One area in which government datus excel is in the packaging of Higaunonness to be legible to lowland officials and mainstream Filipino society as a whole.
Yet all datus and baes now feel they must wear it in order to be legible, not only to outsiders, but also to the growing number of urbanised Higaunons whose exposure to the culture has come largely from commodified representations during festivals and such.
In contrast, those with greater access to outside money, including government datus, do not have this problem.
The other major reason why such impostors succeed is through the collusion, often unwitting, of Higaunon datus. As mentioned earlier, there is already an overreliance on third parties to facilitate many of the bureaucratic processes that Lumads must contend with on a regular basis.
There have been two particularly egregious cases of Higaunon impostors, both involving lowland men who, while initially ingratiating themselves to datus with promises to help Higaunons in one way or another, ultimately took advantage of vulnerable populations to acquire land, money, and status.
The second impostor, calling himself 'Datu Mandipensa', had offered his help to the datus of several Higaunon communities to generate much-needed income through a variety of fundraising schemes in the 1990s.
The same datus learned only after the fact that Mandipensa had been presenting himself overseas not as a fundraiser for the Higaunon datus, but as the last remaining 'prince' of the Higaunons who needed desperately to save 'his' people.
Higaunons themselves, especially certain well-established government datus, seem to be notorious for enriching themselves at the expense of their own communities.
Even the administration of Indigenous affairs can be hobbled or facilitated by local politicians--whether they be lowlanders or government datus. At the national level, however, Indigenous concerns are subject both to policy abstractions and mainstream Filipino stereotypes about tribal people disarticulated from actual Indigenous realities.
The assassination of datus by unknown assailants has been a regular occurrence in northern Mindanao.
I compiled online reports of his public talks and fundraising, which I then reported back to the Higaunon datus I knew.
I have found that across many different Higaunon communities in northern Mindanao, two distinct types of Indigenous leaders or datu are now recognised informally among the Higaunon Lumad: the datu ha kultura (cultural datu) and the datu ha gubilnu (government datu) in response to the bureaucratic challenges of dealing with local, provincial, and national-level state actors in this area.