MANOBO TRIBE IN CEREMONY BESTOWS GMA TITLE "LITTLE BEAUTIFUL LADY"

Agusan del Sur Province, June 18, 2003 By Marichu Villanueva (Star) Her height may be a favorite subject of jokes, but for the Manobo tribe of Agusan del Sur province, President Arroyo is someone they look up to.

In tribal rites yesterday led by their chief, who also was their baylan or priest, the Manobos bestowed on Mrs. Arroyo the title Bae Anawa Magayhung Pinintu, which roughly means "little beautiful lady."

A certificate issued by the chief, Datu Manggosa Won Teofilo E. Gelacio, said the title conferred on Mrs. Arroyo was "based on her physical outlook as viewed by the tribesmen."

While it may seem more like a description of the diminutive 55-year-old President rather than an honor, the title made Mrs. Arroyo "an adopted daughter and princess of the Manobo tribes in the entire river valley of Agusan del Sur and is addressed by them as Bae Anawa Magayhung Pinintu."

The tribal ceremony was held during Mrs. Arroyo’s visit to Prosperidad town, the provincial capital.

A visibly flattered Mrs. Arroyo thanked the Manobos in the local dialect.

Although standing only 4-foot-11, Mrs. Arroyo’s legendary temper flare-ups have cut many a government official down to size.

Mrs. Arroyo yesterday wrapped up her weeklong sortie across Mindanao to highlight her administration’s new P5.5-billion development program for Mindanao, one of the Philippines’ poorest regions.

In a speech marking Agusan del Sur’s 36th anniversary, Mrs. Arroyo said the province’s prosperity showed how peace could help promote development in Mindanao, which has been wracked by a decades-old Muslim insurgency.

She urged the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to resume peace negotiations with the government or risk being sidelined into irrelevance.

Last Monday, the MILF rejected Mrs. Arroyo’s demand that its leader Hashim Salamat sit as the group’s chief negotiator in proposed peace talks sponsored by Malaysia.

The MILF has been waging a protracted campaign to set up an Islamic state in Mindanao, home of the country’s Muslim minority.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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