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October 31, 2016, Manila, the Philippines – “We are one with you in fighting for your ancestral land and your right to self-determination ... and we believe what is yours is yours and you deserve to live a normal and peaceful life. Courage! God is listening and watching up there...”
These words, posted on the Facebook page of Adrian Dominican Sister Jolyn “Jules” Dungo, OP, of the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, capture some of the feelings of Sister Jules and other Sisters who have been accompanying some 3,000 indigenous peoples from the Philippines since October 13.
Four Adrian Dominican Sisters from the Philippines have been taking part in Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya. The event, from October 13-28, was a protest by the indigenous and minority peoples of the Philippines to draw attention to the exploitation of their lands and the marginalization they face as native and minority peoples. During this time, the protestors took up camp at the University of the Philippines in Manila while they participated in a number of planned activities.
Adrian Dominican Sisters standing in support of this national protest were Sister Jules; Sister Antonette Lumbang, OP; Sister Salvacion Valenzuela, OP; and Sister Meliza Arquillano, a novice. Members of the native Aeta people, whom Sister Jules ministers with, also participated in the event.
The Sisters handed out donations of food, clothing, and school supplies and listened to the stories of the indigenous and minority peoples about their experiences.
“With us in the conversations with other indigenous groups are some Aetas from [the region of] Pampanga, who are gaining a lot of inspiration in joining the Lakbayan 2016,” Sister Antonette wrote in an email. “They are inspired to continue with the struggle for their own future and those generations yet to come.”
As Lakbayan 2016 came to an end, Sister Zenaida Nacpil, OP, Chapter Prioress of Our Lady of Remedies Mission Chapter, reported on the opposition that many of the protestors faced.
“The marchers were subjected to different harassments,” she said. “Two leaders in their native places were killed, though not with the marchers. In one place, [the protestors] were dispersed by water hoses from fire trucks.” In another incident, she reported, a police officer drove back and forth among the protestors, almost hitting some of them, she said. “May our God of Peace end this violence against peaceful rallies of people most vulnerable to harassment and whose ancestral lands are plundered and destroyed.”
The indigenous and minority peoples make up about 15 to 20 percent of the population of the Philippines. They have struggled against the invading regimes of Spain and the United States – which still has a military presence in the Philippines – but still suffer from marginalization and oppression. Many hope that President Rodrigo Duterte, who has recently taken office, will fulfill his commitments to right the injustices that they have endured for years.
Lakbayan 2016 included a variety of special activities, including cultural celebrations and lobbying and dialogues at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Embassy, mining companies, and the Philippine Stock Exchange.
Some of the events brought signs of hope. During an October 26 address to the Lakbayan 2016 participants, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said the organization backed the right of the indigenous peoples to self-determination in their negotiations with the national government.
The indigenous and minority peoples tried the U.S. in a tribal court, held at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila. After hearing of incidents of genocidal attacks by U.S. forces, three professional judges found the U.S. government guilty of atrocities.
Lakbayan 2016 is one of many recent examples of indigenous peoples striving to reclaim their rights. Similar efforts have taken place during the School of the Americas (SOA) Watch’s Convergence at the Border and at Standing Rock, North Dakota, where members of the Sioux Tribe are attempting to block the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Feature photo: Members of Our Lady of Remedies Chapter posing with the indigenous peoples at Lakbayan 16 are, from left, Sisters Antonette Lumbang, OP, Jolyn Dungo, OP, Salvacion Valenzuela, OP, and novice Sister Meliza Arquillano.
By Sister Mary Jean Williams, OP
October 31, 2016, Wilmette, Illinois – To celebrate the 800th Jubilee of the Order of Preachers, pictures that replicate stained glass windows of St. Dominic and St. Catherine were placed in the main lobby of Regina Dominican High School.
Sister Adrienne Piennette, OP, when she was president of the school, had commissioned Bill Griffith to design and create stained glass windows in the school chapel, honoring St. Dominic, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Rose of Lima, and St. Martin de Porres.
Members of the school community and visitors who enter the lobby immediately see the images of St. Dominic, the patron of the school, and St. Catherine of Siena, a woman who spoke truth with authority.
Plaques describing ministry of St. Dominic and St. Catherine are displayed under the pictures. Below are paraphrases of the messages on the plaques.
Dominic was a priest and preacher. When he traveled he encountered people who believed all matter was evil and denied the incarnation of Jesus. Dominic preached against these heresies and spoke the truth: all human life is good. He was a joyful man who deeply reverenced life and his theology was rooted in prayer and study.
St. Catherine was a lay Dominican, peacemaker, and mystic. Attending the lost ones, the unloved, those with the most repulsive diseases, was an essential part of her ministry. Catherine was radiantly happy and full of practical wisdom. She was a woman of deep prayer and served as mediator, giving Pope Gregory sound advice.
Feature photo: Photos of stained glass windows of St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena hang in the main hall of Regina Dominican High School.