Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Anthropologists Apologize to Lumads

Mindanao Culture and Arts
Museum and Research

Anthropologists Apologize to Lumads

Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews

ISLAND GARDEN CITY OF SAMAL - "Patawarin n'yo kami" (Please forgive us).

A public admission of guilt and a public apology to the Lumads, delivered by no less than the president of the Ugnayang Pang-agham Tao (UGAT or Anthropological Association of the Philippines), capped the three-day 24th National Conference of anthropologists here.

"I publicly would like to apologize to the Datu," said Prof. Leonardo Estacio, UGAT president, as he called on his colleagues to do "a lot of self-reflection" on the manner by which they treat their objects of study and reminded them of their reason for being and the Code of Ethics they are supposed to observe.

Estacio was reacting to a comment by Datu Al Saliling of the Arumanen-Manobo in North Cotabato of how some researchers tend to look down on Lumads as "uneducated" when "you do not even know what is our own worldview."

"Listen to us. Find out from us," he said.

Earlier, in a speech delivered in Cebuano on the Lumads' view on the peace process in Mindanao, Datu Al said "no one and forgive me for saying this, no sector is genuinely interested in the survival of the Lumad. No one."

On Monday evening, after the launching of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism's video documentary, "Katutubo: Memory of the Dance," Beting Colmo, a Manobo from Mt. Apo, also spoke of how the ill practices of many researchers had forced them to want to be left alone.

The favorite subject of many a researcher, the indigenous peoples, whether in Mindanao or elsewhere, too often become mere objects of study, not participants, and are too often forgotten after the researcher obtains his or her masters or doctorate degree.

The researcher also too often does not return to the host community to validate the research or give them copies, in their own language, of the research findings.

Many, too, do not return documents or artifacts borrowed from communities.

"Mea culpa, kasama ako sa guilty (I am guilty, too),

Estacio said after reading in public UGAT's Code of Ethics.

The Code of Ethics, consisting of three paragraphs, is embodied in the organization's Constitution, under Article III, Section 2.

An anthropologist, the code states, "must be scientifically objective (truthful) and relevant to national and community goals; sincere to his host community and obliged to explain to them the objectives and implications of his research; to listen to criticism by his host community of the research he has conducted; and eventually to provide them a copy of his work, ideally in their language, for the host community would be the final arbiter of the validity of his research."

An anthropologist doing research, the Code adds, "has the obligation to make available the results of his research data not only to the host community and is scientific community, but also to the larger community."

The anthropologist, the Code adds, "has the right and the obligation to criticize unethical practices of fellow anthropologists and other individuals and institutions that affect the practice of anthropology."

Two other anthropologists delivered a public apology and called on their colleagues to reflect on their practices.

It was not, however, the first time anthropologists apologized to the Lumads in an UGAT conference.

An UGAT member told MindaNews that he has witnessed public apologies to indigenous peoples in several UGAT conferences, "and yet, many, unfortunately, have not learned from the mistakes."

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