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Who Are the Lumads?

Who are the Lumads and why are they the most vulnerable ethnic group in the Philippines?
IMAGE DANIEL RODERICK WILLIAMS / PUBLIC DOMAIN
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Recently, the Lumads made national news when the Philippine National Police took into custody Lumad students and teachers in a school in Cebu City. According to official police reports, what happened was a “rescue” but human rights groups call it a “raid.”

In a video posted by Save Our Schools Network, children are shown screaming during the “rescue” operation. 

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This latest incident sparked questions on who the Lumads are and why they always seem to fall victims to similar government operations. 

Who are the Lumads?

Lumad is a collective term for several predominantly non-Christian and non-Muslim indigenous groups based in Mindanao. The Lumads include the Bagobo, Blaan, Bukidnon People, Higaonon, Kalagan, Kamigin, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Manobo, Magsaka, Matigsalug, Sangil, Subanon, Tagabawa, Tagakaulo, Talaandig, Tasaday, Teduray, Tigwahonon, and Umayamnon. 

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Why are the Lumads vulnerable?

Among the ethnic groups in the Philippines, the Lumads are considered some of the most vulnerable, primarily because of the government’s decades-old war with communist forces. 

According to the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, the Lumads are often displaced, finding themselves between the crossfires of government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA). The Lumad ancestral lands are located in remote, mountainous regions where the NPA and the military often clash. These ancestral lands also have no access to many of the basic social services and utilities. 

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Apart from this, the Lumads are also in dispute with Moro groups over ownership of ancestral lands. 

Lumad killings became a national issue during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, during which the military was accused of passing off the killings as shootouts between government forces and communist rebels. But some Lumad groups defended the military, saying it was the NPA who was killing them. 

In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools, which he tagged as training schools for subversive ideas. According to Duterte at the time, the Lumads were operating without the DepEd’s permit. 

Umalis kayo dyan, sabihin ko sa mga Lumad. Bobombahan ko iyan, isali ko iyang mga istraktura. I will use the Philippine Air Force. You are operating illegally and you are teaching the children to rebel against government. Kung may kalokohan kayo, eh di mas lalo na ako,” said Duterte in a news conference after his 2017 State of the Nation Address.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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