By Mayeth Sapigao

September 2016

Lumad, short for Katawhang Lumad which literally means indigenous people, is a Cebuano term referring to the non-Muslim and non-Christian natives of Mindanao.

Most of the Lumad live in hinterlands, lowlands and coastal areas of provinces in Mindanao. Different ethnolinguistic groups belong to this collective identity which includes the Atta, Bagobo, Banwaon, B’laan, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaonon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Manguwangan, Manobo, Mansaka, Subanen, Tagakaolo, Tasaday, Tboli, Teduray, and Ubo.

Lumad people were able to preserve their indigenous beliefs, values and traditions despite centuries of direct foreign domination in the Philippines and the colonizers’ attempts to destroy their way of living in order to exercise control and authority. Among these is beading which shows their aesthetic sense and remains to be an integral part of their everyday life.

At a very young age, the Lumad people learn to make bead ornaments and decorations for their houses, clothes and other personal things they use and wear. Beading is usually done as a pastime. Not only the Lumad women take delight in this activity, but also men during their free time.

The Lumad people, specifically the Manobos, have different names for their most precious bead ornaments. They have the ginibang which refers to big necklaces used by women. They also have bakus for beaded waistbands, tikos for bead ornaments used to wrap around their lower legs, and tangkuro for headdresses exclusive for their Datus.i

The Lumad express their friendship through their beaded creations. They offer their beadworks as a way of showing appreciation and sincerity even to individuals or groups not belonging to their communities. For them, wearing the beadworks they gave means acceptance of their friendship, mutual respect and harmony.

An instance is the bead necklace they offered to Pope Francis in 2015 in recognition of his solicitude and high regard for the rights and dignity of the marginalized. In the same year, Bae Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay, a Lumad woman chieftain, also gave a bead necklace to North Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco on her first visit to their evacuation site (but was immediately disowned for later on bringing military elements knowing that these have committed grave violations of the rights of the Lumad people).

Beading also serves as an alternative source of income for the Lumad. They often sell their beadworks to the tourists visiting their communities. It helps them address their economic needs while at the same time promoting and preserving this important aspect of their culture. In some cases, income from sales is also shared to the community. A percentage of it goes to the fund used to provide the needs of the whole community. Hence, beading in the Lumad areas not only provides self-gratification and for personal economic needs, it also strengthens the cooperation and unity within the community.

Even in times of crisis, beading plays a significant role for Lumad in overcoming difficulties and challenges. Aside from the temporary ease they get from the activity, it is also useful in seeking support and solidarity. They make and sell bead ornaments to raise funds needed to attend to their immediate needs as well as to sustain their campaigns and advocacy.

Especially during the time they evacuated their communities due to a series of military attacks aiming to clear their area for large-scale mining operations, collective beading was done in evacuation sites and camps as part of their income-generating project. Even the Lumad children who were also subjects of military harassments participated to help their community, thus defying being helpless victims.

Buying and wearing the beadworks made by the Lumad people mean a lot to them. They symbolize solidarity not only in preserving and celebrating their culture and traditions, but also in their struggles and aspirations for a just and humane society.

i From “Bonicris Mandagit, a Manobo bead crafter.” Accessed at http://kodao.org/2015/11/02/bonicris-mandagit-a-manobo-beadmaker/