Kanduli, reclaiming Mt. Firis

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Kanduli, reclaiming Mt. Firis

2012 October 27, five hundred members of the Teduray, Lambangian, and Dulangan Manobo tribes, majority of whom were women, held a kanduli at the peak of Mt. Firis  – the first thanksgiving ritual at the sacred mountain after more than thirty years of war in Maguindanao.  The men and women of the Teduray Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo tribes united to have a cultural march of peace, also called as Menemantad. They marched a day earlier from Hill 224 and set camp for the night at the foot of Mt. Firis, where they recounted stories of their ancestors, of men and women leaders who fought to maintain peace in the attempt to deliver their people from rasay (sufferings) and who struggled to protect their ancestral lands, tribal governance and justice system.

It was a tearful IP thanksgiving, for the Menemantad was the first ritual held by the indigenous peoples (IPs) in their sacred mountain after 30 of being driven away by armed hostilities, which have involved the so-called Blackshirts, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM). In 2000, during the all out war of government against the MILF, Mt. Firis was the site of Camp Omar of then MILF Commander Umbra Kato, who later seceded and formed the BIFM. Government troops also maintained their presence in the surrounding perimeters such as Hill 224.

The cultural march indicated that peace may really be in the offing, having been able to stage it after the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.  But more than that, Menemantad is also about reclaiming the sacred ground and the right to perform their cultural practices as indigenous peoples within the so-called Bangsamoro.

The march also marked their celebration of the IP Thanksgiving Day on October 29. Many of the marchers are women who narrated that they shed tears when they came upon the burnt poles of tenines (worship house), desecrated tomb site and sacred stones in Mt.Firis.  Batew is the sacred stone where their ancestor Lagey Firis was believed to have ascended through diyat (going to heaven), following the steps of another epic leader Lagey Lengkuwos. Meanwhile, the violated burial site belonged to Gogon Ignacio, a woman IP leader who was the daughter of contemporary leader Maw; she led the IP community in 1975 and died in 1998.  All these leaders represent the history, identity and relationships of the Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo tribes.

– Daryl Leyesa

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