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Lumads’ plight moves Vagina Monologue playwright Eve Ensler to tears


Eve Ensler, founder of One Billion Rising global campaign turns emotional after hearing the stories of the Lumad evacuees inside the evacuation center at a church compound in Davao City on Friday, February 12. (Ace R. Morandante/davaotoday.com)

(this story appeared in davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY – American playwright and activist Eve Ensler learned so many things from her visit at the evacuation camp in a church compound here on Friday, February 12.

“I think, what I constantly learn from indigenous people is we have to simplify everything. We all have to strip away all these veneer and all these capitalist consumptive destructions of the earth and coal, and oil, and logging and live simple lives connected to our mother,” said Ensler, 62, a feminist who wrote The Vagina Monologues, a play which has been translated to over 48 different languages.

The Tony Award recipient in 2011 said she has learned that the Lumads “are so happy, content because they’re connected with their beautiful, healthy water and their trees that require five people to hug them.”

Ensler said that the indigenous peoples are the “future” of humankind.

“They’ve been here forever. They hold the key to the future of the earth, they know how the earth operates. They love the earth, they are the earth, they are one with the earth, and we’re destroying them for mining companies, for greed, for capitalism, for exploitation and when you see how beautiful they are, when you see how generous they are, when you see how all they want is to be one with their beautiful trees and their sky and the earth their rivers — how can any human being be doing this to them?” said Ensler.

“This is our future, they are in the mother, they are of the mother, they are with the mother. We all are. But they know, they have the wisdom how to carry the future. And if they’re destroyed we won’t have a future in this planet,” she said.

Before ending the forum, Ensler thanked the IP leaders for “taking care of the land and life for all of us.”

Ensler asked the IP leaders to write a letter while she is in the country and have it signed during the One Billion Rising campaign and to send it to President Benigno Aquino III.

Ensler also said that she will share the stories of the evacuees with the world and that she will help so that they may return to their lands.

“You, being in your home, keeps all of us on this planet alive,” said Ensler.

Ensler visited the evacuation camp in Haran, a compound ran by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Ensler was accompanied by theater artist and activist, Monique Wilson as she met with Lumad leaders from Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon province. Wilson, who is also the director of the One Billion Rising campaign was also with her partner, Rosanna Abueva.

Kaylo Bontulan, a council member of the Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Organization told Ensler why the Lumads have evacuated saying the military operations drove thousands of indigenous people to flee.

“But we are not here because we are scared, we are here to defend the land. We want to make the government see and hear our demands,” said Bontulan.

Bontulan said that they have no more option but to fight because they have no where else to go.

“If we will not defend our land, where will we go? Even if we die, we will continue to defend our land,” said Bontulan.

Some of the ancestral lands of the Lumads in Mindanao are located in the 12,600 square-kilometer Pantaron Mountain Range or Pantadon Biogeographic Subregion. Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said the mountain range cuts across the provinces of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur, covering 12.4 percent of the entire Mindanao.

“One of the largest remaining old growth forests in the Philippines is located in the Pantaron Mountain Range. It covers 1.8 million hectares and supplies the water of major rivers in Mindanao mainly the Mindanao River, Pulangi River, Davao River, Tagoloan River and major tributaries of Agusan River,” Bautista said in a press release.

However, the mountain range is threatened with the entry of mining companies.

Manobo woman leaders Bai Nilyn Sampag and Bai Shoan Kundag described to Ensler that Pantaron is like their “mother”.

“When we are sick, we get our medicines in the forest of Pantaron range. It feeds us with wild fruits, wild boar, and clear waters,” said Kundag.

Sampag said they need to defend the forest for the future generation.

“If we will not do anything to defend it, it is the same with destroying the forest ourselves,” said Sampag.

‘Pull out military troops’

Ensler also urged the government to pull out the military from the ancestral land who she believes serves the companies, from which the government also benefits.

“The military has to be removed from their land. The people have the right to their ancestral land,” she said.

“I think the government is responsible for this militaries that are basically serving these corporations which the government is benefitting from, obviously. The government has to stop the murders and stop the destruction, stop the harassment and stop destroying the Lumad people,” added Ensler.

The evacuees staying inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound along Father Selga Street have sought refuge here for almost a year.

More than a hundred evacuees has already returned home to Bukidnon province on December last year.

However, the recent incident of the killing of an IP student in Talaingod, Davao del Norte has triggered the evacuation of Lumads last January 29 with an estimate of 57 families.

The military has said that the child was caught between a tribal war against the New People’s Army.

The Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations said there are 190 families or an estimate of 700 individuals inside the evacuation center.

Ensler is in the country to promote the global campaign, One Billion Rising. The campaign, which was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2012, seeks to end violence against women.

Ensler said there are many forms of violence including “violence against land, removing people from their lands, violence against women’s bodies, violence against people’s schools.”

“These are all part of One Billion Rising and what we’re struggling with. And I’m so happy we’re in solidarity in struggle with the people here,” she said.

Watch Ensler’s interview with Davao Today here.