“For I, the Lord, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering; And I will faithfully give them their recompense and make an everlasting covenant with them.”—Isaiah 61:8
In the narrative of the TINDOGA community, the death of Renato Anglao last Friday was a violent ripping of a page. To the people he worked with, to the community he served, to his family, there is this sudden absence, a space where only jagged bits remain.
Renato was a strong figure among the Manobo Pulangion in Butong, Quezon, Bukidnon. He was relentless in his work to demand the rights of his people. He fought for the respect of their right over their land and their heritage, their right to provide an identity to the future generations of their community.
Like any father, he wished to provide a good future to his children. But unlike many fathers, this wish for a better life was a hard fight, which in the end cost him his life.
The TINDOGA community has for so long been battling against the encroachment of plantations in their ancestral lands. Displaced for many decades by ranch owners, when they tried to reclaim their lands, they were rebuffed by the aggressive expansion of industrial plantations.
In 2014, the TINDOGA was finally able to get back a piece of their land – a very small percentage of what their ancestors had previously enjoyed. But then the community was content with it – except that they still could not till it freely, without fear, without threats from the previous ranch owner who had only borrowed their land from their forefathers. Borrowed without payment, without compensation whatsoever. Borrowed and yet it is the Pulangion who are now paying with their blood just to get it back.
After a year they were able to get into this piece of land again, one community member died after the guards of the previous Rancho Montalvan strafed the people who were working on their fields.
And this year, as it starts, another life is taken. A violent offering to the gods of greed.
Death is inevitable. True. Everyone dies. True. But death can be peaceful or violent, a rest naturally given or a robbery of life. The death of Renato Anglao is a robbery of his commitment to his people, to his family, to the identity of the Manobo Pulangion. It cannot be replaced nor returned. It is a robbery that demands justice.
Advocacy Officer, RMP-NMR Inc
03 February 2017