By Anna Valmero
BUTUAN CITY, AGUSAN DEL NORTE— Members of the Higaonon tribe here have received the long awaited land title for their ancestral domain from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
The certificate recognizes the Lumads as the owners of their native lands and thus, have right to manage it, said NCIP secretary Zenaida Pawid.
“Higaonon” actually comes from three words, “higa” meaning living, “goan” meaning mountain and “onon” meaning people thus, their name means “people of the living mountains,” according to nonprofit group Unahi Mindanao Inc.
Since the beginning of time, they are said to have lived in the mountains. Due to the rich resources of their forest, Lumads are advised to be wary of opportunists who would dare to swindle the logs or poach wildlife found in their lush forests.
As early as 1954, loggers started cutting their way into the forests of the lumads, creating problems for the inhabitants. One of the biggest problems in Mindanao is the partition of ancestral lands.
Pawid urged the Lumads to unite and maintain peace within their society and follow the customary laws of “Bunkatol Ha Bulawan Daw Nang Ka Tasa ha Lana”, which means treasured unity.
“Let us help each other. We all know that we are facing so many problems, but we have the answer to solve our problems,” Pawid said.
According to recent estimates, Lumads have a population of 350, 000 distributed over the five provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte and Bukidnon.
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