In Pictures: Filipino Manobos seek peace

Mindanao's indigenous people return home after a military conflict that began a month ago.


Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Philippines - It was more than a month ago when about a thousand Manobo lumads - Mindanao island's indigenous people - were evacuated to Davao City to escape the military activity that began in early March in their ancestral domain in the mountains of Talaingod, Davao del Norte. 

The Manobos had to trek for six days to the nearest refuge - the United Church of Christ of the Philippines compound in Davao City.

It is the same place where the lumads took sanctuary in 1994 during a tribal war with a logging corporation.

Datu Doluman Dawsay, a spokesperson for the Talaingod Manobos said that the actions of the Philippine army endangered the lives of civilians when soldiers encamped in houses and schools threatened and harassed civilians. "The commanding officer said, 'We will kill five lumads for every soldier killed,'" Dawsay told Al Jazeera.

Fugitive leader Datu Guibang Apoga, for whom there is a bounty of 5 million pesos ($112,000), said that President Benigno Aquino's government has failed in its duty to protect the people and instead has sided with foreign corporations interested in logging and mining.

"Why has the government put a bounty on my head when all I do is just protect our land and what is rightfully ours? We protect the forest and mountains and in return it provides us with what we need. We do not dream of material wealth, we only want peace and the continuation of our way of life. If they will continue to covet our lands, we are prepared to declare another pangayaw (tribal war) and are willing to fight to the death," he said.

It was in 1994 when Apoga gained prominence in Mindanao as the leader of the Manobos  - when he united 25 Manobo tribes to lead a resistance against one of the largest commercial logging companies in the country, Alcantara and Sons.

The lumads returned to their communities on May 1, after Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte intervened on their behalf. The evacuation, however, has taken its toll on many of the children, leaving them weak and susceptible to flu, diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Coming home to their community was not easy. They found their homes ransacked, their animals missing, their crops damaged and school vandalised.