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A Mountain of Difference: The Lumad in Early Colonial Mindanao

A Mountain of Difference: The Lumad in Early Colonial Mindanao
Oona Paredes
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A Mountain of Difference recasts the early colonial encounter between the indigenous Lumad and Christian missionaries in the southern Philippines. This groundbreaking study of the Lumad—the non-Muslim native peoples of Mindanao—draws on Spanish archival sources and indigenous oral traditions to reconceptualize the political and cultural history of the island's "upland" minorities.

While Lumad peoples are widely believed to have successfully resisted the traumatic transformations of Spanish colonization, Oona Paredes makes a case for the deep cultural impact of Catholic missions in Mindanao, arguing that key elements of “traditional” Lumad life today may have evolved from earlier cross-cultural encounters with Iberian Catholic missionaries. Vignettes of Lumad life prior to the nineteenth century show different communities actively engaging colonial power and mediating its exercise according to local priorities, with unexpected results.

This book complicates our understanding of Mindanao’s history and ethnography, and outlines the beginning of an autonomous history for the marginalized Lumad peoples. The interactions explored in this book illuminate the surprisingly complex cultural and power dynamics at the peripheries of European colonialism.


The Lumads of Mindanao have been portrayed—and quite unjustly—as a people with culture, but without history. A Mountain of Difference corrects this injustice with insights that are original, at times even iconoclastic. Oona Paredes places Mindanao and missionary history in the wider context of Southeast Asian geography and European–South American Christianity. Her use of archival narratives that have been ignored and the reinterpretation of known translated documents is laudable. Here is a great piece of passionate scholarship.—Albert E. Alejo, SJ, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, author of Generating Energies in Mount Apo: Cultural Politics in a Contested Environment


Oona Paredes is Assistant Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

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