PHOTO ESSAY | ‘We will defend our land and culture, even with our primitive weapons’

May 29, 2014

Photojournalist Boy Bagwis, on May 13 to 15, joined the national fact-finding and humanitarian mission to investigate the displacement of more than a thousand Manobos in Talaingod, Davao del Norte due to heavy military presence and intimidation. The Talaingod Manobos, according to anthropologists, are one of the least accessible (to lowlanders) indigenous groups in Mindanao, and have been among the most vigilant and organized in preserving their indigenous culture and defending their ancestral domain from foreign intrusion and exploitation. During the mid-90s, Talaingod Manobos successfully drove away one of the biggest logging companies in Mindanao that threatened Talaingod and Pantaron Range, one of the few remaining virgin rainforests in the country. This indigenous community, with some help from indigenous rights advocates and people’s organizations, has developed its own local economy, maintaining communal farms and mechanized milling, among others. The mission was conducted a week after more than a thousand Manobos returned to Talaingod after the military agreed to withdraw from their communities.

An an elder Manobo, Ubunay Botod Manlaon, shows off her tribal tattoos that symbolized her esteemed status in their tribe. On March 7 this year, aUbunay was forced to act as the soldiers' guide in the jungle for a week. She was manhandled and subjected to sexual assault, before being able to escape. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

An an elder Manobo, Ubunay Botod Manlaon, shows off her tribal tattoos that symbolized her esteemed status in their tribe. On March 7 this year, aUbunay was forced to act as the soldiers’ guide in the jungle for a week. She was manhandled and subjected to sexual assault, before being able to escape. Ubunay’s abduction compelled many Manobos to evacuate from their communities. Boy Bagwis

A Manobo evacuee returns to her home and harvests root crops in Sitio Lasakan, Talaingod, after a month of seeking sanctuary in Davao City. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

A Manobo evacuee returns to her home and harvests root crops in Sitio Lasakan, Talaingod, after a month of seeking sanctuary in Davao City. Boy Bagwis

Thousands of Manobo Lumads fled from heavily militarization in 11 villages in Talaingod, Davao del Norte after a series of aerial bombings and harassment by soldiers. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

Thousands of Manobo Lumads fled from heavy militarization in 11 villages in Talaingod, Davao del Norte after a series of aerial bombings and harassment by soldiers. Boy Bagwis

A Manobo mother stands in front of her infant daughter's casket while her husband sits in grief. The infant reportedly died of measles. Having just arrived in their community from evacution, many had no food and medicine, resulting in the deaths of several children. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

A Manobo mother stands in front of her infant daughter’s casket while her husband sits in grief. The infant reportedly died of measles. Having just arrived in their community from evacution, many had no food and medicine, resulting in the deaths of several children. Boy Bagwis

Manobo children compose the majority of the population of tribal communities in Talaingod. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

Manobo children compose the majority of the population of tribal communities in Talaingod. Boy Bagwis

A Manobo family in Sitio Bayabs, Talaingod says that they lost belongings after military elements occupied their house. In front of them is a pot, where they say soldiers even defecated. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

A Manobo family in Sitio Bayabas, Talaingod says that they lost belongings after military elements occupied their house. In front of them is a pot, where they say soldiers even defecated. Boy Bagwis

"The military accuses us of being New People's Army supporters. But the truth is we are only fighting for our rights." <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

“The military accuses us of being New People’s Army supporters. But the truth is we are only fighting for our rights.” Boy Bagwis

Some of the Talaingod indigenous women with their tribal garb. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

Some of the Talaingod indigenous women with their tribal garb. Boy Bagwis

Manobo women were part of the pangayaw, or tribal war, declared against the logging company Alcantara and Sons during the 90s. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

Manobo women were part of the pangayaw, or tribal war, declared against the logging company Alcantara and Sons during the 90s. Boy Bagwis

Manobo tribal leaders led by Datu Guibang Apoga declare that they want peace. But if corporations and the government take away their land, the tribal leaders said they will fight with their native weapons. From left: Datu Tungig, Guibang, Doluman and Sunpa. Datu Guibang Apoga was the foremost Talaingod Manobo leader who led the pangayaw during the 90s. The military declared him an outlaw. But Apoga said he was merely protecting their ancestral domain. <strong>Boy Bagwis</strong>

Manobo tribal leaders led by Datu Guibang Apoga declare that they want peace. But if corporations and the government take away their land, the tribal leaders say they will fight with their native weapons. From left: Datu Tungig, Guibang, Doluman and Sunpa. Datu Guibang Apoga was the foremost Talaingod Manobo leader who led the pangayaw during the 90s. The military declared him an outlaw. But Apoga says he was merely protecting their ancestral domain. Boy Bagwis