Lianga, Surigao del Sur – With the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the legitimate Indigenous Peoples (IP) leaders, the first ever Christmas tree was lighted at the tribal hall by the Conflict-Affected IP Community in Sitio Simuwao (Kilometer 9), Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on November 24.
With the influence of the Christian religious sectors, particularly the Dominican sisters, Aglipayan and Catholic Churches and various religious missionaries, many of the IP communities were converted and have accepted the tradition of Christmas.
The Community Support Team composed of the 9th Special Forces “Hounds” Company of the 3rd Special Forces “Arrowhead” Battalion, 41st CMO Company and the Philippine National Police Community Relations with the Barangay Local Government of Diatagon, the Sangguniang Kabataan and the Diatagon Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative (IPMR) worked together with the IP Community to make a Christmas Tree out of recycled materials and lighted it up with colorful Christmas lights. This Christmas tree symbolizes Peace, Hope, Love and Reconciliation which are the virtues obtained from the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The IP Community is hopeful that through the Community Support Program and the Whole-of-Nation Approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Communist NPA Terrorists’ and their front organizations would choose the path to peace and stop their exploitation on the IP Community in Andap Valley Complex.
Felix Tayon, Vice Chairman sitio Kilometer 9 and a member of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa mga Sumusunod (MAPASU), an anti-EO 70 organization, said that gradually, he can now see the positive developmental changes in their community.
“Hindi lang talaga mabigla sa una dahil dati takot talaga kami sa mga sundalo, pero ngayon, unti-unti na kaming nasasanay na kasama sila at nakikita naming ang kaibahan ngayon,” Tayon, said.
Meanwhile, The Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the military continues to humbly reach out to the religious sectors and MAPASU to reconcile and work together to attain lasting peace in Andap Valley Complex citing that we have one common goal which is to end conflict. The government also encourage the religious sector to help them facilitate peaceful surrenders for the rebels to avoid any unnecessary loss of lives.
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