PHOTO- At the podium BTC Commissioner Melanio Ulama during the Bangsamoro Assembly on November 27, 2017 at Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao

" MT. Firis: a sacred ground of Te'duray Indigenous People " - BTC commissioner Melanio Ulama.

Cotabato City. (January 5, 2018) - There are almost three hundred ethnic Te'duray families evacuated to safer place since last week when BIFF Armed Men (Bangsamo Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked the Teduray  traditional lands at Mt.  Firis in Maguindanao resulting to the killing of Diego Dagadas, and the burning of 19 houses of families. 

Mt. Firis with an area of more than 97,000 sq. hectares is surrounded by Maguindanao's adjoining Municipalities of Datu Hoffer, Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi, Shariff Aguak, Guindolungan, and Talayan where there is a presence of BIFF, an ISIS-inspired group.      

IP Commissioner Melanio Ulama of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, an ethnic Te'duray who is a native of Mt. Firis (born and raised in the area) described, " Mt.  Firis as the sacred ground of Te'duray tribal people second to Tantawan, now called Mt.  Pedro Colina Hill (known as PC hill) in Cotabato City ".     

" If the Muslims has their Black stone (Hajaral aswad ) in Mecca ( Makka Al Mukarammah), We the Te'durays have also their holy own stone  in Mt.  Firis, and considered a sacred place among us since time immemorial ", he added.      

Based on traditional narrative, Mt. Firis is an ancestral abode of a Mystical man (turon) named as " Sgt.  Mao " (official military records says that 1st Sergeant Mao was believed born without known parents but was raised by a couple, Bo' Tampilo, and E'ding Tampilo (tampilo  - basket, " Bo " - father and " E'ding "- mother). 

According to a legend, the Tampilo couple found an infant inside a basket (tampilo) at Tantawan, and raised them as their son, and believed to be a " sugo” eh tulos^e (God sent) to protect the tribal people. They considered the event as miraculous, and the baby is now known as " Sgt.  Mao ".

Sgt. Mao was a member of Philippine Constabulary when he was 19 years old, and was assigned throughout Mindanao (Moro province during the commonwealth). He voluntarily resigned in the military service, and settled in Mt. Firis where he found a sacred stone believed to have magical powers at the top of the mountain, and declared it as the tribal sacred place of worship. 

He organized an " alangkat ", a group of tribal warriors, and led them in defending their ancestral homeland. 

" The Alangkat " had an alliance with the Moro traditional leaders at that time in defending their homeland, and the Te'duray had co - exist with the Ranawon (Moro) by intermarriage, and by peace covenant. 

Most of the Te'durays living in the area could speak Maguindanaon fluently, and having Moro names.