Groups showcase portraits of environmental heroes and martyrs

November 8, 2021

Activist groups in Manila showcased portraits of “heroes and martyrs” to honor Indigenous Peoples (IP) and communities who champion land rights and environmental protection. 

The groups paraded six giant portraits of IP leaders and environmental defenders during the observance of the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on November 6.

“We are mainly indebted to our Indigenous heroes for keeping our mountains, rivers, and forests in our country alive,” said Kakay Tolentino of the group BAI Indigenous Women’s Network. 

Various artists collaborated to paint the images of Tamblot of Bohol, a babaylan who fought against Spanish colonialism; Igorot leader Ama Macli-ing Dulag, who led the anti-Chico Dam fight; Cordillera Igorot leader Petra Macli-ing; Dumagat martyr Nicanor delos Santos, who defended the Sierra Madre from mega-dams; Emerito Samarca, a slain IP school director; and Nelson Mallari, an Aeta farmer and staunch anti-mining leader.

Lans Tolda, a member of Guni-Guri Artist Collective and one of the contributing painters, said there is really so much more to learn about the history and struggles of the Indigenous heroes and martyrs.

“I hope this will be the start of many more collaborations between artists and IP groups and communities to amplify their plight,” said Tolda.

Rei Paulin of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang ng Pilipinas said addressing climate and environmental issues “will take more than promises and lip service from our government.”

He accused the Philippine government of “acting as enablers of foreign and local projects that endangers mother nature.” 

“IP should be part of the dialogues, not silenced and harassed. We demand decisive actions now. It needs to stop the attacks on Indigenous peoples and implement a moratorium on all destructive projects on ancestral lands,” said Paulin. 

The group Sandugo reported that there are at least 92 extrajudicial killings, 160 frustrated extrajudicial killings, 6 enforced disappearances, 227 illegal arrests, detention and abduction, and 27 tortures of Indigenous Peoples from 2016 to early 2021.

Eloisa Mesina, spokesperson of Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino, said attacks on Indigenous People who are the guardians and stewards of the environment is “a sure death for Mother Earth.”

Prince Albert Solomon Turtogo of Panaghiusa Philippine Network to Uphold Indigenous Peoples Rights said at the core of the attacks against Indigenous leaders and communities “is their resistance to destructive projects and resource exploitation of mountains and rivers covering their ancestral lands.”

On November 10, IP rights advocates and organizations in the country will observe the International Indigenous Peoples Heroes Day, an initiative to honor those who contributed in advancing IP culture, rights, and ancestral land and environmental protection.

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