“The Land is Life”

"The land is life" - New Naratif

When I last met Jomorito Guaynon in February 2018, he sat stoically across from me at a corner table in a Cagayan de Oro Krispy Kreme, compulsively fidgeting with his straw and speaking with a disarming, even casual, tone for a targeted man.

Guaynon heads Kalumbay, a regional organisation of Lumads—a catch-all Visayan term for Mindanao’s indigenous community. As an advocate, he’s been subjected to harassment, threats, a 2015 double murder charge (quickly dropped) which he described as “trumped up”, and an attempt to scare him out of his position as Kalumbay’s leader.

So it wasn’t surprising when, in July 2018, he was arrested in Mindanao along with 12 other environmental defenders during a regional development conference. This is not an uncommon occurrence in Mindanao, where Lumads and the Philippine government have circled each other with mutual suspicion and disdain for decades.

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