The Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA), in partnership with the University’s Socioloogy-Anthropology Department, opened the Little Theater’s doors for Katatau – Mindanao Studies Conference on February 8. Katatau, XCCA’s first attempt to hold a research conference in Mindanao, featured six different humanities and social sciences researches conducted in Mindanao.

Dr. Steven Patrick Fernandez, Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) Founder of Culture and the Arts Studies, was the first to present his study titled, “Research and Dissemination: Developing a Mindanao School-of-Thought for Culture and Performance Studies.” Fernandez discussed the misrepresentation of Mindanao as a singular entity instead of the multicultural community that it is. He expressed the need to destroy paradigms and misconceptions society holds over Mindanaoans as these may not correctly describe the community. “We like to label […] but are all these labels appropriate?” he questions.

Central Mindanao University’s (CMU) Estrella Alfabeto followed Fernandez’s talk, where she presented her ongoing study titled, “The Structure of Agusanon Manobo Folk Narratives.” Alfabeto delved into 15 narratives of the Agusanon Manobos and identified similarities in their plots, characters, and other elements. Some similar elements include the usage of “engkantos” and lighting as antagonists in these narratives. The stories also have “diwatahans” for protagonists, as observed by Alfabeto.

Engr. Dexter Lao’s research, “Mapping our Home in a Changing Climate,” was also presented in the event. He showed maps of Cagayan de Oro’s decades-long history of flood damage. Such maps show that as more people settle by the bank of Cagayan River, the floods also seem to worsen along with the climate changes. With more settlers by the riversides and coastlines, more damage can be caused by such floods. Lao described the occurrence as a “story of a perfect disaster of when it’ll happen.”

The afternoon session continued with Don Antonio Velez’s presentation and his research focusing on inclusive planning and program development. Velez argued that a number of programs implemented for human development were unsuccessful because of a significant gap in the consultation process. As a result, the programs do not fully address the needs of the recipients.  “Just because we are experts doesn’t mean that our programs is [sic] what they need.”

Velez therefore suggested to the audience to minimize bureaucracy and engage with the affected communities more in order to fully understand what they need and address these accordingly.

Hailing from Davao City, Krishna Zabante was the last to present her thesis revolving on the identity assertion of professional Indigenous People (IPs) in the Davao Region. From her nine respondents, Zabante found that professional IPs commonly use their influence to defend the rights of their fellow IPs and assert their identity in the political and economic landscape. Their motivation to overcome discrimination and stigma is fueled by a number of factors such as their fellow IPs and a desire for cultural continuity.

Bro. Karl Gaspar concluded the conference with a talk on the availability of literature on Mindanaoan studies. At the heart of his talk, he challenged all to encourage and empower institutions in Mindanao to continue conducting humanities and social sciences researches about Mindanao, as well as to make literature of Mindanaoan studies more accessible through digitalization.

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Gaspar also conducted the launching of his two books: “Oh Susana: Untold Stories of Martial Law in Davao,” and “A Hundred Years of Gratitude”. Oh Susana, co-authored with 34 other activists during the Marcos regime, contains stories of how the writers of the book experienced Martial Law. It also contains stories of strengthened religious faith and relationships as well.

Meanwhile, A Hundred Years of Gratitude is a book celebrating Gaspar’s 70 years of existence and 30 years as a Redemptorist brother.