Tri-people kinship reaffirmed during Regional Peace Forum

In an old and symbolic tradition, Datu Migketay Victorino “Vic” Saway led a ritual reaffirming the Bangsamoro and Indigenous Peoples’ kinship early last Thursday morning at the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center’s roof top.

Despite having roots in the Bangsamoro and Indigenous Peoples’ relationship, the tradition was also inclusive even of the Christian settlers who were present. As a result, three different people with different histories came together to eat the offering and say prayers for peace. This ritual, among others, set a tone of solidarity for everyone present that day.

The ritual was done in the middle of the Northern Mindanao Regional Peace Forum of the 3rd Mindanao People’s Peace Agenda, a two-day coming together of representatives from the tri-people of Northern Mindanao (Region X) to discuss the peace process in Mindanao.

Dressed in traditional attire, Datu Vic prayed for guidance and peace while offering four chickens. Later that day, everyone present was asked to partake of the then-cooked chickens.

“Make the part of the chicken that you eat a symbol of your prayer for the peace,” said Datu Vic. For instance, one could eat the brain for wisdom or the heart for compassion.

The Peace Forum started with updates on the peace processes, with charismatic representatives from civil society, the Philippine government and a revolutionary group presenting their sides of the issue.

To put all these issues in context, Rudy “Ompong” B. Rodil, a peace advocate and historian, gave an engaging talk on the history of the peace talks and the conflict in Mindanao. After his presentation, he was dubbed by the audience as “the greatest historian in the world” for his sensitive account of Mindanaon history which did not trivialize the injustices against the Bangsamoro and Indigenous Peoples.

The highlight of the forum was a workshop on the participants’ perspectives and proposals on the issues of the peace talks. Peaceweaver Melinda “Lyndee” Prieto, of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, in consolidating the results, observed that despite differences in history and culture, the Bangsamoro, Indigenous Peoples and settlers alike agreed on the resolution of the peace talks, advocacy for Indigenous Peoples agenda and grassroots participation. Prieto then invited everyone to seal each agreement with isang bagsak, a slam on the table making a sound reminiscent of a judge’s gavel.

The Mindanao Peaceweavers is a network of peace advocates pushing for realistic, inclusive and peaceful solutions for the conflict in Mindanao. This is the third time that they have brought together an array of people, primarily hands-on leaders from the tri-people communities, to address their concerns and provide input on the peace process.

The results of this peace forum would be consolidated with those of other peace forums all over Mindanao and published in the form of policy proposals to be presented to the GPH-MILF panel. Prieto said that they hope these proposals will help the peace agreements become more inclusive of the concerns of people at the grassroots. (Hazel Aspera)

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