Know My Name:Bae Rose Undag-Lumandong

Urgent Action Fund. For more on Bae’s work, see Know My Name: Bae Rose


Location: Mindanao, Philippines

WHO: Rose is a Higaonon from Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental province. The Higaonon people are one of the major tribes of the Lumad (indigenous) peoples of Mindanao. As an indigenous woman activist, she became deeply engaged with protecting her community’s land. Given her engagement with political issues, as a student, and now as part of an indigenous peoples organization, it was not a surprise when Rose was first picked up by the military and detained. At that time, Rose was married to Tony Lumandong, an indigenous leader himself; and her son was only 5 months old. Tony was detained along with Rose. Rose was interrogated at gunpoint by the military about her political activities as well as the identities of her companions. It was a traumatic experience for Rose, and made doubly difficult by her concern for her child. Because of organized pressure from human rights groups, they were both released.

This experience left her and her family feeling vulnerable. They moved to Manila. For Rose, being in Manila did not mean discontinuing her work. She was part of the historic formation of the National Federation of Indigenous Peoples (KKAMP) in 1997. The next year, she and her family went back to Mindanao, and the process of her being recognized as a leader of the Higaonon community began.

In Higaonon communities, one inherits leadership from one’s parents or ancestors. In a traditional ritual, the Baylan (priestess) saw that Rose had inherited the leadership from her grandmother, as manifested in her work and her character. Rose was then named Bae Nay Laghay (from the name of her maternal grandmother). In the following years, Bae Nay Laghay went through different stages and rituals until in 2005, when the biggest gathering in her community was held, and she became a full-fledged Bae, or Higaonon woman leader.

With this position came honor, but also more challenges. According to Bae Rose (as she is known outside her community), for her, as an activist, the “enemy” is clear – the exploitative corporations and the government programs that support them. As a community leader, Bae Rose must mediate conflicts within her community, and cannot take sides.

WHAT: GAs a woman leader, she often faces comments such as “Babae ka lang. You’re just a woman.” This is even more hurtful when expressed by Higaonon women themselves.

Supporting the recognition of women’s leadership and participation in the indigenous political structure is one of the key issues Bae Rose has been taking on. Utilizing the research conducted by some progressive anthropologists, in collaboration with other Higaonon leaders, Bae Rose was able to surface past leadership roles played by Higaonon women. This historical record of women’s leadership has served as a basis for the modification of the current indigenous leadership structure. Although a long process, Bae Rose is committed to continuing her work helping Higaonon women recognize their value as leaders and pursue their rights as indigenous women. Bae Nay Laghay or Bae Rose is also the Indigenous Sector Representative to the Philippine Commission on Women. Together with Wilma Tero Mangilay, she is also part of the LILAK collective (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights).

THREATS: Because of Bae Rose’s leadership and activism, she faces ongoing threats. In 2014, two male leaders, with whom she had closely worked in campaigns against logging and mining, were murdered. When asked how she deals with feelings of fear, Bae Rose explained “I focus on what I have to do – contribute to achieving peace in my community, and beyond; and doing what I can to lessen discrimination and poverty among my people.”

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