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Avatar and IPRA Law: Stories of the Enlightened

Avatar, is a story of people trying to steal the land and resources from the Na”Vi who are the natives of the land which has a lot of resources desired by humans. Through the main character’s transformation as one of the Na’Vi beings, he became aware of the importance of the land to them, and how these people bond with natural resources around them. The Na’Vi beings live everyday as though they cannot survive and live well without those resources especially the one they call the “Tree of Voices” which gives life to all things in their planet. Similarly, the indigenous people of the Philippines have lived in their respective lands for years even before the Philippines had grown as a civilization. They have their own means of communication and way of living. History books would tell us how they adapted to the demands of life and nature by learning different ways to gather food, make shelter and clothing. In those improvised ways, they have lived happily. Sadly, that happiness does not go on “ever after”. People, in thirst for more, exert their power to oppress those who know less and have less in life. Distinctively, the lands occupied by the indigenous people have caught the attention of these oppressors. They wanted to oust these natives so they could enjoy God’s gifts only for the satisfaction of their insatiable greed. These days, we can see a lot of indigenous people, also known as IP’s, begging for money and food, and sleeping on the streets because they don’t have a place they can go home to. Some even make fun of them and some would either verbally or physically abuse them. As witness to these events, lawmakers, just like the character of Jake Sully in the movie, Avatar, have awakened and have been enlightened and are now moving against this social opposition on the rights of cultural immunities over those things which they ancestrally own. In light of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, also known as Republic Act 8371, finally, the Philippines recognizes this ancestral ownership. The law specifically states that “Indigenous concept of ownership sustains the view that ancestral domains and all resources found therein shall serve as the material bases of their cultural integrity. The indigenous concept of ownership generally holds that ancestral domains are the ICC's/IP's private but community property which belongs to all generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed. It likewise covers sustainable traditional resource rights.” (Sec. 5, Chapter 3, R.A. 8371) Jake Sully or not, each individual is expected to respect the IP’s rights especially that there is already a law that defines their lands as well as rights over them. The law seeks incarnation from each citizen just like in the Avatar movie. Instead of destroying or personally gaining from the resources owned by our brothers and sisters we call IP’s , Filipinos must work hand in hand with them and together enjoy this enlightenment and share the blessings that each of us faithfully deserve.

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