ILIGAN CITY – The irony of the whole thing is as funny as it is infuriating.
I was born and raised in Bukidnon. In Malaybalay, no less. Every year, without fail (or at least before I came to Iligan for college), I had all the chance to enjoy the Kaamulan Festival. And I did. I didn’t get up at 4 a.m. every year to secure a good spot to witness the tribal street dancing, but I did have fun with my family and friends nonetheless. It’s my fourth year in college, and also my fourth year of not being home for Kaamulan, and I regret not dancing in the streets a little longer and singing along to the Binukid chants a little louder when I still had the chance. Ah, the irony of only fully appreciating something you once had at the tip of your fingers when it’s no longer in your grasp.
The bigger irony though, and also my bigger regret, is only realizing the gravity of Kaamulan when I was no longer living in Bukidnon. But perhaps I needed that distance to get a better vantage point. Maybe it was true when they said you see the bigger picture from afar.
Like I said, the festival was something I took for granted growing up as a local. My younger naive mind was sure it was something I would always enjoy firsthand. I guess it’s also that same naivety that made me think of Kaamulan as something solely for enjoyment. I knew it was to celebrate the seven tribes of Bukidnon, but I never truly felt and understood the weight it carried. And it’s easy not to. Between all the booths, and the bands and celebrities from the Capital, and the grandiose fireworks display, it’s easy to forget that this festival is supposed to be for the people Bukidnon truly belongs to. And it’s easy to forget that Bukidnon is theirs when over the years Kaamulan has become so grossly commercialized and politicized, it seems like including the Lumads has just become sloppy lip service.
I am—we are—no stranger to how politicians, especially in the Philippine context, work. But that does not mean it’s something we should tolerate. Although I am still in Iligan, I could not help but be angry reading updates about the presence of certain people worming their way into the festival to no doubt talk about some bullshit promise they will fail to fulfill. There’s even been a lock down in the Capitol Grounds just to cater to their political agenda.
This is the biggest irony, and the one I am—we are—most angry about. Why are we allowing these people to taint the festivities with their ass-kissing when they couldn’t even care less about the Lumad struggle? This administration does not care about the Lumads. How many times the President said he will bomb Lumad schools, I have lost count. Too much Lumad blood has been shed. The struggle to defend ancestral lands as both corporations and the military try to drive them away seems never-ending. Kaamulan was supposed to be something they could fully claim as theirs. And what have we done? Turned it into another event where these people in positions of power and privilege can spew lies about how they are all about serving the masses when we should have really known better by now.
My heart aches for my home. It holds so much bounty and promise, but it weeps. Tonight I shall be playing Hozier’s Nina Cried Power on repeat and hope that back home, the Bukidnons dancing along to the sound of ethnic drums and gongs find the strength to fight against the invisible hand that seeks to oppress us and our people and our land.
Maayad ha pag uma.