‘Lumad’ struggles in songs by kids
(First of two parts)
They clutched the microphones tightly after they were ushered into the performance area of the activity center of a mall in Davao City. After they began singing, their accompanying music suddenly went dead, sending a technician to the scene to troubleshoot.
The music never played again, but the children of “lumad” (indigenous) families continued their number, the blending voices not missing a beat even as they drowned the mall’s piped-in music.
It was not the usual pop song that Tunog Bobongan, or Sound of the Mountains, rendered that the 13 children, belonging to different tribes in the Davao region, got giddy about, but “Bisan Kami Bata (Even If We Are Children)” in the group’s 14-song album called “Salugpongan (Unity).”
Roshell Royo, a 16-year-old Matigsalog from Davao City’s Marilog District, said the songs helped her and the other children express their dreams and fears in the midst of uncertain life in their communities.
“Our goal in singing is to create a wave of music so that the government will hear about our poor living conditions in our tribal villages. I hope that through our songs, they will take heed of our yearning for education,” Royo said in the vernacular.
“We only want to study to help our fellow lumad get out from hunger and poverty,” she said.
Royo’s dream is simple—study, earn a college degree, get a job and help her tribe by teaching in schools. But the incoming Grade 9 student of Tugbok National High School said she might not reach college if her family stayed hard up.
Her parents are farmers struggling to put food on the table and send four children to school. They do not earn much, Royo said, and when the family budget gets tight, their education will be the first to be sacrificed.
The Tunog Bobongan members are not only putting melody in their aspirations for education, but they are also singing about environmental protection and defending their ancestral land.
Datu Duluman Dawsay of the Talaingod Manobo tribe in Davao del Norte province said the elders of the lumad groups were really proud about the children’s creative response.
In the 1990s, Datu Duluman and the rest of the tribespeople launched a “pangayao,” or war, against a big logging company after they did not receive any help from the government to protect their land. They staged protests in Davao and in as far as Manila, and even approached international institutions. Only a few responded to their appeal.
At least seven Talaingod Manobo leaders and villagers were killed by suspected government agents and private guards of the company. Armed only with spears and bows and arrows, tribal warriors struck back against the company’s security forces.
A respected tribal leader, Datu Guibang Apoga, was declared one of the most wanted persons in the area. He has gone into hiding deep in the remaining forests of Davao del Norte, along with the warriors. (To be continued.)