September 18, 2017


Last month, I received an invitation from a colleague to attend a gathering of advocates for national minorities' rights. This gathering is part of Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya or simply called Lakbayan, the first and the biggest alliance of national minorities in the Philippines. Now on its third year, University of the Philippines Diliman serves as the home for more than 3,000 delegates of indigenous peoples and Moros from all over the country from September 1-21, 2017.

This also is my first year to attend Lakbayan, after a taking a long, long break from org-related activities. Me along with former colleagues attended the activity to meet old and new colleagues and of course, visit our Lakbayanis.

Lakbayan is a form of assertion of national minorities in their right to self-determination. This year, the aim is to show strong resistance to the US-Duterte regime's attacks on Moro communities and indigenous peoples, particularly in the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao and the All-Out War. It also aims to stop the policies of the Duterte government in thecontinuing seizure and vandalism of the ancestral lands and territories of the national minorities.

Today, there are 153 ethno-linguistic groups that make up the national minority. They are divided into major groupsin regions such as Moro people (13 groups), the Lumad (18 groups), citizens of Cordillera (7 groups) and Aggay, Kalinga, and other groups in the Northern Luzon; Aeta of Central Luzon; Dumagat, Mangyan and Palawan Hilltribes of Southern Luzon; and the Tumandok and Ati of Central Visayas.

The national minorities are among the poorest and most marginalized sectors of the Philippine society. They have been suffering for a very long time from national oppression in the forms of:

- The violation of indigenous peoples' prior rights to ancestral lands, through landgrabbing, oppressive laws and extractive projects
- Political misrepresentation and the non-recognition of indigenous socio-political institutions and processes
- The commercialization and vulgarization of indigenous cultures
- Historical government neglect
- Institutionalized discrimination

The 3-week activity includes mass mobilizations, forums, educational discussions, integration with the delegates, and cultural presentations. I had the chance to attend the cultural discussion for the Cordillera delegation and was lucky enough to meet old colleagues. I also had the chance to meet new faces. Some notable representatives from the congress were also present in the activity.

Lakbayan 2017 will culminate on September 21, which falls on the day of the 45th Martial Law commemoration. A demonstration, will take place in Luneta. If you are able, please take time to visit our brothers and sisters in UP Diliman; participate in the different activities and listen to their stories.

Some photos I took from the activity can be seen below: