‘It gives life’: Philippine tribe fights to save a sacred river from a dam

  • Each year, members of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe gather at the Tinipak River to observe an Indigenous ritual to honor their supreme being and pray for healing and protection.
  • This year, the rite had an additional intention: to ward off an impending dam project they fear will inundate the site of the ritual.
  • The Kaliwa Dam, part of a program aimed at securing a clean water supply for the Manila metropolitan region, is already under construction and scheduled to go online in 2027.
  • The project has faced resistance from civil society groups as well as many of the Dumagat-Remontado, who say they fear it will cause both environmental and cultural damage.

DARAITAN, Philippines — Members of the Indigenous Dumagat-Remontado, young and old alike, stood out against the greenery in their traditional red loincloth and tapis. On a scorching Good Friday morning, their brows were knit, their footsteps quiet yet firmly grounded, as they wound through the Tinipak River in the Philippines’ Sierra Madre Mountain Range.

After half an hour of trekking through a windy, rugged riverscape walled by verdant mountains, chirping birds and a rippling river heralded their arrival to a brook they consider sacred. It’s a site where medicinal herbs grow in abundance, and is believed by the Dumagat-Remontado to host spirits and have healing powers, curing a wide range of ailments.

“We have grown accustomed to entrusting to the river the supernatural healing of our sick children, siblings, and parents,” Indigenous leader Renato Ibañez, 48, told Mongabay. “We either bring them here to bathe them with its water or get them water for drinking when they cannot walk.”

During Holy Week in predominantly Catholic Philippines, members of the tribe from across Rizal and Quezon provinces on the island of Luzon traditionally gather here to honor their supreme being, Makijapat, and ancestors, and to pray for healing, blessings and protection. “In exchange for our loved ones’ healing, we offer whatever we can and have at our disposal,” Ibañez said. “For instance, we promise to visit this sacred space in the Tinipak River every Holy Week or every birthday of the cured person. When their health is restored, we return here to do the ritual.”

This year’s rite is no different, except this time it’s performed to ward off the impending China-backed Kaliwa Dam project, which the group fears will submerge this valley, ruining the collective memory and identity associated with the river as well as the livelihoods it supports.

READ MORE: https://news.mongabay.com/2023/05/it-gives-life-philippine-tribe-fights-to-save-a-sacred-river-from-a-dam/


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