“Culture is the soul of our community and is at the core of the identity of a nation.”
Indigenous Peoples School Coordinator of the Malita Takolu Mission (MATAMIS) Marites Gonzalo emphasized that after five years of living outside their community, she wants to dedicate her life educating the Tagakolu community in Malita, Davao Occidental to deepen their connection to their culture.
“Going back to my community is like going back to and tracing my own roots… I started to appreciate, rediscover, re-learn, recognize, and re-embrace the richness of our cultural practices and values,” Gonzalo said last Friday during Kolu Na Banwa Ku, an event in celebration of the Anthropology Month, held in the Finster Auditorium.
She also elaborated the strides their community has taken to assert and sustain their ethnic identity and ancestral domains. These include IP schools that cater to 207 Tagakolu, enculturated catechesis- a prerequisite for missionaries who would want to learn their language and culture, a paralegal training program for community leaders to be informed and stand up for their rights, and enterprises.
“Our identity and spirituality as indigenous peoples or Lumad is deeply anchored in our homeland and ancestral domains,” she added.
Aside from Gonzalo’s testimony, the MATAMIS facilitators and members of the community also shared their insights and experiences.
“Daghang mga higayon na nalimtan nako akong kultura ug wala nahatagan ug bili apan adunay mga tao nga nitabang kanako aron puy-an ug ilhon pa’g usab ang kultura na gasa ni Tyumanem (God) kanako,” Elvie Calapong, a Bachelor of Secondary Education and a Tagakolu said.
A member of the Missionaries of Jesus and a facilitator of MATAMIS Fr. Primo Mique Fagel, Jr. also noted that the Tagakolu made him realize the importance of connection.
“A community cannot go on if there is no connection between the elders and the youth. This connection strengthens our identity,” he said.
MATAMIS youth also performed a community cultural presentation regarding the origin story of the Tagakolu and the life of the Tagakolu youth who have been exposed to the life of the city.
MATAMIS is organized by Catholic missionaries in 1988 who worked along Tagakolu in Malita, starting from the PME Fathers and now the Missionaries of Jesus by integrating Indigenous spirituality with the Christian faith.
Jannah Ampuan, an International Studies Major in Asian Studies student of the University, resonated with the life of Tagakolu as she shared that her family was also a victim of historical injustices, but her father pursued his education even if life was difficult just like what the Tagakolu did.
Kolu Na Banwa Ku: The Tagakolu Youth’s Journey in Reclaiming and Sustaining their Ethnic Identity is inspired by the thesis of Marites Gonzalo which centered on “her journey of relearning and re-embracing her Tagakolu identity” after experiencing her own “alienation from their own culture pressured by their interaction of the dominant mainstream culture.”
Kolu Na Banwa Ku is translated to “Kolu my ancestral home” which denotes the essence of Tagakolu’s territorial attachment to their land as the “witness to their shared culture” while Kolu means “people who live upstream where the forests are and from where the waters of rivers flow.”
As the first Ignatian conversation of the academic year, the forum is organized in support of the goal of the University to promote the interreligious and intercultural dialogue particularly with the IP and the school’s partner communities in Mindanao.
“As Ateneo de Davao University embraces its renewed mission and vision, I wish that we may all continue to work towards the concrete realization of what marks and distinguishes us as a Catholic, Jesuit, and Filipino university,” Rev. Fr. Ulysses Cabayao of the University’s Anthropology Department said.