Rebuilding community and cultural connections: A post-pandemic Kaamulan celebration

Datu Nestor (seated in the center) spoke to the community as they gathered and prepared for the pamuhat. He was joined by elders from other communities. The Kaamulan is a time when clans and their extended families talk about the year and their concerns and hopes. The youth and children also gather with their elders to learn about their culture, celebrate, and rebuild connections as a community.

Jason Menaling

On 21 December, three years after the pandemic, Bendum celebrated Kaamulan again.

The annual gathering provided an opportunity to restart the dialogue about the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) and its guidelines and policies. Datu Nestor Menaling shared a brief history of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) of Bendum and I explained the map of the CADT.

Ate Mercy and Ate Maura presented the accomplishments of the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC) as well as the milestones and ongoing programs with the CADT. The Tribal Council expressed hope that the ADSDPP could be completed soon so that planning for the gaup, or ancestral domain, could begin.

During the celebration, youth participants of the TESDA and Bamboo Fabrication Programs received their certificates, although some, particularly those from the Nabawang and Nabag-o communities, were unable to travel to Bendum.

Elders, adults, and youth join the amul-amul to discuss important issues. This is also an occasion to celebrate their kagena (culture), to reflect on their values concerning the kinaiyahan (environment). After the pamuhat ritual, people join in the panampulot (feast) and to share their knowledge and experiences from the last year.

Around a hundred people attended the Kaamulan held at the APC elementary school building. To foster closer ties, Datu Menaling suggested including the four connecting schools of Nabawang, Nabag-o, Kalasungay and Mindagulos in the 2023 Kaamulan celebration. Planning and preparations for Kaamulan 2023 should start at least a month in advance so more communities could attend.

Securing a portion of the ancestral domain

Why did the Bendum community opt to have a separate ancestral domain claim and what is their legitimacy to claim an ancestral domain?

Tribal leaders map the community’s rivers and streams

These are some of the many questions that the community reckoned with during the long process of securing recognition for their ancestral domain which is a part of the larger ancestral domain claim in the Upper Pulangi Valley.

After three years of discussion and preparation, the Bendum community decided to keep a separate claim, even if they had a common ancestry with other claimants. The community faced a lot of pressure, and their legitimacy was questioned, but eventually they were able to secure a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) in 1998. The application for a conversion of their CADC to a CADT that started in 2005 was approved in January 2010. The CADT was finally handed to the Bendum community in June 2018.

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