restricted access A mountain of Difference: The Lumad in Early Colonial Mindanao by Oona Paredes (review)
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Oona Paredes A Mountain of Difference: The Lumad in Early Colonial Mindanao Ithaca, NY: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, 2013. 195pages.

It is no secret that Philippine history tends to be Manila- or Tagalog-centric and relegates other regions such as Mindanao to a peripheral position in the national narrative. Among the various groups in peripheral Mindanao, Muslims gain the most attention in historical studies. If Muslims of Mindanao occupy a footnote in traditional Philippine history, the Lumad or indigenous peoples of Mindanao are the footnote to the footnote. The Lumad groups enter Philippine history only with the arrival of the Jesuits in 1859, because the former are usually portrayed as previously living in ahistorical isolation from the rest of the world. Oona Paredes tries to redress this neglect by showing the agency of the different Lumad groups in their contacts with Spaniards ever since the early seventeenth century. One reason for the ahistorical portrayal of the Lumad prior to 1859 is the overreliance on Jesuit sources that typically downplay the role played by the Recollects in northern and eastern Mindanao in the earlier centuries. The ace up Paredes’s sleeve is her access to the Recollect archives, which are notorious for being closed to outside researchers. Thankfully Paredes does not let the opportunity go to waste by extracting as much anthropological insight from the interactions between Lumad groups and the Recollects from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century.

Unlike most historical works, the book does not attempt to convey a single narrative with a unified start, middle, and end. The author chooses particular episodes in Lumad history from different ethnic groups and time periods, and analyzes each of them in the light of current anthropological theories on Southeast Asians. While the first few chapters are dedicated to the theoretical framework and the historical context of Spanish colonialism and evangelization, the succeeding chapters discuss distinct case studies, such as the Kagayanon conversion in the 1620s; the Caraga revolt in 1631; three separate petitions in 1722, 1838, and 1839 when Lumad datus requested Spanish presence in their settlements; and the Lumad’s appropriation of Spanish colonial symbols of power, such as the golden cane and military titles. What ties these disparate chapters together is Paredes’s overall attempt to explore the “curious relationship” (21) between the Lumad groups and the Recollect missionaries. [End Page 293]

In her attempt to put the Lumad in their proper place in Philippine history, Paredes turns history on its head. Lumad groups are usually associated with the uplands or mountains, but they have settlements in lowland areas and they also move about. The misinterpretation of the Spanish word monte is part of the problem because, as Paredes notes, the term can also refer to any forested, uncultivated area. This is just one of the many pinpoint observations made in the book that disprove the supposed geographical isolation of the Lumad in history. In Philippine history, Lumad groups are portrayed as lying outside the ambit of Spanish colonial rule. However, Paredes points out that colonial-era contacts with Spaniards, especially Recollects, shaped Lumad politics, culture, and history. What are normally considered indigenous Lumad traditions have their roots in the Lumad colonial experience and not in a prehispanic past. The golden cane, a traditional symbol of political authority among the Lumad in northern Mindanao, can be traced to the Spanish colonial practice of gifting indigenous leaders with canes of office. This willingness to constantly “harmonize” foreign with local traditions showcases a Southeast Asian notion of modernity present among the Lumad. In effect, Paredes crafts a history of the colonial Philippines where the Lumad are taken out of their supposed peripheral isolation and put in their rightful place as active participants of the colonial experience.

At the other end of the colonial relationship one finds the Recollect missionaries. Unlike traditional national histories that emphasize the abuses of Spanish friars and the exploitative nature of Christian conversion, Paredes explores the humility exhibited by Recollect missionaries and the strength of their social bonds with Lumad converts. The Recollects’ audacity to enter their mission fields alone and unarmed is attributed by these missionaries to their santo celo or...