Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Siocon Tribal Leaders Reunite For Good

Subanon tribal leader Jose Anoy is being assisted as he dons a traditional garb during the reunification of tribal leaders in Mount Canatuan in the town of Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte province in Mindanao on August 27, 2009. And Anoy shakes hands with TVIRD President Eugene Mateo as as TVIRD Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John Ridsdel looks on. He is also greeted by other Subanon tribal leaders. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

MOUNT CANATUAN, Philippines - The Subanon tribal leaders of Siocon in Zamboanga del Norte province – after almost a decade of conflict – have finally united to set aside their differences and strengthen their tribal leadership through a gradual process of reconciliation and reunification.

The decision enabled them to put their past differences aside and work together in the future to take advantage - through the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSPP) that they will draft together as one tribe - of the opportunity provided by a mining project and create a sustainable indigenous community.

The reunification was formally acknowledged in a memorable ceremony of all the tribe on August 27 when Jose Anoy was bestowed the title of timuoy which means chieftain of Siocon, following the customary rites of the Subanon indigenous people of the Pito Kodolongan or Seven Rivers of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Gulang Gukom Noval Lambo, the senior timuoy of the Seven Rivers, reaffirmed Anoy’s position in the tribe, which was recognized and endorsed by all the members of the Siocon tribe’s Council of Elders (COE).

“Moktolipun numunkitu kinilolaan si Boy Anoy nog iyon og timuoy sog CADT (From now on, Boy Anoy is recognized as the timuoy of the CADT),” Lambo said in Subanon as he placed a traditional timuoy garb on Anoy’s shoulders.

Anoy responded: “Mokposolamat u nog moktolipun numunkitu kinilolaan na og golal u kuni. Na’amu mog kalanngalang mokpolani dianakon bila ongon og glogon niu. (I am grateful that my rank in the CADT area has been recognized. Do not hesitate to approach me whatever your problem may be and I am ready to help you as best as I can.)

At one point during the ceremonies, Anoy danced to the beat of indigenous musical instruments before his tribe and people.

By “CADT”, Lambo and Anoy were referring to the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title awarded by the Philippine government to the Subanons of Siocon on June 12, 2003, benefiting some 2,000 tribal members.

The CADT encompasses a total of 8,213 hectares of land straddling the villages of Tabayo and Candiz, both in the town of Siocon, as well as the village of Kilalaban in adjacent Baliguian town.

Within the CADT is the 508-hectare area under the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), which had been signed by the Philippine government and TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc. (TVIRD) on October 23, 1996, prior to the awarding of the CADT to the Subanons.

TVIRD has been producing copper concentrates from its Canatuan MPSA area since March of this year, following the company’s previous operations at the same location that produced gold and silver from July 2004 to April 2008.

“We are pleased with the reunification of the leaders of this tribe,” TVIRD President Eugene Mateo said in Filipino. “We waited for this to happen for a long time. We congratulate you for agreeing to come back together as one tribe. Let us help each other in the development of your CADT. You can be assured that while our company is here, we will support your plans for the progress of your community.”

Mateo stressed that TVIRD will keep its commitment to support the Subanons during the formulation of their ADSDPP.

Abdul Puengan, Director of the government National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Western Mindanao, said he is happy to have witnessed “this memorable day.”

“At last tribal leaders recognize Timuoy Anoy. Congratulations! Your CADT was given to you in 2003, but it failed to take off because of the disunity among its leaders. Today is indeed a remarkable moment for all Subanons,” he said, speaking before the Subanon people who witnessed the historic reunification ceremony.

For her part, Jessica Lucero, Director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for Western Mindanao, said she hopes “this occasion will mark the beginning of a stronger teamwork (among the Subanons, the government and TVIRD) towards the attainment of our dream of developing the Subanon homeland.”

Under the Philippine Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, the CADT claimants should draft the ADSDPP with officers of the NCIP. The Plan should include sections on indigenous knowledge systems and practices, a profile of the domain’s natural resources, analysis of the area’s development needs, and a commitment to maintain ecological balance. Once the Plan has been fine-tuned, the community as a whole will be responsible for managing the domain.

The reunification of the tribe and the reaffirmation of Anoy’s leadership have finally put an end to years of disagreements over the personalities of leadership, as well as the direction of the community with regard to development.

The tribal spokesman Onsino Mato said the formal conferment of the timuoy rank to Anoy is the “ultimate day ng ating pagkakaintindihan (of our agreement)…as we recognize the traditional leader of our tribe.”
Addressing the members of the COE, Mato said: “In the name of Apo Manglang (in Subanon tradition, the founder of the Siocon tribe)...we will never forsake you or leave you. Lahat ng mga pangulo sa tribo, moghambulok na! (All the leaders of the tribe, unite!)”

Bonifacio Patoh, village chairman of Tabayo and the Siocon Subanon Association, Inc. (SSAI), said “Anoy can bank on our full support, especially during the drafting of the ADSDPP. We’ve always wanted to do the ADSDPP. Now that the tribe is united, we can proceed with the ADSDPP because our fellow tribe people in the CADT have been waiting for the plan for a long time. I wish to thank all those who helped us become one again. Thank you, Timuoy Lambo. Thank you TVIRD.”

Paul Arias, manager of the TVIRD Canatuan, said in his speech that “the only way to development is through peace and the only way to peace is through reconciliation.”

The path to Subanon oneness - spurred by the need to draft their ADSDPP - began in August 2008, when members of various Subanon groups in Canatuan participated in a capacity-building workshop on the ADSDPP. These organizations were the COE, the Siocon Subanon Association Inc. (SSAI), the Siocon Subanon Women’s Association Inc. (SSWAI), and the Siocon Youth Organization (SYO).

In May and June 2009, the NCIP facilitated separate meetings between the COE members and Anoy who all agreed then to start their ADSDPP formulation process. And on June 12, on the occasion of the 6th Anniversary of the Siocon CADT, Timuoy Lambo spearheaded the initial talks of the Subanon peace process. On June 27, a “cleansing ritual” became the highlight of the reconciliation and reunification meeting among members of Anoy’s group, the COE and the SSAI.

During the August 27 rites called Gumpia Nog Pigbogolalan Sog Bonua Nog Siocon, Zamboanga Del Norte which means “Putting in order the tribal leadership and organizational structure in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte,” Timuoy Doring Sangila of Baliguian led the burning of incense, which, according to Subanon belief, would carry their prayers to their god Mikpongon.

Sangila also passed around to the other timuoys who participated in the ritual a white chicken, symbolizing peace and purity of intention to reconcile and unite and in keeping with the ritual’s theme Gomigus Bu’supali Biniyanan Sogpopaya’ or “In friendship there is oneness.”

“The reconciliation is one of the best things that ever happened in our CADT area,” said Nena Anoy, a member of the SSWAI. “It means the beginning of the development that we have dreamed of since we forged a partnership with TVIRD. I say this because before the reconciliation, our tribal leaders failed to sit down to formulate a development plan for the CADT. Now I heard that soon, the formulation of our ADSDPP will start. I am one of those who are happy that Timuoy Boy Anoy and other leaders have reconciled and reunited.”

“The Paduan event was something that I am very proud of,” said Joel Comisas, vice president of SYO. “It showed that our tribal leaders are able to set aside their personal differences and interests for the good of the entire tribe. This is something worth emulating by Subanon youths like me. Like other Subanon in the CADT, I hope and pray that the unification process will continue forward and that, soon, our tribal leaders, with Timuoy Boy Anoy taking the lead, will complete the ADSDPP for the CADT area so that every Subanon will be able enjoy the benefits of mining.”

The Subanons gifted TVIRD’s top management officials with the traditional Subanon timuoy clothing, which the guests wore for the entire duration of the ritual. Apart from Mateo, the other officials who participated in the event were John Ridsdel, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, who also conveyed his best wishes to the Subanons in their own language; Feliece Yeban, Vice President for Social Commitments; Jay Nelson, Vice President for Environment and Civil Works; and Rocky Dimaculangan, Director for Public Affairs.

Arias was joined by other members of TVIRD’s Canatuan Management Team, led by Germidas Laspinas, Officer-in-Charge of the Canatuan Operations; Pete Remoto, Mine Manager; Theresa Limpin, Community Relations and Development Office (CReDO) Manager; Edilberto Nercuit, Civil Engineering Services Manager; Lullie Micabalo, Public Affairs Manager; and Ulysses Silorio, Company Physician. Rosalie Tiongco, Corporate Human Resources and Development Manager; and Valentin Edang, Security Consultant, also came to witness the event.

TVIRD staff members were also on hand to show their support for the reunification of the company’s gracious Subanon hosts. They were Rocelle Magpayo, Social Commitments Program Officer; Rowena Adem, Executive Assistant to the General Manager; Gemma Tolentino, Company Forrester; Jose Dagala and Noelle Nazareno, CReDO Information Officer and Communication Specialist, respectively; Joana Tiglao, Public Affairs Assistant; and Lois Ladera, Company Nurse.

“While the ritual was ongoing, the skies opened momentarily to bring rains – believed to be a good sign that God was showering the event with blessings,” one Subanon said.

“It was already mid-afternoon when the traditional ceremonies ended. Mato invited everyone to take a sip of panggasi – Subanon rice wine – in the jars onstage. As people began to leave the hall, many heaved a sigh of relief; there was an unmistakable feeling of joy in everyone.”

“But everybody also agreed that the road to peace and development will still be long, winding and paved with challenges for this tribe. Nonetheless, with the openness and sincerity demonstrated by the leaders in the long process leading to this event were to be a gauge, the future looks promising indeed for the Subanons of Siocon,” said Dimaculangan. (Lullie Micabalo)

No comments: