Interview mit zwei Lumad-Aktivistinnen

Kat und Angel kämpfen für die Rechte der Lumad

Im Dezember 2023 trafen sich die  Ökumenewerk-Referentinnen Isabel Friemann (Ostasien) und Charlotte Spingler (Jugendspiritualität) mit zwei Lumad-Studentinnen. Angel ist 21 Jahre und Mitglied der Unity of Lumad Women bzw. Sabokahan, einer Organisation die sich für die Rechte der indigenen Frauen einsetzt und Katkat, 20 Jahre alt. Beide Frauen stammen aus Nord Cotabato in Mindanao und gehören zur Lumad Gemeinschaft der Manobo. Sie sind aus ihren Dörfern in die Stadt geflohen, um hier von eigenen Lehrer*innen in einem geschützten und sicheren Raum unterrichtet zu werden. Beide leben in  einem Schutzzentrum für Lumad, dessen genauer Ort geheim gehalten wird und immer wieder auf dem Gelände der University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila gewechselt wird.  Sie waren Schülerinnen der sogenannten Bakwit Schools. Bakwit bedeutet „evakuiert“ – also Schulen weit weg von ihrer Heimat. Inzwischen sind sie Studentinnen.

Folgendes Interview fand als Video-Telefonat zwischen Manila und Breklum statt. Angel und Kat hatten sich mit einer kleinen Gruppe Lumadaktivist*innen mit Isabel Friemann auf dem Campus der UP in Manila getroffen, um von ihren Erfahrungen zu berichten.

Das Interview wurde von Charlotte Spingler geführt. Es wurde nicht übersetzt, da viele der Aussagen im Original einen unverfälschten und kostbaren Einblick in die Realität der jungen Frauen gibt.

Zum Interview

Who are you and what are you fighting for?

We are part of the SOS network, that started 2012. We are fighting against the human rights violations committed against the Lumad people. The goal is to bring attention to the situation. The community can´t report what´s happening in the grounds, because there are no media. The father of a schoolmate had been killed. The highest form of defending our land is education. Our ancestors were deceived by mining companies. Our parents asked the local government unit. They didn’t know how to read, how to write and didn´t understand what papers they were signing, and now the Companies are cutting down trees and ruining the environment.

Far from the cities there is not even a basic social service. We built schools to compensate this neglect. For example: We don´t like to learn English, because we don´t need it, but the contracts of the mining companies are in English; state policy is in English. We learn English to read the contracts, the pieces of paper, who are killing us. We were always inviting them (military) to come in, to visit us.

There used to be 216 Lumad schools. 58 are experiencing military encampment. We feel unsafe if there is military. We are facing militarization, harassment, especially sexual harassment by the military. The presence of the military is everywhere. But we should feel safe in our schools. Schools should be “Peace-zones”; places where we can live without their oppression. In our community, we feel unsafe. A lot of our people are feeling unsafe, we need to evacuate.

In May 2017 Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao. Obeljo Albao was killed by Lumad-Military [Einige Lumad werden auch vom staatlichen Militär rekrutiert oder verbreiten als paramilitärische Gruppe Alamara Angst und Schrecken in indigenen Gemeinschaften]. A lot of children have been killed. We had to evacuate. Duterte said, he will bomb our schools, and that is what he did. But the evacuation was hard: there was not enough water and food. The environment was unknown. The Lumad cherish community. Community is a comfort zone – that is no longer possible.

After evacuating, we went to Manila, because “we can’t go home”. At home, our mothers, our families are harassed, because they are trying to tell others about the situation.

Since 2017 we tell the story to the people. We need to tell others. Because no one will fight for us, no one will tell our stories, fight for our rights, our life and our land. The national education system is a commercialist education. It is nationalistic, scientific and mass oriented – it does not fit or serve us. Our communities also must change. We have to remove child marriage and polygamie and patriarchy.

I started working with the “Sabokahan” (Unity of Lumad women) in 2018 [Sabokahan wurde als Schutzzentrum für Frauen innerhalb der Universität Manila gegründet und sammelt u.a. internationale Spenden zum Unterhalt der Schülerinnen dort]. It was founded by Bai Bibyaon, the first woman leader of the Manobo tribe. She led the Pantaron mountain range in Mindanao defense.
[Bai Bibyaon ist am 20.11.2023 im Sanctuary an der Universität Manila gestorben. Ihr Tod wurde zunächst geheim gehalten, um ihren Leichnam in die Heimat zu bringen und eine angemessene Trauerfeier zu organisieren.]

The goal is to defend the ancestral land, but also equal rights for women. The Sabokahan gives education for women. We try to step out of the patriarchal system. Because many Lumad men still live Polygamy. The Sabokahan want to give livelihood for women. We also fight for the LGBTQ community, who are facing bullying. They are tolerated, but not totally accepted.

Women are in the house, wash the cloths. Sabokahan says: women also have capacities to fight. Women can step up and defend the ancestral lands. We do gatherings for international solidarity; we integrate in international movements. We bring together women from the Philippines and other countries: to share their struggle and to learn from each other.

Our communities are humiliated. Lumad schools are closed. Lumad women are forced to work as domestic helpers because they have economic problems and many, sometimes up to eight children. Parents force children to marry, to work in mining and plantation.

Some of our schoolmates already have two children. They were forced to stop studying, because education is expensive. Often women are forced to surrender because we are suspected and tagged to be rebels.

There is also the Youth Sabokahan, a network that goes on the streets, do protests, do rallyes. We do lobbying, mobilize people, talk with government personalities. Our goal is to bring the issues to the city and to lobby in the government.

What makes the Lumad schools special?

The curriculum at Lumad Schools has three logs: Health, Education and Agriculture. Health, because we don´t have hospitals in our communities

The Lumad schools teach how to do herbal medicine, Lumad soap, tooth extraction, cyst operation and minor surgeries.

Agriculture should be sustainable. We learn, how to plant rice fields, tend to pigs, carabaos, fish ponds and harvest crops. Farming is part of our daily routine. At 4 am, we go on the fields.

In school, we learn both theory and practice. We have to practice after we learn it. For example: We learn about fish. Where they live, what temperature the water has to have for them to thrive, how big they get, etc. Then we have to measure the depths of the water, the temperature etc. We need to learn agriculture, because our parents are farmers and so are we. From very early age, we are participating in the production of food, how to harvest, how to plant, how to cook. Bisbis caldero [Gemeinschaftstöpfe] – we cook for everyone.

Education: Is parted into Technology, livelihood and education. For example, we learn how to make a PowerPoint, but we only have one laptop for 40 in one class to practice, or one microscope for hundreds in one Lumad school, so we have to wait in long lines for our own turn. We learn carpentry, how to take care of poltry and how to make pig cages.

We like to learn in the collective – as the Lumad culture is already very collective. We also have criticism and self- criticism (csc), but you pick up each others slack. They didn´t teach us to be individualistic, even in learning.  In Lumad schools, we get taught to work for others, be critical and self-aware. Because every aspect of the world is collective.

What Human rights do you value most?

We are fighting for the right to education – our schools are closed now. Because Lumad people need education. I fight for our schools because I want to be a teacher. Our Schools are a safe space; there is no killing there. When we fight for our schools, we are fighting for our lives. We are fighting for our rights because lots of our colleagues have been killed. We need safe space. We are fighting for self-determination through schools. Lumad schools are answering the needs of the community. We are fighting for our Land rights.

Schools are important; In my family I am the only one to go to college; Angel too. School is far, is expensive and full of discrimination. In school, Lumad children experience discrimination, because of they are Lumad.

Do the beaded necklaces have a special meaning?

If you have noticed, the beads have patterns: mountains and rivers in the community. The Beads are known as the “Gold of the community”, but were originally brought to the Philippines by the Chinese and exchanged for local goods.


Black:  is often placed at the outside the light colors and represents the military, the plunderer of the land

White: victory

Green: ancestral land

Red: resistance, defense, to defend the future (next to black often)

Yellow: hope, color of the dawn and sunrise

The necklaces are meant to say: “We will win”, they are part of the Lumad identity and represent our “fight to defend the land and to build a future”. Because, if we lose our land, we will lose our culture. The beads are a sign for solidarity: We feel we are not alone.

What would you like to tell young people in Germany?

“Join us, fight with us!” Come here and visit us! Go to visit the community and try out their life. Live with us and see what our life is like.

Listen to our stories. Because if you know what is happening in our communities, what the situation is of young people in the Philippines, they would understand and fight with us. Because land is life and water is life. That is why we are fighting for our land. Mobilize them. Youth has the power to change the world.

Not only in the classroom, but also outside. We have to go outside to learn what is happening! Go outside your comfort zone.

Like a warrior; like Bibyaon. To be afraid or scared is normal, because we are humans. But the land and the life of new generations is more important. Step forward from these feeling to help others!