by Alex Baluyut, Panglantaw Mindanao

 

Bukidnon is the home of the so-called Filipino cowboys. Clad in denim pants, leather boots and trademark high-crowned wide-brimmed hat, they maintain the appearance of the archetypal United States cowboy. This similarity is more than skin-deep as it was the Americans who established ranching in Mindanao during the early 20th century. Taken with the fertile expanse of Bukidnon, the incoming colonizers (after the Spanish) seized land via legislation for their own profit. The dispossessed indigenous residents were taken in as laborers who worked in oppressive circumstances. These ranches, now in the hands of Filipinos, still supply meat to the rest of the country especially Manila. Many present-day cowboys want to work abroad (in Australia or New Zealand) to escape minimal local earnings. The annual Kaamulan Festival in Malaybalay celebrate a romantic image of the Filipino cowboy, shrouding their true conditions. [PM]