Alma Lumista of the Pulangiyēn Indigenous Community in Mindanao, Philippines, highlights the spiritual relationship of the Pulangiyēn with Creation, and how their culture teaches them to value all forms of life. Alma also shares her story of how faith is experienced in their daily life as a community, and the need for greater inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the life of the local and Universal Church.
I am Alma Lumista, a mother with two children, Hycel Jane and Dexter Brent, and I worked in Kuwait for five years. I live here in Sitio Bendum and value the opportunity to raise my children here. My parents are pure Pulangiyēn, the Indigenous People of this area in Mindanao, Philippines. I work here at Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC) assisting mothers who got married at a young age to nurture and stimulate their children’s growth and learning.
It is also part of our culture to believe and take care of the environment because all things here in this world are made by God. This is what our culture always taught us – to give value to all living things and to keep a balance in nature, such as how we care for our water resources.
We also have traditions such as a thanksgiving ritual before harvesting to give thanks to our Creator for continuing to bless our farms, and another ritual again at harvest time in gratitude for what we get from the land.
In my work, I live my culture and I share this culture with parents on how to accompany their children so they grow strong and caring. Imparting these values is also part of our faith where we share hope. When we reflect on the relationship of our loving God amongst His people, we can share this in how we care for our children so they will know and remember the importance of this way of life.
As a territorial representative of the River above Asia Oceania Ecclesial Network (RAOEN), I want to share this journey we have in accompanying others in our community. I engage with different selda groups in the BEC to encourage us to continue our faith and to always be connected to selda activities.
(Note: A selda is a family grouping of five to 10 families and several selda make a basic ecclesial community or BEC. A BEC is a local community where members know each other well and relate on a daily basis, often sharing the same activities and livelihoods in a rural context. This small community may be composed of 40 to 200 families.)
Through these activities, our understanding broadens to the sacraments we receive so our faith is active beyond Sunday mornings. We have prayer meetings and share our experiences in terms of hardships in living here and having faith that in all these trials, God is with us as we move forward with hope and strengthen our faith.
With my experience and reflection, I see we need more guidance in our faith in God. We also need more people to be instruments for helping each other in our faith in God.
We hope that the time will come when the Church will find ways to be more inclusive of us as Indigenous Peoples and recognize and value our traditions and seasonal practices of gratitude and renewal such as celebrating thanksgiving masses during harvest time.
The community faces difficulties in relating with others, especially those coming from other places and other countries because we lack education and knowledge. This is why we cannot express what we need, and what we see as just, having this feeling of inferiority. Another problem we face is a lack of attention to spiritual growth in a world full of consumerism and we do not feel included as part of the Church because we are in the margins.
We hope to gain an education so we can take more care of our environment and our people. We hope that our spiritual needs and our faith in God will be given importance by the Church. We hope that people will continue to join the selda activities and strengthen our faith, giving importance to believing in Jesus Christ, so we can be open to the hope and peace He shares.