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Agusan tribal folk welcomes Army presence

Manobo tribal leaders conduct an “Inpandawatan” ritual of “acceptance of the tribe” rites to show they welcome army presence in Alubijid area, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.  Contributed photo

Manobo tribal leaders and highland villagers in Buenavista, Agusan del Norte have warmly welcomed the presence of an Army battalion in their ancestral domain.

To show they welcome the troops in their community, the Mayapay Tribal Council (MATRICO) conducted on Saturday an “Inpandawatan” ritual, or “acceptance of the tribe” with the tribe’s “shaman” or spiritual leader calling the “supernaturals” for the soldier’s safe and peaceful stay in the area.

The ritual, officiated by Manobo shaman Richard “Datu Malakas” L. Gubaton, was witnessed by the officers and men of the 23rd Infantry (Masigasig) Battalion led by its commander Lt. Col. Emil J. Cruz.

“The importance of Inpandawatan ritual is also to strengthen the relationship between the highland tribes and Army soldiers,” Datu Malakas said.

To certify the Manobos, particularly those living in Alubijid area were allowing the presence of the 23rd IB in its tribal domain, a certificate of Free Prior Informal Consent (FPIC) was handed to Cruz at the end of the program.

For his part, Cruz said his unit respects the indigenous people’s rights, customs and traditions and would continue to do so.

“The unit also respects their customs and traditions particularly the conduct of ‘Inpandawatan’ in order to strengthen its relationship with the IP stakeholders towards achieving peace and development in the area,” Cruz said.

The strengthening of the relationship between the Army and lumad communities and the conduct of peace and development outreach programs (PDOP) to far-flung communities was geared toward “de-influencing” Agusan del Norte barangays from the New People’s Army, Cruz added. By CLC

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