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An indigenous reflection on ecospirituality

8 August 2020
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Panalawahig is an occasion of reconciling with the Creator and spirits so there is healthy water. (Artwork by Vincent Yan Rhu Yacapin)

Vincent Yan Rhu Yacapin

Ecospirituality? I do not quite understand what it means. However, when I heard the word for the first time, I know it is something good.

So I asked what does it mean? Suddenly my mind wanders and I started thinking about ecospirituality. I am overwhelmed as I listened. For me, it is so wonderful that my soul longs to live in it and aspires to live with it, especially in this kind of environment where I am now, in the uplands surrounded by forests.

Then I began to ask myself again and again, who really am I? Am I human? If I am, what makes me a human?

How can we be a human when our dignity as Indigenous Peoples is discarded and trampled by dogmatized people of the most so called “righteous religions”?

I now realize more the humility and courage of Pope Francis in Laudato Si’.

It brings justice to Indigenous Peoples who are labeled as pagan, the poor who are considered as less human, and to all other creation who are perceived as commodities and used to gain power.

Laudato Si’ is the full reconciliation with every creation. It opens the way and gives us the chance to reclaim our dignity as humans and our contribution to humanity.

A moment of silence is one of the most beautiful things I’ve realized, which Balay Laudato Si’ offers and encourages, to gain a deeper sense of living. It is wonderful.

How can my silence become wonderful? It is an act of humility just to listen to my inner being and to the things that surrounds me. In the silence, the mind listens and the heart speaks. It allows the unclear and unusual voices (conscience) be heard, and gives a new sense of life. Therefore, silence is a process of self-reflection and external recognition.

In the silence, I realize that being a human means to have a soul rather than to acquire possessions and being recognized, to have a spirit rather than to have a degree and achievements. The human soul is capable of understanding others, and providing love and hope. The spirit keeps us going and sustains our resilience.

We cannot make our own days to live according to our will. Only God designs our days. So why do we keep complaining about what God designs? If there is rain we complain, if there’s no rain we complain, we all keep complaining without being thankful for what is given while destroying what is natural.

Peace is essential to each person and to humanity. It comes from within the person while the environment cultivates it. Peace is ever-present in every part of creation, living and non-living, which we disrupt.

However, the world now is changing. When humans began to rule the earth, everything became complex. We want to rule our own kingdom or life, to dominate and conquer others. We want to conquer the land, the seas, the forests, the animal kingdom, just to satisfy our desires.

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“For me, it is so wonderful that my soul longs to live in it and aspires to live with it, especially in this kind of environment where I am now, in the uplands surrounded by forests.”

This reality is squeezing our soul until we recognize that there is another being inside us.

Peace sometimes doesn’t appear easily. Sometimes it appears in brokenness, loneliness, neglect, fears, despair, and hopelessness, until our soul realizes that we are a human, with a being inside us and living with other beings in the form of trees, wind, insect, fish, and other creation.

Vincent Yan Rhu “Yanyan” Yacapin is a member of the Higaonon community, one of several indigenous groups in northern and central Mindanao, Philippines, and who are known for their culture of peace. Yanyan works as a youth training associate with the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research and training organization in the Philippines. Yanyan is part of a youth training team who works with upland indigenous youth who are not in school and shares his passion for indigenous arts and crafts.

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