The Lumad people, the “people of the uplands”, live in the upper catchment of the Pulangi River, the largest river on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. This region is called Bendum, and is the ancestral home of the Lumad.
Because of mass deforestation, many upland peoples, whose ancestral way of life is integrated with the forest, have felt pressure to move to the lowlands to live in cities, especially the younger generations. The culture of the Lumad and the forest cannot be separated. Even though many have left the uplands for the modern world below, the Lumad will not abandon their culture, especially the sacred places in the forest, nor their traditions.
Yet logging has almost completely decimated the forests. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Philippine forests were heavily cut as a short-term economic gain. Intensive commercialized logging in Bendum was stopped in 1989, but most of the forests are gone, and the mountains which are now covered with grass instead of dense tropical rainforest, are cut with logging roads, and sacred places have been bulldozed. The Lumad say the spirits of the forest are angry, and they have been left with the burden. The Lumad were also never asked or compensated. The Lumad are now trying to get the government to relinquish control of the remaining forest to their community as protectors of the land. Only 1% of the Philippines is communally managed in this way.
Tony Collins’ documentary “Bendum: In The Heart of Mindanao” tells the story of the Lumad people. It is a privileged look into their private world. But, it is also a look at how devastating commercial and illegal destruction of natural resources can be to the environmental, social, and spiritual health of a region and its peoples. This video shows how very important these aspects of health really are in the world.
I enjoyed watching this video very much. It is excellent, and after having worked with Tony, I had eagerly awaited its completion. I would recommend it to faculty to show to students in appropriate classes, and to anyone who is interested in the environment.
While working with Tony on this film over a decade ago, the Lumad had deliberated for many days before allowing Tony to bring me to meet them as his camera assistant. One of the few regrets I have is that I declined the opportunity and returned to the US to finish college for reasons outside the scope of this write-up. But life is a series of lessons…. and this documentary teaches a most important one. Watch the preview below, and if you like it, buy or rent “Bendum: In The Heart of Mindanao”.