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The Spiritual Lumad Societies of Mindanao

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The Lumad people encompass a collection of indigenous people from the Mindanao region. This area is the second-largest island in the Philippines and also includes smaller islands surrounding the main landmass. The Lumad people or Lumadnon, consist of approximately 18 major groups. The island of Mindanao contains a significant portion of forested and protected areas, many of which are ancestral lands of the Lumadnon and have spiritual affiliations. Hence, the Lumad people consistently advocate for conservation and environmental protection. The island is home to threatened animal and plant species such as the Philippine Eagle, Philippine warty pig, and the Rafflesia schadenbergiana. This is known as the largest flower in the world and a valuable tourist attraction.

The Lumadnon have traditionally followed an animistic path of spirituality, and there is a wide-held belief that certain deities affect people and the communities. Many of the spirits are linked to beings in the natural world including plants, lakes, areas of native land, and animals. Water bodies have significant spiritual ties for many of the groups. Among the Bagobo community, the limokon or turtle dove is believed to be a messenger of the gods, while the T’boli view it as the spirit of their ancestors communicating with them. Signs from the spirit world are also sought for guidance around farming.

Among the Lumadnon, spirituality and crafts are also interwoven. Certain Lumad communities such as Bagobo, T’boli, Mandaya, Kulaman, and B’laan are known as master weavers. They create eye-catching cloth and elaborate clothes with vibrant patterns and colors. The late Lang Dulay was considered to be a master weaver of the T’nalak. In 1998, this inspiring woman was named as a National Living Treasure by the Philippine government’s National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Various Lumad groups are also highly skilled in metalsmithing. This includes the Teduray, Bagobo, Mandaya, and T’boli. Various works of jewelry and adornment have been made, often out of brass, including belts, bracelets, chains, anklets, and bells. Each Lumad group is a testament to the diverse history, knowledge, customs, traditions, and beauty of the indigenous Philippine peoples.

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