Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Palawan - our struggle for nature and culture

The struggle to save Palawan (known as the Philippines’ Last Frontier) is not only about saving trees and rare species. It is also about nourishing the Filipino cultural heritage, so powerfully represented by those indigenous communities that - after escaping Spanish and American colonization (while resisting the new ‘mining imperialism’ now) - continue to represent the 'living roots' from which all Filipinos originate. Therefore, environmental plundering by mining companies is not only a crime against nature but it is also a crime against culture, a sort of genocide that annihilates the most profound roots of the Filipino's history and ultimately plunders the cultural heritage of the whole nation! In this movie, Kawali, the mythical ancestor depicted by Batak narrators emphasises humility and trust towards the supernal beings in charge of animals and plants. On the contrary, the attitude of Kawali’s brother-in-law comes to represent the epitome of inappropriate behaviour, such as the lack of respect towards the mystical keepers of animals and - here specifically - towards the “father of bees”: a relationship that contemporary Batak continues to restore though the lambay ceremony. The sudden switch between the narration of the Batak myth and the threats posed by mining companies serves to introduce the work of ALDAW, a local network of indigenous peoples struggling for the protection of their ancestral land against large-scale corporations.

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