IPs demonstrate human and Christian values worthy of emulation

By Myrna Bermudo


They reside along the mountain slopes of the towns of Buhi, Ocampo, Sagñay, Baao, Tigaon, Pili, Presentacion, Bula, Balatan and in the City of Iriga of the Archdiocese of Caceres. Majority of the Indigenous People ( IPs ) live in Buhi (26,000), Ocampo ( 10,000), Iriga (9,500), Sangay (8, 700), Baao (5, 338), and in Tigaon (4, 675). Most of them are called Agta Tabangnon.


There are 72, 347 IPs and 14, 500 IP households in the Archdiocese of Caceres distributed in nine (9) towns and one (1) city based on the survey by the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) in 2021.


Fr. Antonio Rex Palaya, says that the most endearing virtue of Agta Tabangnon is their respect for the needs of other members of the tribe. “Kun igwa sindang mahiling na sarong bulig nin batag sa kadlagan, an kukuanon ninda tama sana sa pangangaipo kan saindang pamilya sa aldaw na iyan. Kun kaya, sarong sapad sana an kinukua, dai inuubos. Iniisip ninda na igwa man nin iba pang nagugutom asin nanganga-ipo kan kakanon. Bako sindang gahaman.”


They also believe and trust in God’s providence: “Kun an mga gamgam sa kakahoyan asin mga sira sa kasalogan inaataman nin Kagurangnan, kami man na saiyang linalang, danay na inaataman.”


Some of the IPs still practice nomadic life to search for food. Some have already adopted to a semi- nomadic life especially those who has been granted ancestral domain by the government. Only a few has finished college education. Many IPs have only finished high school. They are sent as laborers and kasambahay to augment the family income. Fr. Palaya appeals for colleges and universities to offer full scholarship for tertiary education for Agta Tabangnons.


The Archdiocese of Caceres Ministry for Indigenous peoples held a Benefit Dinner Concert: HIMIG SA MGA KATUTUBO on April 29, 2022 at Pasto de Iriola Agri-Tourism and family farm, Ocampo, Camarines Sur. Proceeds of ticket sales will be for the benefit Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the ministry and for the implementation of its programs and projects within the Archdiocese of Caceres.


Fr. Antonio Rex Palaya, the director of the Caceres Ministry for Indigenous People (CMIP), said that the concert will highlight IP culture through the songs and dances which will be presented by IP singer, Tribal Dancers and Chorale. They will be supported by the Singing Priests of Caceres, Mozart Band, Vicente Quindo and Bicolanos artists and composers.


Caceres Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, DD established the ministry in 2015 with Fr. Misael Quindo as its first director. In 2020, Fr. Palaya was appointed director to continue serving the needs of the IPs especially their socio- cultural spiritual needs towards integral human development .


CMIP plans to re-assess their needs and problems. Proceeds of the concert will help facilitate the updating, collecting of data re-survey on IPs in connection with the synodal year. “Hopefully they will have a voice that will be heard in the Archdiocese which will represent their sector, which is one of the most neglected in the society,” says Fr. Palaya.


Archbishop Tirona, in his homily during the celebration of the Season on Creation Indigenous People’s Sunday, October 2021 said:


“Mas kilala ng ating mga kapatid na katutubo ang kalikasan. Built-in ang kanilang paggalang at pakikipag-ugnayan sa kalikasan. Naroon sa kanilang kalooban ang pagmamahal. I-angat natin at kilalanin ang ating mga kapatid na katutubo. Tayong lahat ay isang pamilya ng Diyos. Tayo ay may ugnayan. Tayo ay magdiwang at magkapit-bisig upang i-alay sa Diyos ang ating adhikain na magkaroon ng ating sariling lupaing ninuno at mabigyan diin ang kahalagahan nating lahat bilang isang bansang Pilipinas. I-angat natin at kilalanin ang ating mga kapatid na katutubo. Maki-isa tayo sa mga katutubo at maki-isa sa Inang Kalikakasan.”


As Pope Francis affirms “ ...it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best.” (Laudato Si 146)