the cultural politics of recognition might be articulated with a material politics of distribution in ways that promote transformation. According to Fraser, the most promising combination is a socialist politics of redistribution and a deconstructive politics of recognition that go beyond affirming existing...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT