The link of Silsilah with the Subanon tribal groups of Zamboanga Peninsula started in 1977 when Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME, founder of the Silsilah Dialogue Moevement, arrived in Siocon, Zamboanga Del Norte for his first mission in Mindanao. The death of Timuay Bakil Gumandao last April 13, 2018 is a great loss for all of us but also an occasion to honor him and encourage the young generation of Subanons to live in this “Modern Society” without losing the values of their roots as Subanons.

After the death of Timuay Bakil Gumandao, Fr. D’Ambra with other members of Silsilah went to pray in his house and met his closest relatives and one of the sons of Timuay Bakil, and they recalled the link of Subanons of Siocon with Timuay Bakil. Among the different testimonies to honor Timuay Bakil, we chose the testimony of Prof. Cecil Bernal, a retired dean of the College of Social Welfare and Development of the Western Mindanao State University who is now the coordinator of the Silsilah for the Subanon community close to Zamboanga City. Her experience and love for the Subanon community started long ago as she remembers in her tribute to Timuay Bakil that we share here in full:

I’m writing my tribute to a great Tribal Leader, TIMUAY BAKIL GUMANDAO who died at the age of 83 last April 13, 2018, but for me I still wish it could have been a hundred years more. Life is indeed short no matter what age a person dies.

Timuay was my primary source of information when the Rural-Urban Missionaries commissioned me to write the story of Subanons in the Zamboanga Peninsula. I always have looked to him as a great icon, a leader who stood firm on his stand against mining, against illegal logging and embraced at heart and practiced the principle on Indigenous farming (bio-dynamic agriculture).

His advanced age was not a deterrent on his active involvement with their organization known as LPLSICC (Labuan Patalon, Limpapa Subanon Indigenous Cultural Community). The same organization which vigorously had struggled for the claim of their Ancestral Domain. He was with the team who visited the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to study how the Joint Management Agreement was forged with the Aeta Gambala of Zambales.

Like any other leader, he aspired that the same agreement be forged between their group and the ZamboEcozone. This wish of his is underway to be realized soon.

Timuay Bakil’s residence is found at the end of Barangay Limpapa, around 50 meters from the coastline. Every trip to do official visit to him is always a desire of my heart and so with the Silsilah staffs who joined me. It is because of the amazing view when we reach the highway on top of the hill, plus the modern bridge completed in 2011. The sea at the rear of his residence is perpetually restless. During the storm season, the waves are as tall as the houses in the sea.

Our beloved Timuay was interred April 19, 2018 at 2 PM at a nearby cemetery in a tomb well prepared by his children. The love of his children (8 living & 5 dead) was evident on how they gathered and helped during his wake. There was a tarpaulin bearing his name with his enlarged photo, a smaller photo on top of the simple coffin and two (2) bouquets of flowers.

What was unique, was a meeting held in front of the people preparing to go with the funeral. The meeting was attended by Subanon Leaders local and from  Zamboanga del Norte. I was told it was a process of selecting a new leader to take his place. Martin said Timuay Bakil cannot be buried without a successor to be selected. Right there and then we all witnessed a new Timuay emerge in the person of his younger brother by the name of Dionisio Gumandao (Temporary).

His remains were carried by loyal supporters including Carlito Santos, Silsilah staff whom Jojo said is also one of Timuay’s “adopted sons”.