DAVAO ORIENTAL – Amidst the changing times and the unstoppable impact of the modern age, the Mandaya Indigenous Peoples from the sub-villages comprising the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) 01 in Barangay Pichon in the municipality of Caraga have shown their commitment and pride to their ancestral land’s rich cultural heritage.
During the annual Kalindugan Festival held on October 25, the native Mandaya villagers from the 13 sub-villages of the CADT-01 have gathered at Sitio Sangab, the CADT-01 center, for the two-day festivities sharing music, dances, and traditional cuisines, as well as taking part in friendly traditional competitions.
A lasting legacy founded 21 years ago by the late Tribal Chieftain Likid Copertino Banugan, the Kalindugan Festival has been showcasing the ancestral land’s fascinating Mandaya culture, customs, and traditions. Residents say that the long-running annual celebration has fostered among Mandaya villagers a sense of pride in the inheritance of the traditions passed on to them by their ancestors.
During the festival, grade-schoolers from the different sitios have treated spectators and visitors with a full display of their cultural heritage through various presentations. Accompanied by the beat of the drums made of indigenous materials and other traditional instruments, the children donning their customary Mandaya clothing stomped their feet as they danced with enthusiasm and energy showcasing the Mandaya way of life and a glimpse of the past depicting their tribe’s struggles and victories.
Resilience of the Mandaya
The new Tribal Chief, 28-year-old Christine Banugan, has been keeping her commitment to keep the Mandaya tradition alive in her ancestral land, believing that the preservation of the Mandaya culture rests on the shoulders of its youth.
The reason why her leadership is envisioning to institutionalize IP education in their school curriculum. “We need the government’s help to realize our plans to establish the School of Living Tradition to teach our children here our culture. So that even when the time comes that they decide to go elsewhere, their identity and their heritage will always become a part of them,” said Chieftain Banugan.
For the last 21 years, this land has seen struggles that tested its resiliency especially on its peace. Caraga town Mayor Alicia Mori lauded the leadership of the new tribal chief not only for sustaining the Mandaya way of life but also for taking the Mandaya’s strong resolve against the Communist New People’s Army on the world stage.
The young Banugan flew to the United States in July joining other IP leaders from various tribes in Mindanao to speak out against the atrocities committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed group, New People’s Army (NPA) to the IP communities.
Amidst their many struggles – including the brutal killing of its former tribal chieftain Copertino Banugan (Christine’s father) who was murdered by the NPA rebels and the continuous hardships in their everyday lives stemming from the lack of opportunities and their considerable distance from the town center and basic services, them being in a Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA), the community still managed to successfully preserve their culture and its people resilient against outside threats. All thanks to their strong bond as a tribe and huge support from the government.
Recently, the community has seen an outpour of government support which include the repair of the entire road length leading to Sangab community as well as the construction of a bailey bridge downhill in Barangay Lamiawan which caters to residents in the nearby villages as well as those from the CADT-01.
However, the community was even more overwhelmed over new developments which include a newly-constructed covered court at Sitio Sangab turned over by First District Representative Corazon N. Malanyaon. Embellished with Mandaya designs, the massive infrastructure project gave students and the rest of the community respite as they will no longer endure the harsh heat of the sun or the rain during their activities.
Cong. Malanyaon, who is a Vice Chairperson on the Committee on Appropriation in the House of Representatives, also listed other massive projects worth more than P200 million to be sourced out from the 2020 national budget which she secured for the IP community.
The projects that are set for implementation early next year include the P90 million road concreting from Sitio Sangab to Lucatan near the barangay proper of Pichon and another road concreting project to Sitio Panlaisan. Also included in the list of projects is the construction of a stage at the newly-turned over Sangab covered court; activity centers at the Sangab National High School, Sangab Elementary School, Butay Integrated School and Lucatan Elementary School and a multi-purpose building in Barangay Pichon.
She also promised electrification projects for Sitios Panlaisan, Hanginon and Caliongan.
Moreover, to help revive the locals’ livelihood, particularly in making the traditional dagmay cloth, beads, and other handicrafts and local traditional products, Cong. Malanyaon promised the repair of the old Presidential Arm on National Minorities (PANAMIN) Building which houses the workspace for the making handicrafts and other indigenous products. In addition, she also committed to provide livelihood assistance to make the facility become fully-operational.
Amidst all these new developments, Cong. Malanyaon urged the community who proved their resilience over the years to continue to preserve their rich culture and protect their community from those who threaten their peace.
She said that her office is committed to prioritize the hinterland areas for development, a commitment shared by all government agencies including the provincial government under the leadership of Governor Nelson Dayanghirang and all other local government units in support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Whole-of-Nation Approach to Attain Sustainable Peace and to End Local Insurgency.
Home to about a thousand households, the hinterland ancestral domain is perched on top of a mountain located approximately 21 kilometers from the national highway. These ancestral lands cover 14,000 hectares comprising the sub-villages of Lanangan, Lanipga, Hanginan, Cabayugan, Magubahay, Kawayan, Kaliongan, Danawan, Sangab, Panlaisan, Bantawan, Old Sangab and Butay. By Karen Lou Deloso/Photos by Eden Jhan Licayan