Saturday, December 08, 2012

The People of Mindanaw, by Cecilia Valmore,

The People of Mindanawby Cecilia Valmore,

Click here for a photo album of the peoples of Mindanaw

Lumad Series: Higaunon

Introductory note: This article on the Higaunons was prepared by Ms. Cecilia Valmores, in charge of the Research Desk of the Indigenous Peoples Apostolate (IPA) of the Cagayan de Oro City, and has been validated by two tribal chieftains, Datu Migtaltagan (Bruno Lindahay) and Datu Masaba (Manuel Lindahay), member and vice president respectively of the Lantad-Balatukan Federation of Tribal Council. Kalinaw Mindanaw is publishing this here through the courtesy IPA's incumbent Executive Director, Mr. Lino Gelsano. Photographs will be added later. May we also refer the surfers to the Home Page of Hans Brandeis ( for more information on the Bukidnon, Higaunon, Talaandig and others. It also has an excellent collection of photographs.

Lantad-Balatukan Federation of Tribal Council
Ancestral Domain Claim

I.  Background and Setting Balatukan territory is one of the eight recognized territories (walo ha talugan) where the Higaunons are geographically distributed. These territories are bounded by immense rivers – Odiongan (Gingoog), Agusan, Kabulig (Claveria), Tagoloan, Lanao, Cagayan, Pulangi (Bukidnon) and Balatukan (Balingasag) hence these territories were named after these rivers.

The first inhabitants of the territory were the Higaunons. The Higaunons were known as the subgroup of the Manobo tribe. The term Higaunon came from the term "gaon" which means "from the mountain" or "mountain dwellers". The term was first popularized by Ricardo Hopin de la Camara in the year 1966. According to the elders of the territory, their ancestors were once coastal dwellers. The influx or migrant settlers and their desire to preserve their culture pushed them to retreat to the mountains.

Among these eight territories, Balatukan is very significant and central to the Higaunons' spiritual belief and cultural identity. At the heart of Balatukan mountain ranges lies Mt. Balatukan, an extinct volcano traditionally known as Mt. Kamatayan. Mt. Kamatayan has been believed to be a sacred mountain. According to the Higaunons' death myth, it is where the soul of the dead takes its final judgment. Until today the elders believe that the smokes from the vents and top of Mt. Kamatayan are campfires of the dead inside the mountain.

Later, Mt. Kamatayan gained its exonym, Mt. Cabecera, possibly from Spanish sources although there is no clear explanation for it; it means "center" as the mountain is indeed central to the religious belief and cultural identity not only to the Higaunons of Balatukan territory but also to the eight territories. This mountain today is popularly known as Mt. Balatukan with its close association with the Balatukan river.

Balatukan river is famous for its strong current as its original name suggests, Maragulos (meaning "with strong current") river. It was later changed to Balatukan because Apo Bayagtuk, the great Apo who is a descendant of Apo Gumugunal the keeper of the death who dwells at Mt. Kamatayan drowned there.
The earliest peopling of the territory is believed to have taken place at Sitio Lantad and its neighboring sitios. Lantad is one of the six sitios of Balatukan territory and five sitios of barangay Kibanban, Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, a vast plain of about 400 hectares, with an elevation of 800 feet above sea level. It is blessed with fertile land, high level of biological diversity and geological resources, wildlife and other sources of food. It is a valley distinctly located across the face of the extinct volcano Mt. Kamatayan, traversed by the mighty Balatukan river.

The term Lantad, according to historical accounts, was allegedly derived from the Spanish term adelantar; no such term exists in Higaunon. The word denotes an "improved condition" or "good condition". It is said that the first datu who arrived at the place found it very productive. He invited his kin to inhabit the place with him. The term adelantar was then shortened to lantar and since the native tongue has difficulty with the r sound, lantar becameLantad. The first datu became known as Datu sa Lantad.

Lantad has been known as a rebel enclave for almost two decades now. It lies northeast of the municipality of Balingasag, bounded by Lagonglong on the west, Gingoog on the east and Claveria at the south. Lantad is approximately twenty-six kilometers from the municipality of Balingasag. It could be reached from various points, either Barangay Samay, Barangay Quezon, and Barangay Napaliran of Balingasag or Barangay Bantaawan, Barangay Sidlakan and Barangay Pigsaluhan of Gingoog City or Barangay San Isidro, Barangay Bangbang of Medina, Misamis Oriental. It is, however, more accessible with Barangay Quezon road. From Barangay Quezon to sitio Lantaka as drop off point, Lantad could be reached with either 123 kilometer walk, a three to five hours horseback ride or a two hours risky ride on a motorcycle called habal habal.

In the year 1968, OCA Logging concession and BOLCAN timber concession in 1970 started the depletion of the territory’s old growth forests. Forest damage, however, was more attributed to the 1983 forest fires. These logging companies also drew in migrant settlers. Lantad at this period was known to be an agricultural productive community in the municipality of Balingasag which in turn was the top producer of agricultural products in the province of Misamis Oriental at that time. Roads at different points to the community, including farm to market roads were still passable. The peace and order situation was quite normal until 1981 when the problem of insurgency broke out.

In 1981, the insurgents started penetrating the area and by 1982, the peace and order situation worsened. Massive military operations were launched. Migrant settlers abandoned their houses, farms and work animals and resettled to the lowlands to escape the growing conflict. The Lumad moved further into the interior parts of the mountains, thus becoming by force of circumstances, masa or direct supporters or full timers of the insurgents. In 1982, the insurgents had the sitio under siege and in the last quarter of 1985, a Peoples’ Revolutionary Government (PRG) was instituted in the area.

With this development local government service employees could not enter the area for fear of being caught in the crossfire. Damaged roads, too, aggravated inaccessibility.

From 1984 to the middle of 1986, the CPP-NPA launched Operation Zombies, a systematic execution of deep penetration agents (DPAs) within its ranks. The years 1987 to 1989 marked the insurgents recovery period.

During the years 1986 to 1989, the economy of the community was in the hands of the revolutionary government. No farm products were sold outside the community. What they produced were intended only for consumption. The community consumed only within the limits of what it produced. Lowland settlers or small time businessmen were not allowed to enter the area.

In response, the government military forces launched Operation Skylark, an intensified ground and air assault from February to July 1990. Lantad became a no-man’s-land. There was food, medicine and clothing crisis.
Major military operations continued until 1991 when the Lumads, tired of the situation and years of hiding, decided to surrender and live peacefully within the fold of the law. Lantad gained relative peace. The government granted amnesty to the surrenderees, most of whom were Higaunons from sitio Lantad.
In 1993, government assistance, including those from the local and from the province started to flow in. The DENR’s Integrated Social Forestry program (ISFP) had 75 recipients or beneficiaries. A school building was built. Non-governmental organizations, too, did their bit.

The Center for Peace and Development (CPD) along with the Presidential Management (PMS) Staff facilitated organizing and livelihood assistance in the area. The Lantad Task Force composed of different government and non-governmental agencies was also organized to facilitate the needs of the people.

Early this year (1997), up to the month of November, Lantad-Balatukan Federation of Tribal Council, with their Supreme Counsel Datu Man-oray held a series of meetings to represent the claimants of the 57,870 hectares, well defined Balatukan Talugan (Ancestral Domain). The territory includes sito Anahaw, part of Barangay Sidlakan and part of Barangay Pigsaluhan of Gingoog City, part of Barangay San Isidro, Barangay Maayam, and Barangay Bangbang of Medina, Misamis Oriental and sitio Iba, part of Barangay Samay, sito Kamanse and Lantad of Balingasag, Misamis oriental having approximately 415 households and 3,477 individuals. Lantad alone had 141 households and 982 individuals, 97% of which are Higaunons.

The peace loving Higaunons continue to live, often caught between conflicting parties. They are either branded as NPAs by the extreme right or DPAs (Deep Penetration Agents) or military assets by the extreme left. In the face of this problem, they manage to maintain tribal integrity; they observe their traditions, practice their religious rituals and pursue their traditional community governance and the in accordance with customary law, the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nangka Tasa Ha Lana. There are, however, serious threats to their culture’s considering the strong influences from the dumagats, from the extremes (fear of the military and of the NPA) and loss of pride in their own cultural pride.

Abundance of natural resources and soil fertility within their ancestral territory continue to attract migrant settlers.

The Higaunons of sitio Lantad and the entire Balatukan terrritory and the NPAs are not one and the same as they are perceived by the dumagats. They are, however, one and united on one issue, the need to secure tenure protect their right to ancestral domain and to self-determination.

Prepared by:(Sgd)
Cecilia Valmores
IPA Research Desk
IPA-Cagayan de Oro
Validated by:(Sgd)
Datu Migtaltagan (Bruno Lindahay)
Member, Lantad-Balatukan Federation of Tribal Council

II. SOCIO-POLITICAL STRUCTURE There are virtually two political systems operating in Lantad, that of the local government and the traditional leadership of the Datus. Matters concerning government policies and programs are handled by the local government; conflicts within the community and questions of access to land are settled by the Datus. However, these divisions are not absolute and on matters of importance, both selected and traditional leaders are consulted.

The influential traditional leaders of Lantad gained their status from their leadership capabilities drawn from the wisdom of Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nang Ka Tasa Ha Lana or Higaunon customary law. Their capacity to lead was also enhanced through the seminars and training gained either from the local government, from church seminars, from NGOs or from the extremes (CPP-NPA and the military). These leaders from time to time were contacted by different agencies. Although decision making was done by male leaders, behind them was the implicit but strong participation of women.

At monthly meetings of the sitio, community projects are discussed, as are government programs such as health, livelihood, peace and order and others. Sitio meetings and assemblies are held every month, usually on a Saturday at the plaza or at the school. Every Saturday is also a pahina day. Pahinas, or cooperative labor, are usually well-attended as each household in sitio Lantad is required to send one representative to the pahina or pay a fine of fifty pesos (50.00) is imposed on those who are absent. Common pahina activities are repairing roads, planting and maintaining ornamental plants within the centro or barrio as commonly referred to by the residents. Pahinas are usually initiated by the sitio officials, the teachers, the datus or by the military; best attended if called by the latter. Pahinas are also social functions which strengthen the relationship among the residents of the sitio or the barrio.

Disputes within the community are first brought to the Datus. If either party is not satisfied by their decision, they can go to the Lupon Tagapamayapa, or barangay justice committee. The datus also handle questions of land ownership within Lantad, and relations with other indigenous communities, Higaunon or non-Higaunon.
Though Higaunons listen only to one Limbobongan Ho Banwa, decision is held by consensus. Tribal elders were given high respect. Their opinions, decisions were always sought especially with serious matters that is through kalalanga, a discussion process.

The Grand Counsel or Limbobongan ho Banwa is usually multi-skilled, i.e. he performs rituals, he knows how to cure and most importantly he can settle differences as in the case of Datu Man-oray of Balatukan Territory. He has been known as a good arbiter during his time. He was installed after a long and thorough process. His courage and wisdom enables him to perform his duties. He has the knowledge and wisdom of Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nang Ka Tasa Ha Lana.

The Koluba (Supreme Datu) leads his people to settle differences within the tribe and initiates discussion process or paglalang with the tribal elders especially with issues confronting them. He is basically the main ritualist of the tribe. He is chosen by the people and the Limbobongan Ho Banwa himself.

The sabandal or the emissary datu is responsible for providing information related to the current problems experienced by the community. He attends tribal activities outside the tribe in behalf of the Limbobongan Ho Banwa and carries messages for the tribe.

Datu Pamahandi is responsible for the financial matters of the community. He performs rituals related to his job. He is in charge of the preparation of ritual paraphernalia. Securing food for the visitors of the tribe is also part of his duties.

Bae Tagohabol prepares vests, kamuyot and kerchief for Dang-ol (installation of Datus).
The baylan is the doctor and the priest of the tribe. He is responsible for the health of the community both the spiritual and physical health that is with the aid of an abyan.

Bae Mangangapog secures betel nut and apog or lime for the Datus during discussions.

The Alimaong or tribal guards are responsible for the security of the tribe.

Today, the traditional political structure has undergone some changes. It is no longer well defined. It has weakened and become less influential because of the existing local government, the barangay. Although this is the common trend among the indigenous communities, Lantad-Balatukan Higaunons have been among those communities which have consistently tried to uphold their traditional political structures.

Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nangka Tasa Ha Lana (Higaunon Customary Law)

Translated literally, Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nangka Tasa Ha Lana means bulawanong panaghiusa nga adunay sukdanan sa kalinaw ug hustisya in Cebuano or golden solidarity and measure of justice and equality. It is a self-determining system, a way of life for the Higaunons.

Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nangka Tasa Ha Lana could be traced back to the time before the Spaniards came, when Apo Pabuluson, Higaunons’ great Apo, upon observing that the Higaunons were already divided and the pgtugunan ko gin-apuanwere no longer observed, held a dumalungdong, the highest and most sacred prayer gathering among the Higaunons, together with the tribal datus from northern Mindanaw.
The Bungkatol Ha Bulawan symbolizes the undying fellowship among tribesmen who adhere to keep peace and harmony as an essential path for every tribal community. This has been observed with utmost respect, as it embodies the way of life, norms and traditions, social organization and system of the tribal community. The Bungkatol Ha Bulawan represents the humanity of life and the culture which the Lumads cherish and practice.

What is embodied in the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nangka Tasa Ha Lana?

The Bungkatol Ha Bulawan says that land is a gift from Magbabaya, God. Nobody can claim ownership of it and, consequently, no one should be subjected to serfdom and enslavement.

It is prohibited to cut down flowering trees for they are the source of food and treasure of the forest.
Those who hold authority or have dominion over the territories are acknowledged by the laws embodied in it.

Theft, exploitation of the effort of others and disrespects for the properties of others is against the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan Nangka Tasa Ha Lana.

The Bungkatol Ha Bulawan enjoins respect and acknowledgement of the different tagbaya or demi-gods: the Igbabasok who has dominion over the farms; the Pamahandi over treasures and properties, the Bulalakaw over the waters and fishes, thePanalagbugta over lands, and the Tumanod, record keeper-servant of the Magbabaya.

The pangayaw or declaration of war against an enemy is permitted in the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan in order to protect the tribe and put a stop to all atrocities.

Anybody who infringes on the laws of the territory will be punished (pagasalaon) including unreasonable murder, theft, slander and discrimination of another person.

It is a virtue in the Bungkatol Ha Bulawan to die for each other, to respect one another, to understand one another for rapport and peace inside or outside the tribe or territory.
Prepared by:(Sgd)
Cecilia Valmores
IPA Research Desk
IPA-Cagayan de Oro
Datu Masaba (Manuel Lindahay)
Vice President
Lantad-Balatukan Federation of Tribal Council

III.  SUBSISTENCE PATTERN Higaunons of sitio Lantad and the entire Balatukan territory subsists on staple agricultural products which they grow in wide variety. These are either planted on their backyards, their talaoha/unayan (work fields) or on their hillside kaingin or swidden farm. They also grow rice and corn which they either grind on their stone corn mill or have them milled at the poblacion and sold for 5.00 pesos per kilo. A proportion is stored for family consumption. Higaunon culture prohibits selling of any of these staple products. But with the influx of the dumagat and the influence of cash economy, almost all of them are already selling these products except for rice the selling of which, they still strongly believe, would cause great malas (scarcity of food) and must be abhorred.

They are also horticulturists. They grow a rich variety of vegetables which include wild ferns, water grass, sayote, white beans, and others. They also grow spices specially onions, which they grow in abundance, along with fruits like guavas, avocado, mango and wild fruits like rattan and others.

Occasionally, they hunt, trap wild pigs, deer, rodents, amphibians, wild birds, and gather other food items from the forest. Forest products such as giyong (tiger grass), rattan (poles and split), romblontikog for mat weaving are significant in the area. Most of them are dependent on these products during lean months. Their forests also grow a rich variety of timber like tugas, tanguile, apitong and narra, hence the recourse to tablon-tablon, another source to supplement subsistence farming.

During lean months, this economic activity does not only suffice for their basic needs while they await harvest but they also meet urgent needs such as medicines and hospitalization. It is also a recourse for those about to be married, and for ritual requirements like pigs and chickens. Engaged in this relatively easy way of getting a living are people whose ages range from 13 to 45, women included.

Distinct also in Lantad is the large percentage of CAFGU employment for men ages 15 to 35, women included, too.

There is also significant number of residents have also gone down to the poblacion and the cities to work as helpers or working students.

IV.  BELIEFS AND CUSTOMSBelief in Supernatural Beings

The Higaunons spiritual belief is deeply rooted in nature and faith in the supernatural forces. They believe in magbabaya, the creator and supreme being. He created all things that we think, feel and see. In order to ensure the harmony over his creation,magbabaya created spirits called tumanod to guard over his creation. They also believe that with these good spirits co-exist the bad spirits or the busaw.

Concept of Land and their Domain

To the traditional Higaunons land cannot be owned since life itself comes from the land. The idea of land being owned through a piece of paper, or buying it and owning it is alien to them. Today, however, with the dumagats’ influence of buying and selling land, some of them have sold their land for just a pittance to alleviate their situation or exchange a nating baka (cow) or a carabao to help them till their land, or for health needs, like hospitalization, or in exchange for cans of sardines or fighter wine, although they would say the latter in exaggeration.

Their ancestors have lived on their territories over which they ruled themselves and related with other neighboring territories, long before the government was established. These territories – the land includes the people, their dwellings, the mountains, the waters, the air, the plants, the mountains, the forests and the animals – these all constitute the environment or the domain in its totality. The indigenous peoples right to ancestral domain springs from their being heirs of their ancestors. They believe that their survival depends on the land, asserting their right to it and defending it, otherwise they will cease to exist as distinct people. They believe that the right to life includes the right to a way of life. If the right to a way of life rest upon the land for survival, then the right to life must be extended to their ancestral land.

Belief in the Judgement of the Dead

Mt. Kamatayan, more prominently known by the dumagat as Mt. Balatukan is a landmark important for the cultural identity of the Higaunons of the eight territorial boundaries.

The Higaunons of the eight territorial boundaries believe that every human being has seven souls. When an individual dies, these seven souls merge into one. Then the soul makes its way to Mt. Kamatayan for the final judgement. The journey is long and tedious. First, it must go to Panigbasan where the tree of records grows. The soul makes a notch on the tree to show that it has arrived there. Then it proceeds to Dalamay Suso, a huge rock at upper Napaliran, then crosses to Balatukan with Andalapit, a demigod, who conducts the soul to the Kadiklumang Katiguman at Panaysayawan where the soul dances the ritual dance of atonement for his sins. It does not stop dancing until it sweats profusely. Next the soul gets a haircut at Panamparan. From there it proceeds to Kumbirahan where a banquet is prepared for it. Then, Apo Gumugunal conducts the soul at the foot of Mt. Kamatayan where the soul is judged by the assembled gods of the dead. If the soul is adjudged good, it is sent to Dungkiluban, the cloud-capped stairway to heaven. If it is deemed wicked, it is sent to Lake Aluyan (having a fishy smell). It is made to fetch water night and day until its sins are forgiven. The soul of the wicked sweats from exhaustion and the river is red due to their blood.

Amidst the problem of insurgency, cultural assimilation and economic deprivation, Higaunons of sitio Lantad have remained traditional over the years. They still practice their customs and traditions. Their rites and rituals, i.e. passage rituals, livelihood rituals especially planting and harvests, are some of their interesting and well-observed rituals. There is, however, one that is very prominent because it is referred to as the biggest gathering or assembly of the Higaunons of the eight territories, the dumalungdong.


Dumalungdong Paghupit ho Espiritu, is the descent of the highest spirit, the spirit of wisdom, courage, goodness and peace, the spirit of Magbabaya. Later it became the name of the spirit itself. Dumalungdong, the prayer ritual reflects the Higaunons’ desire to recapture the descent experience.

Dumalungdong is the highest and most revered prayer for the indigenous people of Lantad. This ritual is usually held when an individual completes his training for datuship or that of a babaylan who would then become a professed baylan. This ritual is also held when there is a need for the community for new leadership or turnover of leadership as in the case of Lantad. Thus the ritual when Datu Man-Oray, the Limbobongan ho Banwa (Grand Counsel) at the age of 125, expressed his desire to turn over his leadership to his legitimate heir Datu Masaba. Or when the community is beset with serious problems as in that held at Kalabugao in 1986 when the groups of Iglesia ni Kristo were encamped by Governor Zubiri in their ancestral lands. Or when there is a call for serious action such as pangayaw, when a tribe engages itself in a tribal war against an oppressor. The first dumalungdong was held at Tagoloan territory under the leadership of Datu Pabuluson.

The Higaunons believe that for every Dumalungdong, a chosen individual becomes a medium of the spirit Dumalungdong itself. The medium facilitates the preparation and the coming of the different tribal leaders of different Talugans (territory) . The Lantad-Balatukan Dumalungdong was attended by its neighboring Talugans: Odiongan, Agusan, Kabulig, Pulangi, Cagayan and Lanao.


(The Concept of Justice)

The tampuda is the Higaunons’ system of social control and peaceful mechanism to resolve conflicts in Lantad.

tampuda is conducted tin order to prevent vengeance. The process begins by obtaining a rattan vine or a balagun about half a meter long. At the ritual each of the feuding parties hold one end of the freshly obtained rattan. The officiating datu in a solemn tone proclaims the moment as a solemn moment and that each party should speak the truth because his is a pact of forgiveness, friendship and unity. If ever anyone would speak falsehood, he would suffer the same fate as the balagun. Then, he cuts the balagun neatly into two. This is then laid on a table and kept.

Marriage Rite

On the day before the wedding, a ritual for the couples’ gimukod or individual’s spirit, is performed. This is to seek their permission so that they would be joined with each other’s gimukod.

On the wedding day, the bride is taken to a room where she is left alone. The room’s door is sealed with fresh linen --an embroidered sack of rice will also do -- and a lady in waiting guards the entrance of the room in sitting position. When everything is set, the bride is then escorted out to the doorstep of the bride'’ house where a pig is laid. She steps on the pig before she goes up inside the house which in turn marks the start of the main rite. The datus from both parties officiate the proceedings. They unite the bride and the groom with a betel nut exchange. The datus from both parties also exchange betel nuts. After chewing the nuts, they also exchange a fist full of rice. A chicken is then butchered and its blood is smeared on the couples’ hands to symbolize the sanctity of the ceremony. Purification by water ends the rite. Merry-making follows. On the following day, they receive the wali-wali from the elders. Best wishes are given so that their married life will be fruitful. For three days, the newly wed were forbidden to step on water.

Part of the Higaunons marriage institution is the duay where a man takes two or more wives. Permission of the first wife is prerequisite to the recognition of the duay. In most cases, it is the first wife who would ask the husband for a second wife or more so that she would have an assistant in her daily chores. The second wife is obligated to obey the first.


(Agricultural Ritual)

This ritual marks the transference of stewardship of the land. Traditional Higaunons believed that every nook and cranny of the earth has unseen guardians. Hence, before a new land is opened for cultivation, a ritual is first performed to ask the spirit’s permission. If the omen, pagbagto, is favorable, the cultivation begins. A padugo ritual is then made whereby an animal, usually chicken, is butchered and offered to the spirits. Only then is the land planted.

Pamuhatbuhat: Healing Ritual

Higaunons believe that some sicknesses are due to soul loss. They believe that man has seven souls. During sleep, six of these souls leave the body and their adventures compose the dreams of the sleeper. Some of these souls may encounter a busaw or evil spirit who would captured it or them to be devoured later when the sleeper wakes up. The person who loses a soul or more then becomes sick. A baylan is then consulted. He offers an animal, uses the blood to call its abyan or helping spirit who in turn approaches the place of sacrifice. With the abyan, they search for the lost soul to bring back the health of the patient.

Prepared by:(Sgd)
Cecilia Valmores
IPA Research Desk
IPA-Cagayan de Oro
 (Sgd with thumbmark)
Datu Masaba (Manuel Lindahay)
Vice President
Lantad-Balatukan Federation of Tribal Council

16 captures
16 Mar 02 - 20 Apr 05

News Letters

December 15, 2004The "Inga" Lesson
November 30, 2004A Murder, a Wedding and a Kidnapping
November 22, 2004Seminar Update
November 18, 2004Church Leadership Seminar
November 1, 2004Remembered to Pray for Rupu?
October 18, 2004Comprehension Checking
October 5, 2004Tongue Growth Update
September 28, 2004October 2nd is Thanksgiving Day
September 21, 2004Visitors
August 23, 2004Back in the Village
August 8, 2004Rebels in Area - Please Pray!
July 26, 2004God's Work in Two Outreach Villages
July 20, 2004New Batteries
June 30, 2004A Hard Decision to Make
May 21, 2004Answered Prayer
May 12, 2004Higaunon Church Seminar
May 3, 2004Rain, Requests, Coworkers & More
March 16, 2004At Work on Several Projects
January 21, 2004Silak Wanted to Talk
December 26, 2003Out ... No Matter the Method


16 captures
16 Mar 02 - 20 Apr 05

February 25, 2002The Word of God continues to go forth
January 15, 2002January Update
December 11, 2001Merry Christmas - biopsy results negative for malignancy!
November 27, 2001Emergency Flight for Laura
October 30, 2001Lance's mom (Erma Ostman) went "Home"
September 23, 2001How Will Recent Events Affect Us?
August 13, 2001Back in the Village
June 19, 2001
April 5, 2001
March 24, 2001

March 24, 2001
Hello everyone - just thought we'd send you this update. Thanks each of you who continue to pray for us. L&L

Praise the Lord and thanks for praying for us over the past week. We flew out of the village a little later than expected due to poor weather. But, by late morning the clouds parted allowing the plane to come get us. We "bumped into" (one of those meetings that only God can orchestrate) one of the church members from Bible Believers Fellowship and from that we had a good time of fellowship the following day. Pastor Greg had been up to visit the pastor who ministers to the lowland language speaking people just the week previous. He said they were expecting us, he thought, on Monday. So, instead of Tuesday, it ended up being Monday - no big deal. Then they asked if I'd be willing to speak to the congregation the next morning, and, since I have a hard time saying no to opportunities like that, I enjoyed sharing with the church Sunday morning where we saw some dear friends.

We had agreed that one of the pastors from the church would stop by and pick us up Monday morning and get us to the place where we'd get on public transportation to take us. Upon arrival where the "jeep" would take us into the mountains, we were notified that there would be no jeep until later that day - well into the afternoon. However, there are motorcycles that take up to 6 passengers at a time, and this fellow was more than willing to take us to our destination for a mere 120 pesos. (not to much when converted to dollars but who does that after all this time here?) So, we were off (no comments on that one please!) The bike was a small street bike - perhaps a 155cc. I sat behind the driver and Laura sat behind me with luggage strapped to the bike. The driver "flew" up the mountain road and Laura only screamed 4 times - thinking she was coming off the bike.

A little over 30 minutes later we arrived at our destination. They were NOT expecting us until the next day but were happy that we had arrived. The said they'd love to have us for a month if we could stay that long. Langan & Iyi and their 4 children live in a 12’x16’ house with no furniture. They sleep on the hard floor with a mosquito net. Laura and I brought mats to sleep on but no net. We did, however, burn mosquito coils to keep those nasty malaria carrying creatures away. Mosquitoes aren't the only things that nets keep away but none of these other creatures awakened us the two nights we were there. It's amazing what we take for granted - water flush toilets (none), ready made food (none), electricity (none), etc., etc. They had picked some avocados the week before, and they were ready for eating. They tasted so good with a bit of sea salt sprinkled over them.

We enjoyed a great time of fellowship with the believers and had a question and answer time with unbelievers in attendance. While showing us around, Langan pointed across the valley to a place where he used to live. He spoke of a house where the people placed the bones of the dead - believing that if all the dead were gathered in one place, there would be a resurrection. He also spoke of a man who carried the bones of his wife and child around with him wherever he went. It breaks your heart! Pray that God would open their hearts to listen to the teaching. Pray too for a chieftain who is not a believer and had a number of questions for us. He is a witch doctor.

The trip out was all down hill making it a longer and "less exciting" trip. Thanks so for praying for us. What a blessing you are to this ministry.

Secure in Him,
Lance & Laura


Prayer Requests....... 4-5-01
Thank you for praying for the following.
Lance & Laura.....


· Pray for us as we work on the teaching curriculum for the Higaunon church. The Bible teachers have been asking for new materials to give to those they are discipling. Before we can give them the materials, we want to make sure there are no errors in them. So, we’ve been spending a lot of hours going through the materials and weeding out errors before we do another print.

· Our co-workers, Ron & Michelle Jennings have finished with the updated literacy materials and are printing them and putting them in book form. Each page is full color and gets laminated so they’ll not only be attractive but also will last in this harsh environment.

· Pray for our children. Robert and Kelli are still in Jackson; MI. where Kelli is finishing up at NTBI and Robert is driving for a local company. He’s home every night with his job, which is a big answer to prayer. On those odd times when he’s not, Kelli goes with him. They are planning on visiting us this summer and would appreciate your prayers for them in this. They will then return to Oklahoma where Kelli will finish up her schooling for her marketing degree. Then Robert hopes to go back to school as well.

· Nicole is at Trinity International University, Deerfield IL. She is just about to finish up her first year. She has enjoyed it for the most part but of course it has not been without its challenges. She has been asked to be an RA (resident’s assistant) this next year and has agreed to that. She is excited about the possibility of going to China this summer and would appreciate your prayers for her.


June 19, 2001
Dear Prayer Partners,

We trust this news update finds you all well and rejoicing in the Lord. There's a flight coming in tomorrow which will take our e-mail out to town, so we thought we'd take this opportunity to catch you up on what all is happening.

First and foremost in our minds is the hostage situation with Martin & Gracia Burnham. They are never far from our minds these days and we find ourselves waking up in the middle of the night praying for them. They may be held "against their will" but they are not being held against God's will. Although our hearts ache for them, we take comfort in the fact that God is in complete control and He has a purpose for them right where they are. Thank you for praying for them and their children and extended family members. Pray, too, for the others being held - perhaps God is using this situation to bring them to Himself.

Second on our minds these days is Nicole. As we reported to you in previous letters, the Lord has arranged for her to go to China this summer. The organization she's with raised some extra money allowing her to stop in to see us on her way. We had a great time with her and we praise the Lord for this opportunity He has given to her for the summer. She left here over a week ago, spent a week with believers in Korea, and then last Monday made her way to Beijing, where she'll be teaching English. An e-mail from her yesterday assured us that she arrived safe and sound and everything went smoothly as she entered the country. Praise the Lord with us for this! Please continue to pray for her as she looks to the Lord for her time there. If you do write her, please do not mention anything of a religious/spiritual nature. "We're thinking of you." translates into "We're praying for you." and there are other ways to say things that will not be seen by the authorities there as threatening. So, please use discretion when or if you write. Thank you. Last week in Korea, the woman she stayed with told her that last year she herself was put in jail for 2 days and fined $700 for having a Bible study in China. So Nicole was warned to be very careful.

Third we have one more month before we leave for our annual conference in Manila. We're looking forward to getting together with the rest of our NTM field personnel July 23-28 just outside Manila at a retreat/conference center. Please pray for safety for each one traveling to get there and then back to their respective places of ministry. Due to the current hostage crisis in the country, there are warnings for foreigners traveling because of threats that more hostages are being sought. Also pray our hearts will be prepared for the times in the Word.

Fourth we had told some of you that we expected Robert and Kelli to visit us this summer. Well, it doesn't look like it's going to work out as they had some unexpected expenses. We had given them some travel vouchers but they couldn't use them unless they were paying full fare which was apparently quite expensive. At any rate, God has other things in store for them. They are "on the road" as I write this - moving to Oklahoma. I'm sure they would appreciate your prayers for them as they settle in and as Robert looks for employment and Kelli finishing her degree this fall.

Well I guess that sums it up. Thanks to each of you for your part in this ministry through prayer and to those who give. What a blessing each one is.

Secure in Christ,Lance & Laura

PS - this just in - A village about 5 "grueling" hours hike from here has asked for a teacher to come and teach them God's word. They have built a meeting house and are preparing for someone from here to come live there. Reportedly there are 28 families ready to listen to the teaching. Please pray!

[August 13, 2001]
Greetings from Higaunon land! We returned to the village on Thursday. We were so eager to get home, back to our routine and to work. We do praise the Lord for so many answered prayers! Thank you for praying for us and our NTM field conference. God gave safety for all the travel involved and we had a wonderful conference. Of course, our hearts were heavy because our dear friends Martin & Gracia Burnham were missing from our fellowship. Thank you for continuing to pray for them! We have no further news to report on their situation, but for any current update look at the NTM web site.

Things here in the village seem to be going well. We do ask you to pray for the ongoing work with the checking, translation, the different projects going on - all for the strengthening of the Higaunon church. There is teaching going on in many other Higaunon villages at this time. Thanks for praying for the village where there are a number of families wanting to listen to the teaching. There is a family here who is getting ready to go and teach them. Please continue to pray for the people there that they will be faithful to listen and that they will respond to the truth of God's Word. Pray that the Higaunon church leaders (and we) will keep our focus on the Lord in all that we do. Our theme at conference was "Intimacy with God" and it was good to be reminded again that God desires our fellowship. He is more interested in our walk with Himself than anything we accomplish for Him!

While we were out we got to talk to Robert, Kelli and Nicole by phone. Nicole had a great time in China! If you did not receive her update and would like to, please let us know. She is interested in returning to China again next summer. Right now she is preparing to be a Resident Assistant at Trinity International University this year - being responsible for 26 girls! Please pray for her in this as well as for her classes, her finances, a job, relationships, etc! Robert & Kelli got moved to Oklahoma and Kelli will be starting classes soon to complete her degree in marketing, the Lord willing, in December. God has provided them with a nice little house to rent and Robert has a job - driving truck yet again! This time the truck is not an 18 wheeler though. He will be delivering supplies to mini-marts and gas stations in the Dallas, Ft.Worth area. Please pray for his safety, for Kelli in her schooling and a job, for their relationship as husband and wife (they just celebrated their first anniversary last week!), for their involvement in a church, for God's direction for their future. We still very much want them to come for a visit here. Pray we all will rest in God's timing for this, if it is His will.

I (Laura) ended up with a very bad virus - chest cold, cough last week. Thanks for praying for our health needs! We do so take our good health for granted, until we "get hit" with something!

The last word we had from the family regarding Lance's mom was that she isn't doing well at all. Your prayers for her and the family there are much appreciated. We know Mom wants to go "Home" to be with the Lord. It is hard for the family to watch her deteriorate mentally and physically like she is. God's timing is perfect, so we wait on Him for Mom's "promotion." Lance's sister Kathy was able to be home from Venezuela, for several weeks this summer and got to see mom - we praise the Lord for this.

We enjoyed wonderful fellowship with coworkers from all over the Philippines at our conference. It is always a joy to hear what God is doing in other areas and ministries. We are privileged to be part of a great team reaching the tribes of the Philippine Islands with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. YOU are part of the team as well. Thank you again for your part in this work and in our lives personally. We praise God for you! We also want to say a special Thank you to each one who writes to us. Even the "one-liners" letting us know you receive our updates and are praying for us, are a big encouragement. So, keep those emails coming!

Secure in Christ alone,
Laura & Lance


[September 23, 2001]

Greetings one and all in that precious Name above all names - Jesus! What a joy it is to know we are in His hands and that He is in complete control of our lives. How we praise the Lord for the privilege to know Him during these uncertain days.

Six o'clock each weekday morning finds us answering roll call on the 2-way radio. On Wednesday, September 12th there was no "traffic" and so it was only few minutes past six when we turned on the news to hear of the terrorist attack in the US. Our hearts are heavy for all that has happened, for this not only effects our nation, but it has changed our world like nothing else. We are living in exciting days, especially as we realize that each day is bringing us one day closer to the sound of that trumpet! Our prayer is that the Church around the world will be busy about the Master's business, taking advantage of the day - "night is coming when no one can work."

How will this affect us? Time will tell and we are relying completely on the Lord to give us wisdom in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you for continuing to pray for our safety. The days may be uncertain, but we serve an all knowing God - all wise God.

We continue to press on with the work the Lord has given us to do among the Higaunon people. We've been busy with checking teaching materials before a final print. The Lord has provided for new equipment for photo copying and printing by the generous gift of a Christian businessman whom none of us has ever met!

We would appreciate your prayers for our health. I have not been feeling very well the past few days and have treated myself for malaria as a precaution. Today I'm a bit better but still weak. Laura was treated for pneumonia last month but still has some cough and is feeling better but still not 100%.

In case you haven't yet heard the news, there has finally been "closure" to the hostage situation of our three NTM co-workers taken from their tribal allocation in Panama in 1993. From all reports Dave Mankins, Mark Rich and Rick Tenenoff became a liability to their captors and were killed in mid 1996, when being chased by the Columbian military. Please do continue to pray for the families of these men as they adjust and look to the Lord for healing. That hostage situation has been resolved, but the one here in the Southern Philippines is still on going. Please keep praying for Martin and Gracia Burnham and their families. We have not had any reports on them in more than a week. With all the hatred the attacks in the US has stirred up, we are even more concerned for our dear brother and sister in their situation. We do know that God is still in control!

"Look up for your redemption draweth nigh!" We don't know how soon the Lord could call His church upward, but we need to be ready and watching. Thank you for the part you have in our lives and the ministry here among the Higaunon people by your faithful prayer support! What a blessing each of you are to us.

Secure in Him,
Lance & Laura


October 30, 2001
It is Tuesday October 30 and we just received word that Lance's mom (Erma Ostman) went "Home" to be with the Lord yesterday. The family had been praying for her "promotion," as she was failing so badly recently. Thanks for your prayers for the family at this time. see prayer request 8/13/01

We thought about trying to get back to the US for the funeral but for ourselves and the family there we just feel it's not necessary. It would be quite a feat to get ourselves organized, go from the tribe to the US within a matter of a couple of days! We also are in the process of doing a major printing project here.

The family plans to have a get together in Wisconsin in the spring to remember mom. We're planning to head back to the US at that time for a few months. Thank you again for your prayers!

Secure in Him,
Lance & Laura


[November 27 2001]
Dear Prayer Partners,

We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and notes of encouragement from all of you who have let us know you are praying! I have been "feeling" those prayers! For those of you who have not yet heard, we called in an emergency flight on Sun morning to bring us out to town so I could see a doctor.

I hardly slept on Saturday night and had pain in my left arm which really concerned me. On Sunday I rested once we arrived at the guest house. Yesterday (Monday) we went to see the doctor and I had all kinds of tests done. Praise the Lord all the tests came back with not just "good" results, but "excellent" results! My heart checked out fine. We do have to phone the doctor this morning after the radiologist reads my x-rays to see if my neck and shoulders are "in line." I am going to another doctor on Thursday for some further checking (our doctor wanted me to get a second opinion just in case she missed anything) and to have an ultrasound. I do praise the Lord that I've slept better the past two nights!

Thank you all for praying for me (us) during these days as we seek answers to my physical condition. In short, the doctor here in town puts a lot of my symptoms down to "pre menopausal syndrome." Whatever the cause of my physical symptoms, I do know the Lord knows all about it. Thanks again so much for your prayers and for all of you who have written personal emails to us to let us know you are praying. We appreciate it so very much!!! Don't stop now.

We praise the Lord that Nicole was able to fly down to be with Robert and Kelli for Thanksgiving break. She returned safely to school yesterday. The kids had a great time together. Pray for Kelli as she only has a couple of weeks of school left till graduation. The Lord has already answered prayer in providing a job for her in their area - working at their church! Robert will be looking for a new, part time job in the new year, as he hopes to go "back to school" in order to get his degree. Please pray for our kids in knowing God's direction for their future. Nicole is enjoying this year at Trinity International University - being kept very busy as a Resident Assistant for 26 girls as well as the International Students Assistant. This year is really stretching and growing her in the Lord. Please pray for her too!

Will write more about our kids and the Higaunon work in another update soon. Do feel free to ask any questions you might have. Thanks again for your prayers!

Secure in Christ alone,
Laura & Lance

PS - just got a message from the doctor saying I have a degenerative disk in my spine - not sure what all that means and am to see a specialist tomorrow. Thanks for praying!


December 11 , 2001
Merry Christmas from Lance and Laura!

Greetings from the Philippines!

Luke 2:10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

It is with great rejoicing that we write to you today. First of all, we have a living Savior, Jesus Christ! We have assurance of eternal life with God, through Him, because of His sacrifice for our sin. We are blessed abundantly with family and friends who love us and whom we love so very much. We've been privileged to work among the Higaunon people and see many come to faith in Christ - brothers and sisters who will spend eternity with us! The list of blessings (this sounds more like a Thanksgiving message!) could go on and on.

We want to let each of you know that we just got the biopsy results back (even earlier than expected!) All were negative for malignancy! The doctor read the report to me over the phone, so I don't have the medical terms to describe what "is" the problem (it sounded like endometriosis to me) but she said there's nothing further to be done at this time - so that's good news! THANK YOU for your prayers for us during this past couple of weeks especially! Oh, and Lance is feeling much better this past couple of days, too! The cough seems to have subsided and so far, I haven't caught the virus! We do praise the Lord for these gracious answers to prayer. We had a good laugh when one person wrote "...and we pray the Lord will protect you from your husband." Well, so far He has protected me from this virus.

We will plan to return to our village before the end of the month, God willing. Right now we just feel in need of more rest, since I'm still recovering from the surgery and am very sore! (It was the "old fashioned" kind of surgery!) It was the end of this week we had originally planned to come out "for a break" - so we're still hoping to do some of the things we planned on - like visiting some friends, doing some shopping, etc. Please pray we will recuperate well from our current "ailments" and be able to enjoy a safe, relaxing time together and with friends before our return to the work in the village. Lance has work to do while we are here as well; he has been working on the concordance as he's been able.

We've also enjoyed getting on the internet and "chatting" with our kids as well as doing emails ourselves from the guest house! We've enjoyed and appreciated all the notes of love and encouragement from so many! It's been fun trying to keep up with answering them - but we love being "in touch" and truly thank the Lord for this modern technology. Don't hesitate to reply to our emails - anytime! We do know that sometimes our emails are not reaching their destinations - so if you don't get a reply, just write again. We've had to resend some pretty important emails the past day or so!

Let me close with something to think about: This year has been one of trial for us personally, and the body of Christ - with the Burnham's being taken hostage. God has confirmed to our hearts over and over again that our trust must be completely in Him, not in our circumstances or in men. He is God. He is sovereignly in control of ALL things. God delights in our fellowship with Himself. He wants our lives to glorify His name. He loves us with an unconditional, everlasting love! This is our prayer for each of you - that you may truly "know Christ," perhaps as never before. And keep praying for laborers because many still have no knowledge of this Jesus whose birth we celebrate. Thanks again for your prayers for us and the Higaunon work. And please do keep praying for the Burnham family! We still pray many times daily for Martin & Gracia's soon release and to be reunited with family. God is good, all the time!

Rejoicing in Jesus,
Laura & Lance


Ostman Update January 15
Hello! We've been back home in the tribal village for almost three weeks. Things are going well here. While we were away Ron Jennings continued with printing up Higaunon scriptures and teaching materials. The new printer has gone through 40,000 pieces of paper in two months! We praise the Lord for the equipment He's provided for us to produce the books for the Higaunon.

We had LOTS of rain the first couple of weeks we were home. On New Year's Eve we had a flood and "almost" lost the hydro-generator! It was a blessing in disguise though, as the guys were able to discover a problem and fix it. Had it not been for the flood and getting the generator out to dry it off, the problems would likely have caused the generator to burn up. Like so many things in our lives we have a negative attitude about, but after a while God shows us it was for our good.

I've been feeling much better and stronger since the surgery. Thank you again for your prayers! The doctor has recommended that I have a check up in a few months, which I plan to do when we are Stateside, the Lord willing. Currently we are planning on leaving here sometime in April and returning in July. No exact dates yet, but we are working on it!

Please continue to pray for the work here. There is much to be done!

Secure in Him,
Laura & Lance


Ostman Update February 25
The old man danced for joy as the two Higaunon Bible teachers came into his village. Several months had passed since Sungusungu and his family had left there to go to their home village (where we live) for the delivery of their fifth child. In the months while they were gone a couple of renegade "soldiers" had been causing havoc for the villages in that area - stealing and threatening the people. The people who had been listening in the village thought, because of the trouble in their area, that the Higaunon missionary would not return. So, when Sungusungu and Sona went there to see if the people still wanted to hear the teaching of God's Word, they got their answer in the old man's joyous response to seeing them return! The Word of God continues to go forth here in the Philippines! Please continue to pray for safety and open doors to the Gospel amongst the Higaunon and other tribal groups here, despite the different forms of opposition.

Things here in the village are going well. We continue to be busy with work on the concordance, checking revised Acts curriculum before a "final print," and printing up lots of books for the church. (the printer's counter shows 80,000+ copies and it was brand new last October) Other projects that are being worked on are the moving of our hydro generator to a different location for more efficient electricity, the banana project, the Bible comics, further curriculum for the church and translation of Scripture. Thank you so much for upholding us (our missionary team) and the work here, in prayer.

This week marks 9 months of captivity for our dear coworkers, Martin & Gracia Burnham. We would ask that you please continue to pray for them and their family as we all wait on the Lord for the resolution of this hostage crisis. God continues to remind us of His sovereignty and His love for ALL men - even the Abu Sayyaf who are holding Martin & Gracia. Pray especially that Martin & Gracia will hold on to their faith, continue to find God's grace sufficient for each day and be a shining testimony of Jesus Christ before their captors and the watching world! Pray for their safety as the military are engaged in trying to eradicate the Abu Sayyaf and pray for their physical health, as we understand they are very thin and weak from malnutrition.

Our health is pretty good these days. Laura continues to be thankful for her gall bladder surgery, as she's felt so much better since it came out! We are making plans to go to the US for three months from late April to late July. As we've mentioned before, this will be mainly a time to spend with family. We will be happy to visit with friends and supporters along the way as much as possible, but obviously we won't be able to get around to see everyone this time. We wish we could! Our plans are still to have a more "regular" furlough in the Spring 2003 to early 2004. We would appreciate your prayers for our visit in the US, for safety as we travel and all the many miles to be covered, profitable time with family, etc.

As always, we thank you for your partnership in the ministry here by your prayers. Don't hesitate to write us - we love getting mail!

Secure in Christ alone,
Lance & Laura


May 01, 2002
Greetings to each of you. We trust this finds you rejoicing in the Lord for each area in your lives.

We arrived in the US one week ago today. We don't think we've done too badly getting over jet lag. Right now we are still in California but tomorrow we fly to Chicago. We've had a wonderful time with the new friends we've met here. How we praise God for answered prayer in working out so many details of our time here. Thanks for praying for us!!

Tomorrow evening Nicole is planning to meet us at O'Hare airport! We look forward to seeing her and then within a couple days we will be with Lance's siblings for the internment of Mom Ostman's remains at Dad's grave in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We look forward to this family time and this time of memorial for Mom. We'll be visiting friends and supporters in the area there for a couple of weeks, then heading south to visit more family and friends. Do please keep us in prayer as we travel! We also desire that God be glorified in our lives wherever we are, whomever we're with - so please join us in praying to that end.

Please keep praying for our coworkers in the Philippines. We haven't got much news from the Higaunon work since we left. We'll update you as we get reports. Do keep praying for Martin & Gracia Burnham!!

Thanks for your partnership in our lives and ministry.

Secure in Christ alone,
Lance & Laura


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