‘Lumad’ woman warrior hailed as hero for environment
The lone living woman warrior and chieftain of the “lumad” community was hailed as an unsung hero for the environment in this year’s Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (GBK) Awards.
Abiok Ligkaian Bigkay, also known as Bai Bibiaon, was conferred the most distinguished award on Thursday at the University of the Philippines Diliman in recognition of her leadership in asserting the rights of the Talaingod Manobo to their ancestral domains in the Pantaron Mountain Range in Mindanao.
Bestowed by the Center for Environmental Concerns and partner organizations, the award is given in recognition of an individual who served as an inspiration and example to Filipinos “for offering time and talents for the defense of the environment and advancement of people’s welfare.”
“Bai Bibiaon’s leadership is a keystone in the Lumad’s impregnable defense of Pantaron against big logging and mining, preserving its virgin forests and pristine headwaters in the process,” read the group’s tribute to the awardee.
Bigkay serves as the chair emeritus of the Sabokohan To Mo Lumad Kamalitanan or the Confederation of Lumad Women in Southern Mindanao.
She is also a member of the council of elders of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Mindanao.
Bigkay said the recognition would fuel her people’s struggle for their rights over their ancestral lands.
“I call on the lumad youth to continue the fight,” she told the Inquirer. “To President Duterte, we hope that you remove the big mining companies and disarm the paramilitary groups in our lands.”
Leon Dulce, national coordinator of partner organization Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said the recognition of the protectors of the environment could not have come at a more significant time.
“[Our awardees] are some of the best protectors of our environment, but they remain unheard and set aside,” he said.
Also recognized for their work were Cagayan Archbishop Sergio Utleg, Aurora farmer leader Josefina Panginen and the late Francis Morales.
Utleg was hailed for his actions that successfully shuttered illegal black sand mining operations in Cagayan Valley.
Panginen is a half-blind day care teacher who became an organizer in Aurora province against mining and logging organizations.
Morales was posthumously awarded for helping organize survivors of Typhoon “Pablo” in 2012 in Davao.
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