village of Lantad – a sitio in Barangay Kibanban, Balingasag,
Misamis Oriental – has been quiet for sometime now. Lately,
however, there have been skirmishes between the communist rebels and
people of Lantad, who have witnessed the violence from the ’80s up
to the ’90s as the battleground of the two warring forces, now
simply want peace to prevail in their area.
the clear clamor of the community during a dialogue conducted right
in Lantad on May 24-25, 2011. The purpose of the dialogue, which was
called for because of the recent skirmishes, was to discuss Lantad’s
present context, identify immediate and long-term plans and some
possible partnership initiatives.
and honest discussions, the stakeholders came with a concerted
analysis of the peace and conflict situation. The leaders in the
community themselves had declared that their community should be
free of the violence between the CPP-NPA and the military. Thus they
have requested both parties to leave their community in peace.
long neglect of the government, until the present provincial
administration took over in 2004, much have been done for the
development of the said barangay, especially for Sitio Lantad which
was a strong rebel hub then. The roads were built, electricity was
set up, cooperatives were organized, barangay development plans were
formulated by the community, schools were founded. In fact, last
March, the first set of students in the elementary level graduated
Balay Mindanaw helped facilitate the barangay peace and development
plans through a participatory rural appraisal workshop. It was
undertaken for the community to be involved in analyzing their
situation and try to provide some solutions to their needs.
recent dialogue, Balay Mindanaw helped facilitate the
community-level conversation among leaders of the Higaunon tribe,
barangay officials, government heads from the town and province of
Misamis Oriental. The Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC)
initiated these local peace talks as part of its continuing
initiative and support to help build peace in the province. Also
included in the discourse were the civil society groups whose
representatives come from the media, the Archdiocese of Cagayan de
Oro, the youth and other NGOs.
is the article highlighting how peace was achieved in Lantad,
published in BMFI’s book, “Soldiers for Peace: A Collection of
Peacebuilding Stories in Mindanao.”]
community with some Balay Mindanaw staff.
Way back in
the 1980s, the village of Lantad was a model of governance. Problem
was, it was the showcase not of the Government of the Republic of
the Philippines, but of the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the
Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
populated mostly by Higaunon indigenous people, is situated in a
valley blessed with fertile soil that is ideal for farming. It is
part of Barangay Kibanban of the municipality of Balingasag in
Misamis Oriental. It is only 25 kilometers away from the present
highway, but back in the 1980s, it was virtually impenetrable
because there were no roads then. The village sat amidst a rugged
the almost total support of the residents, Lantad became the seat of
a regional government of the communist insurgency. This is according
to Teodoro Sabugaa, the provincial social welfare and development
officer of Misamis Oriental who once had ties in the underground
was, in Lantad, even the bees were considered as masa (term
for NPA supporter),” seconded Abel Jose Moya, who was once a
communist cadre in Lantad. Moya is now a reformed peace advocate in
neighboring Iligan City. But the joke, he stresses, stemmed from an
actual event – when the military staged a massive assault against
the rebels in Lantad in the late 1980s, honey bees attacked them. Or
so the story goes.
It was here
where the CPP-NPA’s Front Committee 4B-North Central Mindanao once
reigned for about a decade. They were so in control of the community
that they even issued land titles.
to the present day – Lantad has become a model of what could
happen when the government, the military, and other stakeholders
work together to bring peace and development to a community.
How did it
Maybe it didn’t
help the military when, fresh from martial law, soldiers acted like
kings reigning over the Higaunon people.
so abusive, terrorizing us all the time, shouting at us,” Paquito
Da-ao, the barangay chairman, recalls of his childhood days in
Lantad. Now 33, he said he could have joined the NPA, too, had he
stayed in Lantad during his youth. Fortunately for him, his father
decided to bring the family down from the mountains so the children
could go to school.
father-in-law and the village’s tribal chief, Bruno A. Lindahay,
had even more reasons to vent anger towards the military. In 1984,
he was captured for his involvement in the CPP-NPA even though he
was then the incumbent barangay chairman. “They tortured me. They
repeatedly punched me and hit me with the barrel of their guns. They
forced me to eat burnt rice and stuffed my mouth with a hundred
chili peppers. They burned my skin. They hogtied me and hanged me by
|A boy grazes
the family's cows at Lantad.
the horror of their past encounters with the military, Lindahay and
Da-ao bear no grudges against the military now. They are so thankful
of the soldiers, praising the uniformed men for their help in
improving the community.
in the past, and I have totally forgiven them now,” Lindahay said,
noting a dramatic change in the military’s attitude toward the
people these past few years. “They are polite, they help us in our
livelihood, they help us repair the roads, they would contribute
money when we do our tribal rituals, and they even donated P50,000
when we had to do expansion work for our chapel,” added the tribal
leader who also attended an OP Kors! training tailored for
residents now clamor for constant military presence to prevent the
NPA from gaining foothold once more in their now peaceful village,
said Balingasag Mayor Alexis S. Quina.
Some of their
Civilian Armed Auxiliaries (CAAs, the paramilitary members of the
Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit or CAFGU), like Alberto
Paquin, were NPA members. But Paquin, a native of Lantad, has been
re-integrated into the community.
leader of the Army’s unit in Lantad is Cpl. Rajan Banin of the 8th
Infantry Battalion’s Charlie Company. He is a mild-mannered Tausug
who has undergone Balay Mindanaw’s Operation Peace Course (OP
Kors!), an extensive training on conflict management and community
relations. “We see to it that we go out every day to talk to the
people and check out if they have problems,” he said from his base
on a hill overlooking the village.
vulnerable to the CPP-NPA because no government presence could be
felt there,” said Vice Gov. Norris Babiera. “We knew all along
that a military approach is not the answer; we had to provide
economic opportunities, too,” he added.
Oscar Moreno took over the reins of the provincial government in
2004, he set out to win over Lantad.
It used to be
that the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) was composed only
of representatives from the local government units, the Army and the
police. Now it includes people from the various government line
agencies and non-government organizations to better address
community issues. Balay Mindanaw’s Ariel C. Hernandez sits there
military is thankful that there are more members in the PPOC, so
they won’t be left on their own attending to the people’s needs
in Lantad,” said Babiera.
provincial government’s priority projects was the building of
roads all the way to the middle of Lantad in 2006 to open up
opportunities to the people. At that time, Lantad could be reached
only through narrow dirt roads which are best suited for horses and
Lindahay, before the road was built, they could not bring their
agricultural produce to the market. Their sick would die on the way
to the hospital. The teachers had difficulty coming to school such
that they could only hold classes three days a week instead of five.
The military and the police seldom visited the place to provide
security for the residents.
road leading to Lantad may still be so bad by most people’s
standards, what with boulders and mud in the middle of the road, it
dramatically opened up access for this community that had long
suffered neglect in delivery of basic services. For the residents of
Lantad, this is already a welcome improvement from their previous
dirt road. Habalhabals (motorcycles with extension seats),
even though usually overloaded, could now bring them down to the
lowlands where they could sell their agricultural produce or buy
items not found in the village. Occasionally, 4x4 vehicles pass by,
its passengers stopping every now and then to take pictures of the
beautiful scenery or pick beautiful wild sunflowers that abound by
agencies have extended aid and services to Lantad by way of this
road. Among them is the Department of Agrarian Reform that assisted
in the formation and sustainability of a community cooperative. The
cooperative now helps oversee the farmers planting banana, peanut,
abaca, coffee, vegetables and many more. The Spanish government
provided solar power energy to the homes. A school building was
built, along with a solar dryer for the farmers’ rice and corn,
and an abaca stripper.
Castillo, the 27-year-old general manager of the cooperative whose
late father was a high-ranking NPA commander, said all these help
that came to Lantad had a huge impact on the locals’ lives. “Before,
you wouldn’t see houses here made of concrete,” he said. There
are a number of them now, proof of an improvement in the economic
lot of the once impoverished community.