The month of October, ” Indigenous People’s Month, saw an upsurge of activities on cultural regeneration among the Subanen in this town roughly 60 kilometers from Pagadian City.
‘Cultural regeneration’ has recently become a priority concern among civil society groups interested in advancing the cause of the indigenous peoples or the lumad in Mindanao. Fr. Albert Alejo S.J.’s book, “Generating Energies in Mt. Apo: Cultural Politics in a Contested Environment, has provided the framework leading to the popularization of cultural regeneration. In the last weekend of October, rituals were held that showed the Subanen’s indigenous faith, tradition and belief systems are intact, even as some of them have joined various Christian denominations. A rare treat. The Subanen people’s arts were showcased in cultural presentations; flutists and agong players gave visitors and guests a taste of original Subanen music. Adults, young people and children showed the lowlanders the Subanen dance, and story-telling sessions displayed the indigenous manner of reciting prose. Drawings by Subanen children were exhibited at the Pesalabuhan House where an exhibit showcasing the crops and crafts of the Subanen people underlined the importance of cultivating and reviving these as part of their cultural regeneration. Subanen women sold all kinds of indigenous food in a market that was set up for the occasion. There were camote and cassava cooked inside bamboo stalks; plain and sticky rice wrapped in leaves that gave the rice a distinct flavour (leaves include those from kamindang and donggit trees); indigenous vegetables from wild plants and palms found in the forests cooked with indigenous spices (bark, roots and wild plants like the ganda, patiis and tetola). There was also a variety of wild fruits including the konohogito, dalutet, kinokokoting, katmon, lelotaka and toyabang. After a taste of toyabang, everything else one eats becomes sweet, including the sour katmon.

Popularizing indigenous products and cuisine. The idea behind the market was to popularize the indigenous products and cuisine of the Subanen, which are no longer known because of the growing influence of Bisaya lowlanders. Another reason is deforestation, which has made most of these products and ingredients, which grow only in the forests, difficult to find. There was another exhibit on food processing. For income-generation, the Subanen have ventured into the processing of local fruits (durian jam), spices (ginger jelly), herbal medicine, drinks and others. They have also experimented in packaging these finished products to give them a niche in the market. The month-long activities were jointly planned and implemented by the Ipil Development Foundation (IDF) Consortium in cooperation with the Municipality of Lakewood. The IDF is a consortium of the Indigenous Peoples’ Apostolate of the Parish of Lakewood, the Mesaligan Pesalabuhan Subanen (the people’s organization of the Subanen) and the Kaliwat Theatre Collective.

The consortium’s mission. The consortium’s mission is “to advance the recognition of Indigenous Peoples Rights, uplift their quality of life, promote social and inter-generational equity, as well as enhance the integrity of their culture.” The consortium’s chairperson, Fr. Angelo Biancat, PIME, parish priest of Lakewood, has been in the country for more than 30 years. Fr. Biancat has also been the main advocate in the campaign to support the rights of the Subanen here. “I am very pleased with the way this program has advanced in the past seven years. It has certainly helped the Subanen so that they will be able to keep their remaining ancestral domain,” Fr. Biancat said. Since 1995, the consortium has engaged in securing the Certificate of Ancestral Domain claims, and later the titles, over the 10,000- hectare land that is left of the Subanen’s ancestral domain. Along with the Western Mindanao Community Initiative Projects (WMCIP) of the Department of Agrarian Reform, the consortium has developed plans for sustainable development among the barangays within the approved ancestral domain territory . The projects, including barangay enterprise development, natural and human resource management, are currently being implemented. The management plans are geared towards the maximization of the land resources now fully controlled by the Subanen so that they can achieve food security in their communities.

Culture safeguarded and regenerated. As the Subanen are secured within their sanctuaries, elements of their culture are safeguarded and regenerated. These include their language, rituals and belief systems, self -expression and representations as in their songs and music, crafts, cuisine and the like. Training programs for capability-building among the barangay officials, including the chieftains and elders (timoays), have also been conducted to consolidate the village organizations. The weekend of October 27-28 saw the culmination of Indigenous Peoples’ Month in Lakewood. Visitors from other parts of the Zamboanga peninsula–representing the Church, LGUs, government line agencies, non-governmental organizations and people’s ii); organizations participated in the interesting mix of activities such. as those mentioned earlier. A symposium traced the genealogy and presented the methodology and approaches of this program-a culture-sensitive methodology that uses tools of Participatory Rural Appraisals, including the Strategic Environmental Assessment.

The Subanen people themselves played very active roles in evolving the management plans, along with the local barangay units. At a workshop, representatives of the four barangays within the . ancestral domain sat with key government agents to discuss the implementation of various projects incorporated within the plans. Funding commitments were also reiterated by government agencies like the DAR’s WMCIP. Bishop Antonio Ledesma of the Prelature of lpil, who attended the weekend gathering, affirmed the objectives of the consortium to “promote culture, peace and progress among the Subanen in Lakewood” and praised the Subanen for their efforts to develop the ancestral domain they now fully control. For years, the Prelature of Ipil, which has a sizable lumad population, has supported the Indigenous Peoples’ Apostolate. The IDF program in Lakewood serves as a model for the whole Prelature. Already, the Kaliwat Theatre Collective has been invited to perform before the General Assembly of Pastoral Workers in November 2002. Rogelio Borbon, the general manager of WMCIP, articulated the desire of those in government “to provide maximum support to this endeavor which will redound to the benefit of the Subanen in Lakewood.”