Food for Thought

To Bukidnon’s Matigsalog, education has always been about putting food on the table — farming, fishing, hunting.

Formal education is a concept new to the tribe. In fact, Datu Jimboy Catawanan belongs to the first generation to receive any formal schooling.

Only three Matigsalog are currently in university, seven in high school, 30 in grade school and 11 in pre-school. This generation has yet to produce professionals.

But all that could change with continuing efforts to convince more of the tribe to enter formal schooling, such as those of Jimboy’s wife Fenelia, a migrant who teaches the children of Simsimon.

Building Indigenous Resilience

Like his father and grandfather, Ricky will one day be a chieftain of the Higaonon in Sibulig, Misamis Oriental.

He was one of more than 30 members of the five lumad (indigenous people’s) tribes from the seven mountains of Bukidnon — chieftains, volunteer forest guards, women, youth — trained by the Malaybalay City Disaster Risk Reduction Team to respond to disasters, both man-made and natural.

Illustrating the value of the training, he said he was quickly disabused about their traditional way of crossing flooded streams — weighing themselves down with rocks to keep from being swept away by strong currents.

The training, coupled with the lumad’s traditional knowledge of the land, can make them more efficient in coping with the challenges of a life in which the forests that sustain them burn in the summer heat, the rivers their children cross to get to school flood when the rains come, their houses are battered by storm winds.

Creating Spaces for Indigenous Education

“I fear the Department of Education makes it difficult for us to teach our culture to our future generations,” says Datu Mayda Pandian.

Being the last generation of fluent IP speakers, the datu and 11 other tribal elders felt the need to pass on indigenous customary laws, traditional music and arts among other subjects.

Thus did the Mindanao Tribal School in Maramag, Bukidnon come to be in 2006.

However, a National Grid Corp. of the Philippines transmission line towers over this 160-square meter school, roughly half the size of a basketball court.

In 2014, when the transmission line powers up, 153 students will lose their school. For 23 of them, that means the loss of their home as well.

Fragile

It was God’s will,” said a 70-year-old resident of Barangay Binancian in
Davao del Norte who has never experienced a typhoon ever.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)
reported 6.2M affected and 1067 deaths due to typhoon —–. The
estimated cost of damages to properties is PHP36,949,230,987.07:
infrastructure PHP7,565,044,810.00; agriculture PHP26,526,663,474.07;
private properties PHP2,857,522,703.00.

The residents of Binancian experienced their first typhoon last December
4, 2012. No one took the weather forecast seriously. Classes have been
suspended but everyone went about their daily routine. Men went to their
farms, women prepared lunch, children played.

At 2 a.m., they first felt the strong winds. At 4 a.m., they started moving
to their outhouses, shivering from the strong wind and wet clothes. They
believed the low structure of the outhouses were more secure as the high
winds aimed at high structures. They even ate meals inside this refuge, on
top of toilet bowls. At 6 a.m., their galvanized iron roofing were flying off
the tops, trees have fallen hitting power lines. The four gruelling hours of
what seemed like their end, they have been praying and crying from fear and
hunger as typhoon Pablo pummeled their community. When the typhoon
passed and the wind calmed, they finally came out from their hiding places,
surveying the damage, checking on their neighbors, thankful no one was
injured.

Barely recovering from typhoon Pablo, there was news that another typhoon
was about to hit Mindanao, typhoon Quinta. The residents made their ‘kub’
before rebuilding their houses. The kub is a Dibabawon hut, made by their
ancestors to safeguard their grains. The body of the kub is made of light
materials, with the heavy wood support anchored to the ground serving as
foundation, thus preventing the kub from getting blown away. Two months
after typhoon Pablo, some still live in their kub, while others rebuilt their
houses but kept their kub for fear of another typhoon.

Typhoon Pablo felled coconut trees; farmers lost crops such as corn and
banana. Struggling with food, they scrape for what’s left of the taro along the
river. Some farmers are still coping with their losses and have not been back
to their farms. Some have replanted but the crops are not due for another four
months. The aid has stopped arriving.

Mindanao Tribal School

“I fear if the department of education makes it difficult for us to teach our culture to our future generations,” says Datu Mayda Pandian.  Being the last generation of fluent IP speakers, the datu and 11 other tribal elders felt the need to pass on Indigenous customary laws, traditional music and arts among other subjects.  A Transco transmission line towers over this 160 sq meter school, roughly half the size of a basketball court.  By year 2014, when the transmission line powers up, 153 students will lose their school and 23 will lose their home.

White Cane

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4 year old James Magno, one of the 70 students, recipient of white cane from the National Council on Disability Affairs. This mobility aid is made of metal produces a sound with each tap alerting others to give way to a visually impaired individual. This is white in color making it easy for motorist to identify a blind/visually impaired individual among the pedestrians.

James is 3 ft. tall, the white cane extends to 4 ft. A whole segment of the cane needs to be removed to suit James’ height. The cane should be at his chest level extending to the floor. It should be long enough to detect curbs and obstacles giving him enough time to react. For some, it only takes half a day to get used to the cane. 70 of them tapped their way home.

Please Take the Test

“There’s no space for stigma and discrimination, for a person living with HIV, that’s one of the reasons why I am so courageous to stand in front of you because I want to save lives. This is not an issue for me anymore, because it will never change, I will be forever positive. But you can make a change, you can share my story with other people, maybe you have friends, relatives or it could be you, who have doubts. You are exposed to risky or unprotected sex. Please take the test.” Nidgie speaks to nurses at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. She has been living with the virus for the last 10 years. She is the president of the Mindanao AIDS Advocate Association. She has raised a beautiful 6-year old daughter with the support of her family.

Living Positively

Today, in the Philippines, there are 50 documented cases of children under 15 infected with HIV. Angelito is 1-year old and he has AIDS.