MANILA — Lumad (indigenous people) leaders from Mindanao will confer on Pope Francis the title Apô (Elder) Edsila on Friday in an event called “Gathering of the Poor” to be witnessed by Catholic sisters and Typhoon Yolanda survivors.
“We are bestowing on him the title Apô Edsila since he is worthy of high esteem with his love for us, indigenous peoples, and for his respect for the values and beliefs that we have held sacred since time immemorial,” says Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the Mindanao-wide indigenous peoples’ group Kalumaran.
“Edsila means ‘light’, ‘sunrise,’ or ‘dawn of a new day’—- all signifying hope, newness, and change,” Ogan said. It is a term used by Higaonon and Talaandig tribes inhabiting the mountains around the Pulangi River in central Mindanao.
The honor will be solemnized by Ogan, a Blaan, and five other Lumad leaders coming from the Bagobo, Manobo, and Higaonon tribes through a ritual, along with around 50 Catholic nuns belonging to the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) and a thousand Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors belonging to People Surge. The Panubadtubad will be performed just before the sun sets today, eve of the Pontiff’s visit to Tacloban on January 17.
“We look up to the Pope to usher in ‘newness’ and transformation in this global system that perpetuates greed, exploitation, and oppression— the very opposite of mercy and compassion,” Ogan said referring to the theme of the Papal Visit.
Ogan says chicken blood will be offered to Magbabaya (the Supreme God of the Lumads) to signify the Mindanao indigenous peoples’ solidarity with the Pope.
He says that along with the offering is an incense “which seeks to drive all the bad spirits away that may bring harm to the people and the Pope and invite the good spirits to protect and guide him in all of his undertakings.”
Ogan says a betel nut, an “apog” (lime) and a seashell will also be offered “as symbols of the heart and compassion of the Lumads in defending and protecting their rights to self-determination and ancestral lands – the same compassion to the poor that the Pope has manifested.”
To go with these symbols is the partaking of a local wine “which stands for the courage and our shared determination as Lumads to carry on the struggle for a dignified and just life,” Ogan adds.
Bagobo chieftain Monico Cayog, 77, speaking in Visayan, added: “I see in Pope Francis the qualities of an elder who is down-to-earth and breaks barriers dividing his esteemed position and the realities of his people. These are characteristics of a true elder.”
Cayog added that “the Pope’s pro-poor and pro-environment principles are akin to an elder’s teachings and wisdom which is centered on people and the Earth.”