By: Katie Redmiles| First Peoples Worldwide Communications Correspondent
Tribes and Natures Defenders joined forces with the Higaonon and Manobo Tribes to raise their people up from oppression wrought by government mistreatment and by severe devastation caused by natural disasters. The community is located at the center of the mountains of Sagayan and Tambulan on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The land is vital to their survival — their lives and livelihoods that sustain them through farming, and for their protection against the sometimes harsh destruction from natural occurrences. Yet, without any dialogue or consent, the government executed numerous extractive mining and logging activities resulting in gross deforestation. Not only does the environmental damage affect the community’s ability to survive on their ancestral lands, but it also erodes their traditions and culture.
On November 8, 2013 disaster struck. Typhoon Yolanda killed 5,924 people, with 1,779 reported missing, and environmental damage that left survivors fighting for their lives. UN relief and aid provided by many countries never reached the mountain communities and left them with no food and no permanent source of income. Mountains denuded by mining and logging activities amplified the effects of the typhoon, resulting in massive landslides and soil erosion, and making farming land unusable.
Yet what remains undamaged is the tribes’ unfaltering hope for their communities and people, their hopes for a sustainable life again manifested into the project named “farming recovery towards food security of the typhoon affected Indigenous communities for cultural survival.” The tribal elders believed that help would come; that the cry for compassion would be heard. Elder Eladio Sangcoan said, “I believe that the sun is still rising to shine its radiant of hope for us. Only those kind people who felt the connection of compassion will hear us as the tribe of the mountains and do not lose hope and just wait for the right time.”
Tribes and Natures Defenders mobilized resources for the tribes and garnered support and funding from organizations such as First Peoples Worldwide. Having started in September 2014, the farming recovery project is well underway and gives the communities hope for the tribes’ futures.
The Higaonon and Manobo tribes alongside TRINAD are a true testament to the revitalizing empowerment produced by unyielding hope.