Who owns the land?

[Editor’s note: We have published this article to highlight the story of TINDOGA, the host community of the Kahimunan sa Katungod to take place on Dec 7-9, 2016. The story below forms part of the Lumad rights report, Peoples’ Rights  in Peripherals, published by the ‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network]






In the municipality of Quezon in the Province of Bukidnon, the Manobo-Pulangion had occupied the territory, originally called Kiokong, in the past. Kiokong lies along the river Pulangi, thus the identification of the Manobos living there as ‘Pulangion.’ During the time of colonization, their lands were ‘borrowed’ – with no fee whatsoever – from their forefathers by settlers who set up ranches. In the present time, the municipality is broken into several barangays. What is left for the Manobo-Pulangion to reclaim are non-contiguous lands. Their previous territory is now interspersed with plantations and private properties.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples released a Certtificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) in 1998  to the Quezon Manobo Tribal Association (QUEMTRAS). However, as Datu[i] Ensubay and many other of his people later found out, the Ancestral Domain was not for the entire Manobo-Pulangion. Datu Ensubay had lived in the domain for eight years until he was informed that he was only borrowing the land he was living on as Bae[ii] Lataran, a member of the head claimants of the CADT, will appropriate the land for other uses. Bae Lataran later leased it out to a pineapple plantation. In 2011, Datu Ensubay and his family moved to another CADT whose head claimant was his aunt, Bae Kayang Agdahan. However, the land was also leased out to non-indigenous individuals and they could be driven out anytime. Datu Ensubay, together with seven other clan leaders without lands, eventually formed the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA) to apply for a CADT previously occupied by a ranch and whose lease had already expired. The ranch is owned by the Montalvan family, which traces its roots to Spanish colonizers who first borrowed the land, and had been last managed by Pablo Lorenzo[iii].

The struggle of TINDOGA is an example of the indigenous communities’ difficulty of competing with capital interests. In March 2013, TINDOGA members attempted to enter their claimed ancestral domain. However, they were shot at and driven away by the ranch guards. In February 2014, they held a camp-out at the municipal office of Quezon, Bukidnon. This resulted to a survey of their lands and their temporary installation[iv]. It was only the following year that they were officially given their CADT. However, the ranch guards would still, from time to time, enter their lands and indiscriminately fire at them while they are working on their farms[v].


[i] Datu is the titular respect given to traditional – meaning, elected according to their customary law and formally given the assignation through a ritual – male leaders in indigenous communities.

[ii] Bae is the titular respect given to traditional female leaders in indigenous communities.

[iii] Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub-region, Inc. Tracing Roots, Asserting Claims: The history of the Manobo-Pulangion and TINDOGA and its claim to its ancestral domain. July 2014.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] ‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network. Katungod Lumad Alert: ‘Blue Guards harass TINDOGA members once more’. 12 June 2016.