Hectares of forest land where they get their food burn in the summer heat. The rivers where their children cross to get to school, flood with extreme rainfall. Their houses are battered by storm force wind. Chieftains, volunteer forest guards, women, youth, over 30 of them from the 5 different tribes in the 7 mountains of Bukidnon were trained by the Malaybalay City Disaster Risk Reduction Team to respond to man made and natural disasters. Training the Indigenous People to save lives of their family, their fellow tribesmen even in the most remote forest domains. With their traditional knowledge in rescue and their familiarity with the land, armed with their new skill in emergency operations, they can be more efficient than the veteran rescue team. Like his father and grandfather before him, Ricky is a future Higaonon chieftain in Sibulig, Misamis Oriental.
A towering transmission line looms over the Mindanao Tribal School. When the National Grid Corporation powers up in 2014, 154 students will have to go. Registered as a private school, the board seeks the help of the Department of the Education to provide them with space for indigenous culture. Being the last generation of fluent IP speakers, Datu Mayda Pandian, together with 11 other tribal elders felt the urgency to pass on several hundred years of culture. Peter is one of the 23 indigent students who calls the Mindanao Tribal School home.
My friend Pio Pataganao, an Indigenous artist from Bukidnon was in Davao during the Kadayawan week. He called to ask me to set him up for a gig. This Polynesian looking guy has made it to the top of nationwide search of promising musicians. No one would appreciate his songs more than my visually impaired friends at the Maa Elementary School.
Pio sang about the banug, a hawk preying on chickens. He did just that, in one fell swoop he captured the hearts of Kuya LJ, Marlon, Kean, JR, Lance, James; Ate Adie, Lucky. Clearly, Teacher Jean Pavon is just as entertained as her students if not more. Amidst laughter, song and dance, the children confused were already singing for manok, the chicken, the prey instead of the predator.
To compensate for lack of sight, the visually impaired usually have heightened abilities in other senses. Kuya Marlon and Ate Lucky have turned this handicap into an advantage exhibiting musical skills. With proper guidance and motivation, the possibilities for the visually impaired are endless.
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
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.
“I fear if the department of education makes it difficult for us to teach our culture to our future generations,” says Datu Mayda Pandian, dressed in red traditional Manobo polo and a red beaded scarf over his head. In his hilltop office in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, the datu sits in front of an altar. The datu is the president of the Mindanao Tribal school. Being the last generation of fluent IP speakers, Datu Mayda and 11 other tribal elders felt the need to pass on the Indigenous customary laws, traditional farming, alternative health-traditional herbal medicine.
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 others will lose their school.
Datu Mayda sits at the entrance of the school where the students kiss the hand of Palo, a way to show their respect. The same area is where the volunteer teachers rest and discuss issues with the datu. Some teachers bring their children to school, where students and fellow teachers play with and care for their children.
The 160 square meter school building houses 4 high school classrooms. A bamboo partition separates the rooms, teachers compete with each other to be heard.
Behind the school is a makeshift quarter, dining area and kitchen for some indigent students. Many come from broken families and take refuge here.
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.
“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.
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.