Also known as non-violent resistance or passive resistance, unarmed resistance is defined as opposition to a government by the use of noncooperation and other nonviolent methods, such as boycotts and protest marches. This series is dedicated to tackle unarmed resistance of minority groups during the Martial Law period, or the latter part of the Marcos administration (1972-1986). Also, the series was in response to a request of a few readers to have articles focusing on local and regional histories.


Lumad people
Photo courtesy of Mindanao News and Information
Cooperative Council (MNICC)
    Lumad is a Visayan (in particular, Cebuano) term which means “native” or “indigenous.” Lumad is a loose category referring to 18 Mindanao ethnic groups including Manobo, B’laan (Bilaan), Higaunon (Higaonon), Subanun (Subanen), Mamanwa (Mamaw), Bagobo, Mandaya (Mangwanga), and T’boli (Tagabili).

Although, only 15 of the 18 ethnic groups recognize their category as Lumad to distinguish themselves from the Muslim or Christian Mindanao peoples. The Lumad population had accounted for 7% of the total Mindanao population in 1975.

Lumad on land and water

   Lumad opposition mainly grew from two elements: the land and the water.

It was not only the Muslims who were affected by the mass migrations from Luzon and Visayas, which were even sponsored by the Philippine government. The Lumads, who had been traditionally occupying the land, had to confront land claims of both Christian migrants and the Moros. During the Marcos administration, most of the land had been concentrated on the few rich, and Christian, families of Mindanao favored by the government.

To mention a few, the Zamboanga-based Lorenzo-Lobregat family, with Eduardo Cojuangco and Juan Ponce Enrile, established control of the Mindanao coconut industry. They are also into the banana business, owning some 7,000 hectares of banana plantations. Another was the Floirendo family. They built the Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (TADECO) in Davao, which would soon become the largest producer and exporter of bananas in the Philippines. The total area of plantations owned by the Floirendos was around 8,500 hectares.

Logging concessions were also given by the administration to favored corporations. By 1979, 5 million hectares (50,000 square kilometers) of land in Mindanao were covered by these concessions. That is, at a time when the available commercial forest area stood only at 3.92 million hectares. The area covered by logging concessions formed half of the entire Mindanao Island. Despite the existence of a land reform program in the form of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), the implementation revealed weaknesses.

Lands that produce coconut, banana, and similar export crops were excluded from redistribution. Also, the program provided for distribution of land to those who had worked on the land immediately prior to the program. This leaves the Lumad, who may have been simply displaced from their original land by migrant peasants and workers, at a disadvantage.

To increase hydroelectric power generation in Mindanao, NAPOCOR pushed for the construction of seven dams that would form the Agus Power Plant Complex along the Agus River in Lanao. This began with the expansion of the Maria Cristina Hydroelectric Power Plant from 1967 to 1973. This would later be known as Agus VI. In 1975, construction of Agus II began. It was finished by 1979. Soon, Agus I, IV, and VII began to be constructed in that same year. Construction of Agus V began in 1980. Surprisingly, there was no Agus III. By 1985, all Agus power plants were in operation. From 50 megawatts in 1965, total output was steadily increased to 548 megawatts (MW). This complex would contribute 19% of the total hydroelectric energy generation targeted for 1985. Funding came from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan Export-Import Bank (EXIMBank).

Pulangi IV (Photo courtesy of National Power Corporation)
Besides the Agus Power Plant Complex, there was also the proposed Pulangi Power Plant Complex in Bukidnon. However, only one of the six dams planned was finished: Pulangi IV. Despite being called Pulangi IV, the power plant was the first of the proposed dams that was actually built along the Pulangi River. Began in 1982, it began partial operation only by December 1985. By June 1986, Pulangi IV was fully operational. The dam, at full capacity, generated 255 megawatts.  

Datu Manpatilan (Photo courtesy of Filipinas Heritage Library)

Resistance for Lumad Domain

   Conflict in the two aforementioned categories had threatened the Lumad ancestral domain. Lands that were heavily concentrated to affluent Christian families (cronies) had covered many, if not most, of these ancestral domains. The tendency of the dams to flood the surrounding lands also threatened the Lumad ancestral domain. Indeed, the Lumads regard ancestral land as vital to their identity and heritage. Also, the Lumads had expressed their economic dependence to the land. These problems initially resulted to armed resistance.

Thus, as early as 1968, some Lumads led by local datus resorted to raiding (pangayaw). Among the datus who led these raids were Manpatilan and Manlakasi of the Higaunon. National Geographic would even label Manpatilan as “Hero among the Higaunons.” Datu Manpatilan, whose very name means “he who cuts,” had control over some 100 Higaunon datus. In 1970, he managed to meet with President Marcos and ask for 2,000 hectares for his people.

Later, Lumads who resorted to armed resistance eventually gravitated toward the communist insurgency led by the New People’s Army (NPA). However, internal conflict weakened the NPA in Mindanao. Over 600 cadres were killed in suspicion that they were government deep-penetration agents. Elizalde and the PANAMIN were sent by President Marcos to fix the problem. However, resistance stiffened due to the economic and political exploitation done by PANAMIN to the Lumad population.

It is also of note that despite some similarities of problems between Lumads and Moros, it was apparent that both were not open to cooperation against a seemingly common enemy. This can be evidenced by the fact that armed Lumads joined the NPA and not the MNLF nor the MILF. However, such armed resistance had not represented the desire of many Lumads.

From this point emerged the unarmed resistance, which would be mainly characterized by the Lumad’s entry to the political arena. Before 1984, the KBL gained all seats in the so-called Lumad Mindanao. In the 1984 election, the opposition led by the UNIDO won some four seats in Lumad Mindanao. Despite calls for a boycott, Lumad Mindanao registered 86% turnout in 1984. In 1986, Cory Aquino won over Marcos in Lumad Mindanao by a slim margin of around 9,000 votes according to the COMELEC count. However, the NAMFREL count (able only to take account of 70% of the votes cast) indicates a larger lead of around 66,000 for Aquino.


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[Disclaimer: While some content may offend or cause disagreement with some readers, it must first be taken to mind that the author does not have access to the entire fountain of sources for this topic. Therefore, whatever analyses and conclusions made here are made as adequate as possible and are only built from the available evidences, sources and theories the author has access. Also, since only few editing, mainly grammatical, was made since this series was first written in 2014, then it is yet to be subjected to change. Any correction is welcome, but copying without permission is being frowned upon, since this blog has copyright. Thank you for reading the Young Filipino Historian.]