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Family fights to get back IP woman leader’s body

By Gio J. Tanudtanud

THE MINDANAO IP Council of Elders and family members of Bai Bibyaon Bigkay are seeking the return of her body to her family.

At the Kapihan sa PIA in NCCC Victoria Plaza on Feb. 23, Bawan Jake Lanes, executive director of Mindanao IP Council of Elders, said they are helping her family to finally give Bai Bigkay a proper farewell.

When Bai Bibyaon Bigkay passed away last Nov 20, 2023, at the age of 96, her family was not informed of her passing. They only found out last Dec 6, 2023, through an online post. Her family sought help from the tribal council of Talaingod and the Mindanao IP Council of Elders and Leaders to recover the body.

Bigkay was a prominent leader of the Ata-Manobo who fought for indigenous peoples’ rights, particularly their ancestral domain. She was also the first and only female chieftain in the history of the Manobo people. 

Lanes added that the family still had doubts about her passing since they saw no death certificate or body. Nevertheless, if it’s true, they want to give Bai Bigkay a proper burial as part of their customs and traditions.

Naay pamaagi ang pag lubong sa tribo. Naa siyay kaugalingon na mga pamaagi, naay ritual na pagka buhaton,” he said.

Returning her body will also leave a legacy for her community and her family will learn more and benefit from her works, struggles, and the awards she received. 

“There is a violation of rights kay ang pamilya wala kahibalo, namatay siya, gi lubong siya outside. Dili siya ma duaw sa pamilya so daghan og mga rights na violate,” he said.

Rurelyn Bay-ao, niece of Bai Bigkay, said that last 2021, her aunt wanted to go home after about eight years. In 2022, her attempt to return to her village proved unsuccessful until Rurelyn lost contact with her aunt.

Wala na mi connection kay gi pang block nami sa Facebook. Gi pang block na ang amoang contacts, wala na po,” she said.



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