Datu Jaime Panuayan signs the Manifesto of Support during the Kalahi-CIDSS Pamana municipal orientation.

Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao Del Norte – The Ata-Manobo tribe here has never lived in an environment that is as peaceful as it is now. They have suffered years of chaos as tribal wars prevail in their tribe.

Lives were lost, inhumane acts stirred up and justice was very elusive to the people back then. Settlement was tried but injustice still prevailed.

Indigenous people may be rich and diverse in culture, but they don’t have a center or a station where they can settle their issues and concerns.

Datu Jaime Panuayan, assistant mandatory representative of the Ata-Manobo tribe, shared his predicament before Kalahi-CIDSS came to their community.

“We usually gathered and held our hearing in an open area. When the rain starts to pour or if it’s too humid, we stop the hearing and we would end up not settling the issues.”

As a datu, he is the most trusted leader in their tribe. He implements justice and law to maintain peace and unity. Datus serve as judge and decision makers.

On the other hand, to be a tribal leader comes with a great challenge. He admitted that it was never easy to balance everything, especially when there is no venue to settle their problems.

The risk of not having a ‘justice’ hall for settling their issues is the breaching of confidentiality. Almost everyone would want to get involved. There is also that possibility that tribal leaders will be accused of being biased.

They offer something in exchange or settlement of a certain crime such as animals and ancestral domains. But sometimes, with the inconsistency of their hearing or ‘judicial’ procedures, they end up with feud among involved parties. Worse, when problems are not settled, tribal war would erupt.

“It is their culture to defend their family and relatives when there is conflict. Unfortunately, it always results to hurting and killing one another and then the hostilities will be passed on to the next generation then to the next. It’s an endless war.” Francis Pineda, Municipal Monitor of Kalahi-CIDSS explained.

Kalahi-CIDSS Pamana

When Kalahi-CIDSS Pamana came in Talaingod, conflict-affected areas were prioritized as the program supports peace-promoting sub-projects.

Kalahi-CIDSS, now known as National Community-Driven Development Program (NCDDP) is a poverty reduction project where decision-making resides in the community.

The Ata-Manobo tribe underwent Participatory Situation Analysis (PSA) in which Datus and community residents were given the privilege to determine their problem. This was a leap of faith and a hope to the tribe.

The Local Government Unit extended its full support during the implementation of the sub-project. It has been a dream of local officials to settle the tribal wars in Talaingod. Thus, through the help of Kalahi-CIDSS, the peace that they yearned for so long was getting closer to their reach.

Kalahi-CIDSS opened its doors even to those who weren’t given the opportunity to lead. The aspirations of every individual were considered and valued.

The residents then came up with a solution to their problem. They planned of building an Ata-Manobo Libulongan Center (justice hall). Since a lot of tribal members suffered from the unresolved feuds in the past, they were really bent on constructing a justice hall.

“It was hard for Kalahi-CIDSS community facilitators to assist and teach them how to conduct the PSA because of the language barrier. However, our Municipal Coordinating Team, our counterpart in the LGU, patiently assisted us in making them understand,” Pineda said.

The Libulongan Center is an extension of the barangay hall but it only caters to concerns of the Lumad. They solve their problems based on their law and culture.

In support to Kalahi-CIDSS, the community created a women committee that acively took part in the construction of the Libulongan.

“The datus met and discussed the advent of Kalahi-CIDSS. The members of the tribe also participated in this new development,” Datu Jaime recalled.

The beneficiaries are immensely thankful that Kalahi-CIDSS considered their barangay for a sub-project. This could help them in maintaining peace in their community. Further, this would help boost their economy as livelihood activities will no longer be disrupted by the wars.

The various activities of Kalahi-CIDSS made the community closer and united. Kalahi-CIDSS has helped bridge the gaps which lessened the conflicts in the barangay. Camaraderie and the sense of respect started to manifest.

Thus, Kalahi-CIDSS provided more than just a ‘peace’ center. Above all, it helped mobilized indigenous people to become leaders and peace-makers in their own right. (DSWD)