Mabtad as Told by a Kalinga Warrior
PUBLISHED ON December 20, 2008 AT 4:30 PM
In his uggayam, or traditional chant, Ama Julio Longan, 68, of the Taloctoc sub-tribe of Kalinga urged his audience in a human rights rally to join mabtad, where Cordillera communities and groups are urged to collectively act in searching for James Balao, an activist missing since September 17.
BY ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. north of Manila) – In his uggayam, or traditional chant, Ama Julio Longan, 68, of the Taloctoc sub-tribe of Kalinga urged his audience in a human rights rally to join mabtad, where Cordillera communities and groups are urged to collectively act in searching for James Balao, an activist missing since September 17.
Mabtad is a traditional call and practice in Kalinga and Mountain Province, particularly in binodngan or bodong (peace pact) practicing areas. Members of communities are mobilized during calamities or in times of dire need – whether it is due to man made acts or natural ones, explained Longan, a veteran of restoring broken peace pacts in Kalinga.
“If a community member who went to hunt failed to return, mabtad is used to call the people to look for the missing person. The same when someone is allegedly taken by their enemy tribe, the able-bodied men in the community are called to conduct war with their enemy,” he explained in Ilocano.
Mabtad is characterized by sadness. Hence in the gathering, gongs, which reflect happiness, are not used. Instead, people used kalasag (shields), pakipak (bamboo instruments), and gayang (spear) in producing sounds, Longan pointed out.
Mabtad is being adopted in the case of James Balao, whose mother hails from Mountain Province, he said. It is not only in the case of Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), that mabtad was used.
Earlier in October 1987, Ama Daniel Ngayaan, of Tanglag was abducted by members of the late Conrado Balweg’s Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), a para-military group, at the Cagaluan Gate in Lubuagan, related Ama Longan.
Ngayaan’s tribe mates, members of the peace pact holders’ organization Cordillera Bodong Association (CBA), and the CPA were called for a mabtad, to look for Ngayaan, then CBA chairman and CPA vice-chairperson.
“We went to look for Ngayaan in different places, including forests, rivers, military camps, among others,” explained Longan, present president of the Cordillera Elders Association (CEA).
The family of Ngayaan filed a habeas corpus petition, a legal remedy filed with the court to ask it to order the person or group holding him to produce his person. The petition was filed after Balweg admitted in an interview that his group abducted Ngayaan. The court however denied the said petition.
Balao’s family and friends filed a petition for a writ of amparo to compel the military to resurface the abducted Balao. The writ of amparo has been adopted by the Supreme Court to compel a person or entity to produce a missing person, and if the person is not in their custody, to exert efforts to seek information on the whereabouts of the missing person.
The Regional Trial Court of Benguet is expected to issue its decision on the Balao family’s petition for a writ of amparo. Balao’s case is the first writ of amparo filed in the region.
Unselfish indigenous rights advocate
Longan said he knew James since the time they were lobbying for the inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights in the 1987 Constitution, which was then being drafted by members of a Constitutional Commission appointed by President Corazon Aquino in 1986.
“He was a staff of Commissioner Ponciano Bennagen, who was endorsed by indigenous peoples,” Longan added.
Longan said Balao, who was already a staff of the CPA then, helped Bennagen in introducing provisions in the 1987 Constitution that recognizes indigenous peoples’ rights to their culture, tradition and ancestral lands. He clarified though that those were outputs of indigenous peoples’ and their technical know-how.
Under Section 22, Article II of the 1987 Constitution, the State is mandated to recognize and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities while Section 1, Article X mandates the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.
Longan claimed that these provisions on indigenous peoples were not at all included in past constitutions.
“Here is an unselfish person who served the people without expecting anything in return. It is high time for us to pay in return by joining the mabtad,” Longan said.
His uggayam reverberates: “Uggayam, o gayaman, bareng no maawatan, turay a kadakdaksan, tapno miruar ida no ayanat nangipupukan, ta saan met a masida wenno makan (I hope it will be understood, by this worst administration, to tell us where they had imprisoned (James), as he (James) is not a viand or a food.) Northern Dispatch/ Posted byBulatlat.com