Public apology: My article on the Tagakolu people

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Last June 11, 2019, I had an article published through Manila Bulletin titled “Traversing the Malita mountains: A week with the peace-loving Tagakolu people”. It was an article I wrote in line with my volunteer experience with the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute during May 2019. I was a class documenter for a week-long activity with the Matamis Mission Station in Malita, Davao Occidental, Philippines.

The article was published both in print and online—which means it has already been distributed nationwide. I have also seen a number of people who have read and shared the article online. I, personally, have shared it in my Facebook account.

While I had good intentions on writing the article (mainly to share the story of the Tagakolu), I must apologize for having published one that provides severely superficial information and does a disservice to the Tagakolu community. My article has also contributed to the body of writing that stereotypes Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines. Clearly, this is not something to be proud of.

The printed copies have already been distributed, and unfortunately the online version can no longer be brought down. Although some contents of the online version have already been revised, this does not change the fact that I have written and had an article published that does not accurately reflect the culture, traditions, and lifestyle of the Tagakolu people. Writing about sensitive topics, especially those that are related to culture, should be done with tempered enthusiasm and extensive consultation.

Apart from this, what worsened the situation was that I did not consult the Matamis Mission team about the content of the article nor inform the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute about my intention to write an article. I just went straight to having it published. I was unable to temper my enthusiasm in terms of writing and publishing the article, and I would like to express my apologies for having done so.

This has been a big learning process and experience for me as a freelance writer.

I also want to take this as an opportunity to remind writers/researchers like myself to further temper our enthusiasm. We must continuously ensure that we obtain accurate and culturally sensitive information in whatever form of writing we are engaged with. While there have been many cases of writing in which authors have stereotyped certain groups of people—one being Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines—I do not wish to be like them and leave mistakes like this without a well-deserved apology.

Once again, I would like to say sorry to the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute, Matamis Mission Team, and the Tagakolu community.

If you want to know more about the Tagakolu community, you can visit this website: https://malitatagakaulomission.weebly.com/.  It was created by the Matamis Mission Team at the service of the Tagakolu, and at the service of the Church doing ministry with and among the Tagakolu. 

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