Ever since the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization was founded in Mindanao, it ardently campaigned against the encroachment of ancestral domains by extractive companies (i.e. plantations, mining, and others), called for the disbandment of paramilitary groups and sought justice for slain Lumad leaders. The organization has long been a partner of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and works with various groups especially with projects and issues affecting indigenous communities.
The Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization stands true to its founding purpose – to serve the indigenous communities, unite them and fight for their rights. Through the years, Kalumbay has been headed by several chairpersons and manned with divergent individuals but even amid changes in strategic direction, leadership and composition , the organization’s principles and convictions remain constant.
A lot of times, Kalumbay’s credibility has been challenged by abusive companies and rights violators , accusing the organization of ‘meddling’ with issues that are supposedly beyond its thrust and territory. But these charges was never taken seriously by the indigenous communities 11 who recognize Kalumbay as a regional unifier not limited to the flimsy boundaries imposed by the government on indigenous domains.
Since it started, Kalumbay ‘s campaigns are centered against extractive industries in ancestral domains, seeing that it is the poor and marginalized communities of the indigenous peoples who are always at the losing end of such activities. However, the organization’s scope and work has expanded through the years.
During its early years, it was focused on the economic needs of its member organization. For example, it has helped the Higaonon community in Malaybalay Bukidnon win its campaign to raise abaca prices. Lately, with financial support from national and international organizations, it has launched campaigns on human rights that range from trainings among its members to mass campaigns that reach out to the international community.
One such recent campaign is the call for justice for Jimmy Liguyon, one of the council members of the organization, who was killed because of his strict stand against mining in their community. Together with Liguyon’s case, the organization brings forward the cases of human rights violations against its members and leaders including the killing of Datu Mampaagi Belayong, one of the organization’s founding leaders. Datu Belayong, like Liguyon, was strongly against mining in the ancestral domain of the Higaonons in Agusan del Sur.
Kalumbay is also currently leading a campaign against large-scale plantations in Northern Mindanao, which involve the cases of the Higaonon farmers in Opol who are being removed by the oil plantation of A Brown, the Higaonon community in Malaybalay which are living along the margins of pineapple plantations, and the Manobo community in Don Carlos who are being driven out of their domain in place of a sugarcane plantation.
Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, maintaining the view of the indigenous peoples on ancestral domain, insists that the land is not only for the present but for the next generations as well. With this, it believes that utilization of the resources should be primarily according to the needs of the communities living in the actual areas where the resources are, and secondly, the Philippine community. However, even as it believes the rest of the country has the right to the resources – which is for sharing because it was created and owned by Magbabaya and not by any private individual – it should be in a manner which would sustain the future generations who are also entitled to the gifts of the land.
Kalumbay’s campaigns have brought attention to the plight of the indigenous peoples in Mindanao at the national and international level. Not only that, through Kalumbay’s unwavering commitment it was able to gain the trust not only of the people that they serve, partner organizations but the international community as well. As recognition for their work, the organization is constantly asked to participate in international meetings to share its experiences in its campaigns for the rights of the indigenous peoples, and the protection and conservation of the environment. To cite, Kalumbay acts a consultant 13 to FairFood, an international non-government organization, for the latter’s research and campaign project on pineapple plantations in Mindanao.
Kalumbay, when translated to English literally means ‘of the same line’. The organization remains faithful to its name, to its purpose of existence – to be in line with the fight of indigenous people, which centers on the right to ancestral lands but encompasses the fight for environmental justice. Perhaps one attestation to the many contributions of Kalumbay to the country’s environmental movement is the line of its leaders, members and communities who persist in standing by their rights in the face of threats and challenges, and to some, even at the cost of their lives.