The transformation of Talaingod

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Talaingod? Asa na? Kadtong Bukid nga daghan og rebelde . . . (Talaingod? where is that? It is the mountain full for rebels)  — was how  people from the lowland described it. But for the  Ata-Mabobo residents of Talaingod, it is paradise.

”To visit the heaven of the  indigenous peoples  of Ata-Manobo  tribe  in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, one has to endure three-hour travel from Tagum City via a logging road of yesteryears,” says Town Mayor Jonnie A. Libayao.

Talaingod means “God’s chosen people.” Libayao said. For decades, the town was known as the breeding ground of the communist insurgents. IPs join the New Peoples Army because they never felt the support and presence of government in far flung communities categorized as geographically isolated and deprived areas.  Studies also call it total failure in the delivery of basic services which left the IP population in the margins of development.

The town used to house  a Lumad school in  Davao del Norte,  the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLC), a school owned and operated by a non-government organization (NGO)  which was closed by the government in August this year, claiming among others the lack of accreditation from the Department of Education and the allegations that it has been teaching the communist doctrines.

Talaingod through the years

But through the years, the village has also transformed into a town. It is now  a second  class municipality  in the province of Davao del Norte  by Virtue of Republic Act 7081 on July 1991in the province of Davao del Norte. The  2015 census by the Philippine Statistics Authority reflects  a population of 27,482 people. 

Talaingod cuts across the provinces of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur where virgin forests can still be found while people continue enjoy the abundance of water from the rivers and spring. Hence, Talaingod continue to push for development and has resulted to its transformation.

Peace and Order and Reconciliation:

Last 2019 May elections, people put to power Jonnie Libayao who won against the Cebuana  wife of his brother Basilio Libayao whose term ended last June 30, 2019. The new mayor described the election match as a fight of a true-blooded Ata-Manono against a Cebuana and not a political clash against brothers. “Giboto ko kay akong dugo pure lumad (I was voted because I am a true blooded lumad),” he elaborated.

Upon his assumption, the new mayor went to his brother Basilio and explained to him the political dynamics as well as his intent to achieve peace emanating from the smallest unit, their family. Hence, his effort was meant to reconcile and resolve differences arising from political misunderstanding and family misinterpretation of ideas according to Libayao. 

Mayor Jonnie A. Libayao with his motehr former Mayor Pilar Libayao

Building a culture of peace, according to Libayao,   in a community which has been struggling to attain genuine peace in the context of right to self-determination is a challenge. “Kinahanglan matubag naku ang ilang dugay ng gihangyo sa gobyerno, mao na ang akong ginahimo karon (I need to be responsive to their cry which they long been asking from government, those concerns -I need to work on),” the mayor added.

Libayao brokered peace initiatives among communities with different political perspective and winning their heart also meant attending to their needs. Lucky for him, his mother Pilar sits as the Tribal Chieftain who attends to all complaints involving lumads  through the tribal council, a peacekeeping body led by his mother Pilar, who also served as town Mayor. “My mother play a big role being a chieftain. She settles problems through the lumad way and if parties  do not agree with each other, we refer it to the regular court,” he noted. 

Rosalie Galo, a staff of the tribal council said the concerns of the Cebuano population about  “pangayaw” is also settled by the council. Pangayaw is a cultural practice or self-governance of the tribes to exact justice for the killings in the community that not even the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), police or military can impede.

Government support according to Llibayao, plays a pivotal role in the peace effort of his town. (turn to next page) talaingod-through-the-years/

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