Killing God: Sagittarius and the B’laans

In a course of a year, hundreds, even thousands of people would have already been displaced by mining companies all over the globe, most especially in Developing Countries. Consider, for a moment, whole families being displaced not because of any natural disasters or wars but by mankind’s insatiable appetite for metals and minerals. Thinking about all these people, I often ask myself: “how can you transfer a plant to a new pot, when you’ve left the roots on the old pot?” Surely that plant would die.

There is, in Mindanao, an area of cultural wonders, where one can immerse back to pre-colonial Philippines and where people still sing the creation of the world in a language all their own.

And in this same area, an ulcer the size of an open-pit mine, also broils feverishly: the Tampakan Project of Sagittarius Mines in South Cotabato.

For hundreds of years, the lumads (Visayan word for ‘native’) in this area of South Cotabato have created a unique culture distinct from among themselves, and especially different from their Muslim and Christian neighbors. Their environment has shaped not only their world-view but their modes of living. Animistic, these tribes believe in the very sanctity of the land under their every footfall, the water that gives life and the air that nourishes them. This belief in the sacredness of the earth has shaped the weltanschauung, worldview, of the lumads that in a sense, to destroy it is to virtually destroy their identity as a unique group of people. Not only is it equivalent to terminating their character as a tribe but also a damnable sacrilege to their gods! Imagine demolishing the Vatican or the Ka’aba just because it has a good amount of copper and gold underneath!

The Tampakan Project in South Cotabato is just about that – the “Vatican” and the “Ka’aba” sitting on, supposedly, the largest copper and gold deposit in Southeast Asia.

The B’laans and the T’bolis in that area just know it as “home” since time immemorial. Then all of a sudden, “people of the spade” come with their foreign idea that the earth is a dead thing they can buy, quarry, divide, pollute, and transform according to their whims and wants. Thelumads scratch their heads for they do not understand what kind of monsters would believe and do such things to their home, to God even! What antimony to the source of Life!

We have been made to believe that economic progress necessitates such actions – that in exchange for the lumads’ dis-locations, that in exchange for toppling mountains, that in exchange for exterminating species of plants and animals, that in exchange for the annihilation of age-old cultures – our government coffers will be full, that we will all be rich!

I say: better to be poor than to be a nation of blind murderers.

Resist this sacrilege! If needs be, invoke religious rage.


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