Approximately 370 million Indigenous people occupy 20 percent of the world’s territory, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Philippines accounts for an estimated 14 to 17 million Indigenous peoples with over 61 percent residing in the nation’s southern island of Mindanao. Despite these significant numbers, Indigenous communities are the most vulnerable populations displaced from their homeland. The Matigsalug and Lambangian tribespeople of Mindanao continue to experience conflict through the gradual loss of ancestral territory. Commercial logging, energy, and mining corporations have taken control of the flourishing ecological landscape by destroying mountains and forests to tap into the region’s rich gold, copper, and nickel resources.
Despite being passed down through generations, the tribes’ land remains entangled in a constant battle with the wealthy. With limited access to resources and support, many tribespeople surrender to selling their share of property to generate income. Land loss creates dire consequences as traditional cultural values and heritage become diminished. Despite legislation already in place, efforts to defend Indigenous communities are rarely successful due to documents containing legal ambiguities regarding the rightful ownership of ancestral domain.
Hannah Lilley’s reporting follows the story of a tribeswoman and activist seeking redress to attacks on the welfare of Indigenous communities throughout the Philippines. Lilley addresses the cause and effects of the loss of ancestral domain and includes insight from experts in the field. With over 110 ethnolinguistic groups throughout the nation, Lilley highlights a systemic conflict over Indigenous Filipinos’ rights.