Fiery chieftain takes down Catamco 1

Fiery chieftain takes down Catamco

by Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at Jul 26 2015 11:12 PM | Updated as of Jul 27 2015 07:12 AM

In Davao City, it’s called the Bai Bibi takedown. Others call it The Diwata’s Comeuppance.

Bai Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay is no ordinary Lumad. She is the only female indigenous chieftain in Mindanao, the southern Philippines island of promise and strife. North Cotabato 2nd district representative Nancy Catamco is the self-styled Diwata (goddess).

Catamco’s Facebook pages shows several videos of the aging, regal Bai Bibi. “She wants to go home,” is the message Catamco hammers out.

Bai Bibi is her main proof that more than 700 displaced indigenous folk at the Davao City Haran Mission are being “exploited” by militant groups.

Catamco, using Bai Bibi and other lumad, instigated the July 23 raid by 500 cops, soldiers and paramilitary forces, on their sanctuary. She had earlier railed against squalid, “concentration camp” conditions and the locked gates that cops broke down.

She left empty-handed, but not before the Lumad chieftain rained down words of contempt and rage, using Manobo warrior language and gestures. She accused the Liberal Party legislator and chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Indigenous Peoples as a traitor.


In a few minutes, the fiery chieftain with jangling beads, demolishes Catamco’s claims. The lawmaker tried to deceive them, twisted their words, their message, their demands, she says.

Kilab Multimedia captured her anger. A Manobo member of the group translated her words to English.

WATCH: Bai Bibi takes down Nancy Catamco

A rattled Catamco tries several times to break into Bai Bibi’s tirade. She is ordered as many times to shut up.

The chieftain vents her rage, telling Catamco an untimely return to the mountain villages they call home, would only force them to fight — and be mowed down by state forces out to paint them as communist guerrillas.

Bai Bibi reminds the lawmaker of a bead necklace gift, a token of her desire for peace.

“You should have helped us, but you don’t want to.”

“I don’t want to be forced to join the Alamara for our tribe will be split apart. That is not the solution to our problem,” she told Catamco, words punctuated by the tinkling of traditional jewelry.

She hurls back Catamco’s insults from a previous tumultous dialogue,

“Don’t look down at us because we have not been to school," she snaps at the graduate of Ateneo de Davao.

“Did you say we stink? Don’t you see that our supply is limited and we have to pay for it, not like in the mountains where the water is flowing.”

“We don’t care if we smell,” says the chieftain. “We can’t go back because we are accused as NPA… I will not go back because things will be the same. I will face death in the hands of the soldiers and the Alamara. (The paramilitary force organized among lumad supportive of big-ticket development projects that Bai Bibi’s people resist.)"


The chieftain says none of the lumad wanted to live in the city. That was the only thing Catamco got right, and only partly.

They want to go home. But in their villages, they can no longer work because of frequent incursions by government forces who demand they point out the locations of communist rebels.

She does not deny the existence of rebels. If they pass, they just pass, says Bai Bibi.
“But if the solders come, they stay in our homes and our schools. How can our children study when soldiers are staying there?”

Catamco rubs her arms as the chieftain rails. At some points she tries to remonstrate. She denies bringing soldiers to the initial dialogues. She had two Army generals and other officers in tow.

The chieftain cuts her off every time. “I told you to shut up!”

Bai Bibi’s anger peaks as she accuses Catamco of bringing the conflict to Davao City.

“I came to Davao so we won’t be disturbed, but these threats ar here also. Why did you bring the Alamara here to Davao?”

As she stalks, and sways, and slashes and chops at the air with her arms, the chieftain challenges Catamco to work for the pullout of the military and the disarming of the Alamara. Let the Lumad settle their problem in the old tradition with swords and spears and arrow.

Emphasizing her accusation of Catamco trying to divide the Lumad, Bai Bibi says: “Arrows are better because they don’t make loud sounds. It’s better if we hack at each other.”

Her last gesture is to hurl down a bottle of mineral water she had used as a prop to symbolize guns trained on her people.

“Don’t talk to us ever again.”


In a span of two weeks, Catamco showed she has the clout to ignore local governments and command police and soldiers to raid a Davao City church mission.

Social workers and staff of a government human rights body drop everything on her say so. She can bring down paramilitary troops from the mountains to proclaim war on internal refugees.

The lawmaker, linked to two pork scandals involving Janet Napoles, remains a favorite of President Benigno Aquino’s government, which claims to follow “the straight path.”

Although Catamco has to fully liquidate millions withdrawn for a non-existent jathropa forestry program, she has continued to enjoy disbursement of millions of pesos in “soft” livelihood and scholarship funds from Tesda, which is headed by a politician also named in the same series of pork scams.

The lawmaker’s Facebook page claims she celebrated one birthday giving away P2.5 million of her own money to buy school kits for constituents. She lets military commands take over summits for indigenous peoples, where anti-communist strategies are discussed. Her speeches urge youth groups to work with the military.

Stepping into a state university leadership squabble in South Cotabato, Catamco claimed to be acting on directives of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and called him up in front of reporters.

Small wonder Catamco goes ballistic when faced with “defiant” folk.

After her botched “rescue” she joined a press conference wherein an Alamara leader vowed war on the lumad refugees. Now the lawmaker has linked up with a group out to punish the “human traffickers” of the Haran mission.

That phrase raises the spectre of more attacks on the Haran mission of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP), which shelters the displaced folk. Under Philippine law, human trafficking is a non-bailable crime. Authorities have already filed kidnapping charges against several religious workers, including a nun, and staff of organizations that champion the lumad’s fight against encroachments on ancestral lands.

To Bai Bibi and her people, “saviors” like Catamco are the reason the Lumad of Talaingod and Kalapong, of the mountains that flow with waters that serve the teeming urban lowlands, have to fight for their lives.

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.