Review— The Lumad’s Struggle in the Face of Globalization

Ishii Masako

The Lumad’s Struggle in the Face of Globalization
Karl M. Gaspar, C.Ss.R. 
Davao City / Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao / 2000

Lumad is the local term used to refer to indigenous ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines who were neither Christianized nor Islamized. Karl Gaspar’s book, which was published at the turn of this century, starts with the question, “What might this millennium bring to the lumad?” As the reader is led through their historical struggle since the turn of the last century, she may come to share the author’s anxiety over the daunting challenge facing the lumad in preventing the withering away of their cultures.

The book is a collection of three essays which originated as papers written for the author’s doctoral thesis at the University of the Philippines. Essay One sets out the historical impact of colonialism, neo-colonialism, and globalization. The area of inquiry includes how indigenous peoples’ mode of production was affected by the exogenous concept of land ownership and control, trade and commerce of unequal exchange, and the development of primary industries. In the second essay, the author explores thelumad’s concept of land use and analyzes how and why it is incompatible with national land laws. Since Philippine land law does not recognize the validity of customary land use, he argues, indigenous peoples are disenfranchised in their own ancestral domain. Essay Three looks into changes in the social fabric, focusing especially on the leadership structure called the datu (or timuay) system. Through the cases of two indigenous peoples of Mindanao, the Manobos and the Subanens, the essay shows that newly emerging leaders from non-datu families are expected to have more negotiating power in Philippine lowland society than the traditional leadership.

What is unique about this book is that it contains many case studies of indigenous groups across the Philippines. Though much of the data derives from secondary sources, no other book has presented such a comprehensive overview of the different groups. For those interested in expanding their knowledge of Philippine indigenous peoples in general, this is the book to start with. Another characteristic is that the author highlights cases in which lumad actually resist the asymmetrical forces of globalization. This may be because the author is not only a researcher but also a practitioner committed to working to improve the lives of indigenous peoples, especially the Manobos and Subanens.

Over all, this book is rich in information on Philippine lumad, ranging from community-level data to the institutional development of the Philippine nation-state vis-à-vis indigenous peoples. Less well analyzed, however, is the structural dimension of globalization. By focusing primarily on similarities in lumad struggles in the face of globalization, the reader is left to wonder how these similar experiences have been created, given the communities’ diverse geographical settings and the different time frames of the penetration of globalization. Also, the author treats globalization as a stage in the linear development of capitalism, following from colonialism and neo-colonialism, but does not examine the differences between them. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable contribution to the scarce literature on indigenous peoples in the Philippines, as well as to the understanding of the lumad’s dynamic struggle in this century.

Ishii Masako
The reviewer is an assistant professor at The Japan Center for Area Studies, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.

Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia. Issue 1 (March 2002). Power and Politics