NOTE: This is an archived story originally published on UPLB Perspective Editorial Vol 43 Issue 5, on October 2016.
On October I0, different national minorities traveled from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog to participate in the Lakbayan 2016 to forward their calls to the Duterte government. The University of the Philippines Los Baños was designated as a stopover for the thousands of delegates.
As a host for the minorities, the University Student Council requested for use of Copeland Gymnasium to house the thousands of delegates for Lakbayan 2016 and amidst the Loyalty Day festivities. the UPLB administration declined the USC’s request, citing reasons that it would hamper classes being held in the gymnasium.
National minorities of the Philippines made up more than 40 indigenous groups all over the country. This constitutes about 14% of the national population or over seven million people.
National minorities are distinct peoples, with cultures, political structures, economic systems, and spiritual beliefs different from that of the predominant Filipino majority. They are descendants of people who refused to surrender to Spanish and American conquest, and rejected Spanish and subsequently American colonial rule and neo-colonialism.
They trace their ancestral origins to the land on which they live and their cultures are rooted in their Land. They are conscious of their identity as distinct peoples, independent of the colonized, Westernized, and the predominant Filipino majority.
All national minorities share reverence for their ancestral lands. To them, land is the totality of life. It is the center or core of all aspects of their life—economic, political, cultural, and spiritual. It is sacred.
For national minorities. the concept of owning land by means of paper, much less the buying of land to own it or the selling of land for money, is an alien idea. They believe that land cannot be owned by anyone because life itself comes from the land. It is this belief that was exploited by colonizers, governments, private individuals, and corporations to dispossess national minorities of their lands.
The concept of ancestral domain only came about as a result of their displacement from and dispossession of their land still continuing today. They lay claim to the lands to correct the centuries-old injustice brought upon them. They lay claim to the land in order to exist as peoples.
The struggle for ancestral domain is at the center of the struggle for self-determination. For national minorities, autonomy, freedom of religion, and self- administration. It spans every aspect of indigenous life-control of the land and its natural resources, self-governance, inter-personal and inter-community relations, protection of the environment —life in its totality. This way, national minorities will be able to reap the fruits of their lands and their labor.
The choice of theme for the 98th Loyalty Day Parade is quite ironic for their lack of hospitality to national minorities who came to university. The UPLB administration shrugging off the idea of trying to block the Mangyans from joining the Loyalty Day parade just shows how much service to the people the University is giving.
The USC may have faults in miscalculating the bureaucratic process of the University. Especially when the student institution had the luxury of time to have a dialogue on September 30. The Lakbayan 2016 could have been included in the program for Loyalty Day especially when preparations for Loyalty Day were held as early as July. However, as UPLB administrators, they should know better what to do in cases like these.
The struggle of different national minorities in the country is a huge concern. What University officials do not see is that students can learn something from different national minorities. As the national university shall we close our doors to our countrymen in dire need of help? Has the pride of being an Iskolar ng Bayan para sa Bayan just become a slogan? Action speaks louder than words and UPLB officials have already made their choice of what transpired on October 10.
The treatment of national minorities in the University speaks a lot about our UPLB officials. For they are treated like second-class citizens in their very own country Who are our national minorities compared to Emperor Hirohito and Empress Michiko of Japan? Their bloodlines are not a [sic] “luxurious” as these Japanese royalty [sic]. Who are our national minorities compared to foreign exchange students from Nagoya University, University of Tokyo, Korea’s Far East University, Czech Republic’s Czech University of Life Sciences; and USA’s Michigan State University?
Keeping our national minorities here, even for a day would not give benefits to the University. Lastly, who are our national minorities compared to Bill Gates, who is willing to fund a research project worth $20 million? Our national minorities come from the poorest of the Poor, they do not have the “riches” that Gates has.
When “Rekindling the UPLB spirit in the service of humanity” has just become a meaningless slogan and mere rhetoric, then UPLB has a problem. The challenge for Iskolar ng Bayan is to be vigilant towards the actions of the UPLB administration. A lot has happened during the past months and UPLB administrators are all but unfazed.
Students should call them out when they drown out the cries of the masses for the Iskolar ng Bayan can make waves of change that would topple down UPLB administrators from their ivory towers. For inaction that UPLB administrators have done towards our national minorities, the students can provide. [P]