Latest Stories

Killing of indigenous leader bares ugly face of Boracay development


ATI LEADER Dexter Condez, who was killed last February.

Dubbed as “party island,”  Boracay has been rated as Asia’s top beach destination for relaxation and spa treatment,  third in nightlife entertainment,  and the Philippines’ second top tourist destination, according to Agoda, an international hotel-booking website.

Boracay’s   four-kilometer powder-fine white sandy beach and crystalline waters have made it  a tourist haven and an overdeveloped     coastline of multimillion investments of the hotel and restaurant industries.

Boracay is also the site of the killing of Ati cultural community leader Dexter Condez. He was believed to have been shot dead by a security guard of a luxury hotel opposed to the grant of ancestral domain to the Ati people.

Many business ventures  in Boracay operate without proper licenses. Violations of environmental rules have been committed by 157 property owners and establishments, as reported in 2012.

Government authorities even  had to demolish a hotel scandalously built on an atoll, which is part of  the  natural heritage sanctuary.

Historically and culturally, the seven-kilometer stretch of the island with a land area of 1,002 ha   is the ancestral homeland of Atis, ancient indigenous people of the Philippines.

The National Commission for Indigeous Peoples has granted the Boracay Atis their certificate for ancestral domain title covering 2.1 ha.  Their writ of possession was granted in April 2012.

DEXTER Condez (above) during a Mass. The Catholic Church of Kalibo- Aklan and Daughters of Charity are supporting the Atis’ ancestral-domain claim.

Three claimants have contested the grant and obtained a temporary restraining order from the local court against the Atis.

But with support of the Catholic Church and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul,   the Atis have settled on the beach front in Barangay Manok-manok under threat of goons employed by the claimants. Government police have been assigned to protect them.


The Ati beachfront is in an alcove of a  land area  stretching beyond the main shoreline out to sea  on both sides.  As a beach site, it offers privacy without compromising the breathtaking seascape and the vast blue horizon.

There are makeshift sheds along the road that display shells  and arts and crafts done by the Ati. The Atis have built houses and  25 families have settled on the beach, which is being contested by claimants, one of them a big hotel.

The Atis have  subsisted on what the land and sea offer.  The bounty of nature is attributed by them to   the spirits to whom they offer prayers and sacrificial rituals.

In Boracay,  Atis would pick up shells,  catch fish, gather fruits and crops, and hunt for animals in the forest.  To this day, they can still  identify the various fishes and marine life forms that abound around the island.

But food resources are no longer easy to come by.  The environment has changed and the economy is ruled by cash income, which is beyond their reach.  Social discrimination has relegated the Atis to the  margins of  Boracay progress.

Ironically, as a tourist entertainment  destination, Boracay is abuzz with exciting events—pop concerts,  dancing waiters, fire eaters, karaoke singing contests, jamming,  art exhibits, body painting, tattooing art and fun happenings.

Atis assert their right by warning developers from trespassing.

But this revenue-generating cornucopia of delights is deplorable for its artifice,  shallowness, and lack of cultural rootedness.

The real culture of Boracay is embedded in the history, collective memory and practices of its ancient inhabitants, the Atis.    Sadly, mainstream Philippine society  ignores and  oppresses the Ati people because of their black skin, poverty, and lack of formal education.

Dexter Condez

Dexter Condez was a very active Ati youth leader.  At 26, he directed the performances of   the Boracay Ati cultural group. Being articulate and high-school-educated , he served as spokesperson  for his community.  He assisted their chieftain,  Delza Justo, in asserting their ancestral-domain rights.

During the National Ati Gathering in Malay, Aklan, in February 2012, he lamented the lack of  ethnographic accuracy  in the artistic renditions of their dance performance.  He expressed the need for his group of young dancers for training  in  cultural research and artistic creation.

To address this need, the Committee on Central Communities of the National Commission for Cultural and the Arts (NCCA) visited the Ati community on May 31, 2012.

The Boracay Ati people, at that time, found refuge in a private lot in Barangay Balabag owned by the Yap and Miraflores families while waiting for their resettlement in their legally titled  ancestral domain.

National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)  commissioner Dionesia Banua and Sr. Herminia Sutarez of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul helped prepare the community for the NCCA visit with  NCCA consultant Lincoln Drilon, a cultural management specialist who’s himself an Aklanon.

The Ati people interacted with the NCCA group, which was composed of cultural leaders  from various indigenous people’s and cultural  communities in the Visayas,  Palawan and Bicol. Four of the NCCA leaders are Atis from Negros, Capiz, Malay in Aklan, and Lake Buhi in Bicol.

The NCCA offered possibilities for   cultural research, art workshops and the establishment of a school of living tradition. The forum ended happily with singing and dancing among hosts and guests.

Shocking murder

The shocking murder of Dexter Condez   on Feb. 22, 2013, is a cause for grief and lamentation among cultural workers, artists and indigenous peoples communities. (The suspect has been identified by eye witnesses as a security guard of a luxury hotel contesting the ancestral domain certificate of the Atis.)

It is the second indigenous killing of such kind.

Last September in Zamboanga del Sur,  Jordan Manda, an 11-year-old boy who performed the Subanen ritual in the NCCA Kapwa Festival 2012 in Baguio City was killed by bullets meant for his father, Timuay Luceno Manda, an anti-mining activist.

Both Condez and Manda are precious culture bearers, harbingers of hope  to their generation and the future.  As indigenous youth, they connected the Filipino youth to their ancestral roots.

It is high time for  government leadership to address the plight of the marginalized  communities of indigenous peoples.  A consolidated plan of action and concerted effort should be in order for the national cultural agencies and government units at all levels.

These offices must band together  along with the people in the indigenous communities and dedicated nongovernment organizations to systematically come up with a clear and unified  direction for the  protection of rights, poverty alleviation,  improvement of health and education, natural and cultural  heritage conservation and sustainable development  for the Atis of Boracay and other  indigenous communities in the country.

The writer is the  commissioner for Cultural Communities and Traditional Arts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Ati Tribe , Boracay , Crime , Development , Killing , Lifestyle , Tourism

  • jstjohn28

    The Ati people and their land that belongs to them should be protected by the gov’t, not exploited by crooks.

  • jstjohn28

    And the murder of Mr. Dexter Gondez should be fully investigated and those found responsible should be punished to the full extend of the law. I’m sure some rich greedy politicians wanted him dead so they could covet the land and banish the ATI people.

  • http://twitter.com/revive1313 revive1313

    this is so typical of a third world country. popular tourist destination, marred by a disgusting scandal. Why does it have to be this way????? Why can’t we enjoy Boracay while also giving other people the right to live??? WHY????

  • http://www.facebook.com/iyen.dev Iyen Dev

    Devils won’t go there without Sex and Money!Boracay lost it’s glory.

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. World bids Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘Adios’
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  5. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  8. Garcia Marquez left unpublished manuscript
  9. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  10. Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  5. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  6. This is not just a farm
  7. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  8. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • Napoles tags over 100 officials in pork scam – Lacson
  • Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • Sports

  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • UST posts twin kill in Filoil pre-season cup opening day
  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK