A Poem for the Lumad of the Philippines

by Michelle Ortuoste-Rollenas/Guest

As part of the GABRIELA Exposure Program last fall, I visited ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development) and the Manobo community of Mindanao in the Philippines with GABRIELA NY. It was here in Han-ayan in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, that I met Educator and Executive Director Sir Emerito ‘Emuk’ Samarca and indigenous leader and Chairman of MAPASU Dionel ‘Onel’ Campos (MAPASU is the Lumad/indigenous peoples’ organization). On September 1, 2015 Sir ‘Emuk’ Samarca, Onel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo, indigenous leader and also Onel’s cousin, were murdered by paramilitary forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The state repression and killings of indigenous peoples is carried out by the AFP and its paramilitaries, with the assistance of the US government and its military — in military agreements, logistical guidance, and training — in order to protect the foreign investments and the mining and logging companies, who in collaboration with other environmental multinational corporations, extract and capitalize off of the mineral richness of the ancestral lands of the Philippines, including the land of the Lumad of Mindanao. This poem was written after I was informed of the murders of our fallen indigenous leaders and educators. Justice for the Lumad of Mindanao!

Please sign this petition and read further at: Stop Lumad Killings!

in our first moment
i tried to converse with you
in my barely there tagalog
we laughed

in meeting you,
in learning from you,
my heart became heavier but fuller
my hurt became heavier but stronger

ten months ago
we met for the first time
and together,
we shared with each other
listened to each other
cried with each other
held space
and weight for
hugged each other
and sang together
to each other
all for the first time

and i was not prepared
to let these memories
be my last of you
i am not ready
to change my wondering and thinking
about you
into my re-membering you
i do not want to believe it

my brain spins in circles
your murder
your murders
by paramilitary elements
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
by the help
of the US military machine

my brain spins in circles
the militarization of ancestral land
the illegal military encampments
the forced evacuations of indigenous communities
the gun shots
the killings
and empty casings
the inter-generational trauma
the destruction of ancestral land
to protect the mining and logging
to protect the corporations
to protect the foreign investments

my brain spins in circles
i do not want to think about
their excuse to kill you-
who cared for us in your home
who they see as a threat
because of your strength in unity and unified resistance
the strength that comes from knowing, defending, and protecting your roots
the strength of the indigenous schools

who sat
with us
who makes it possible for us
to better understand
what it means
to be in the heart
of our bayan

rest in power

Michelle Ortuoste-Rollenas is a Filipina-American activist who is a member of GABRIELA National Alliance of Women. She lives in New York City.

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