‘Zamboanga del Norte is the stronghold of the Subanen tribe. How do you drive these kind people out of their homes? I will correct the evil,” says new governor Rosalina Jalosjos
ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – The Governor of Zamboanga del Norte, Rosalina Jalosjos, was sworn in on Saturday July 2 as the province’s new leader with a vow to improve the lives of the Subanen, an indigenous group that has long been marginalized and discriminated against.
Jalosjos wore Subanen clothing and was sworn in before Johnny Anugon Jr., Zamboanga del Norte’s Timuay Labi (highest tribal leader), after which a Subanen group danced as part of a Bukloga tribal ritual to show gratitude to the spirits.
The new governor is the sister of former Zamboanga del Norte congressman Romeo Jalosjos. Dapitan Mayor Seth Frederick Jalosjos and Zamboanga del Norte 1st District Representative Romeo Jalosjos Jr. are his nephews.
Its inauguration, two days after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office, was the culmination of the week-long festival Kasa Kaza Where Kasadya to Kadaugan (victory celebration) in Zamboanga del Norte.
“Under my administration, I will ensure that development and aid reach the most remote village of Zamboanga del Norte,” said the former mayor of Dapitan City.
Siayan town tribal leader Eugenio Arama said the new governor had made the natives of the province feel important and were optimistic that she would keep her promise to the Subanen.
“We ask for nothing but respect, not just from government officials, but also from our fellow citizens of Zamboanga del Norte,” said a teary-eyed Arama.
Arama said the Subanen had long been discriminated against and treated as “dirty, ignorant and ugly”.
“We survived, and with the new provincial leadership, maybe now we can get the respect we deserve,” he said.
Jalosjos, who has Subanen roots, promised to give them their rightful place in society. She said the capital is now open for the Subanen years after they were driven from their ancestral domain in Dipolog, the capital of Zamboanga del Norte.
Many Subanen families have been gradually evicted from their homes in Dipolog City and displaced since 2000, specifically to two tribal communities in the village of Santa Isabel, in the name of development.
What was once their home is now a place for settlements and multi-storey buildings which house the local offices of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and from the Dipolog city police office.
“Zamboanga del Norte is the stronghold of the Subanen tribe. How do you drive these kind people out of their homes? I will right the wrong they have suffered, and they don’t deserve to be called ugly. We are human; we too are beautiful,” Jalosjos said. – Rappler.com