Caravan inspires far-flung Ata-Manobo village

by Nathaniel A. Villanueva


May 24, 2009 (Sunday) Full Front Page Story

The processional march of the 69 moving-up graduates, most of them without slippers.

The Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) launched a 5-day Caravan for Peace and Development last May 2-6, 2009 at the very far-flung sitio of Muling, Barangay Gupitan of Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

The caravan was a momentous event for the villagers as it was the day of the final calibration-testing of their (1) rice-corn mill and corn sheller, inauguration and blessing of their (2) adjoined school building and wellness center, (3) farm machinery warehouse, (4) level II water system (5) solar dryer, (6) megaphones and (7) collapsible tents, all under the Action REPAIR Project of MISFI.

The community ownership and operation of the rice-corn mill and corn sheller are particularly significant to Sitio Muling and its neighboring communities as one kilo of a well-milled rice costs as much as P70 before. It is because the nearest mill is located in Sitio Patil, about three hours ride from Sitio Kapatagan and another eight (8) hours trek from Sitio Muling, that is if you’re taking the shorter route of rugged, treacherous terrain, with more or less 40 river crosses along the way. The cost of transport is more than the product itself.

The villagers, through their organization KAWILIHAN, thus declared the day of the blessing and calibration-testing (May 4) as the DAY OF KAWILIHAN, which will be celebrated yearly after. People from eight (8) neighboring communities joined the celebration. Each community contributed at least one (1) pig as food for the celebration, aside from two horses and a Carabao that the villagers of Muling offered for the feast.

The celebration started the night before with indigenous prayers, songs and dances of celebration and thanksgiving. At very early dawn (3 am), another round of rituals (PANUBADTUBAD) was performed as a formal opening of the day of thanksgiving, culminated with the sacrificial offering of a pig.

The thanksgiving ritual was then followed with the community’s 1st moving-up ceremony of sixty nine (69) children of the project’s interfaith early childhood care and development program as part of the project’s community literacy-numeracy program.

Afterwards, the caravan conducted the medical and dental mission, feeding program and herbal medicine-making for the villagers. Twenty eight (28) development workers and health volunteers (nurses, medical technologist, dentist, community health workers) rode and trekked for two days from Davao City just to reach the Ata-Manobo village of Muling.

Through the medical and dental mission, 27 children were circumcised, with 8 tooth extraction, aside from more than 100 children-recipients of the feeding program and more than 50 parents-participants in the herbal medicine making and basic health skills training.

The project implementation in (1) Sitio MULING and its two neighboring sitios of (2) BUGTONG LUBI and (3) TIYABONG is under the Action REPAIR: Rebuilding Pathways towards Integral Peace and Development for the Uprooted People in Mindanao, a 2-year project of MISFI for the thirty nine (39) communities with the assistance of the European Union (EU).

There are six components that are implemented in the 3 areas namely; (1) Sustainable Agriculture, (2) Community Education, (3) Health and Nutrition, (4) Psychosocial Therapy, (5) Peace Advocacy, and (6) Disaster Preparedness.

Under the Sustainable Agriculture component, 60 assorted farm tools, six goats, six swine, 25 pairs of chicken, and two pairs of Carabao were given to the village. Various seeds and seedlings of fruits and vegetables were also distributed. A comprehensive training on conservation agriculture, agro-forestry and nursery and livestock management were also given to key farmers of the village for them to pass on to their fellow farmers. The efforts of the community is amply rewarded with the realization of their own rice-corn mill and corn sheller.

Primarily under the Community Education component is the day-care education and adult functional literacy program. The 1st moving-up ceremony was the fruit of the project’s 1st year community education implementation. One could see the elation on the faces of the parents during the moving-up ceremony. And the newly finished adjoined school building-wellness center and the assignment of a community-based teacher in the area are testament of the sustainability of their children’s literacy-numeracy education.

On the other hand, the basic health skills training to community health workers is a big step towards empowering the communities for badly needed health services, as no one from the government health agency has reached the areas. The medical kit given to them after the training has so far helped them in the treatment of minor wounds and ailments.

Likewise, their acquired knowledge in the preparation of health foods like vegetables also helped them in combating malnutrition especially in children. This was sustained by their planting of newly acquired vegetable seeds from the sustainable agriculture component. They have also started monitoring the weight of children at their wellness center and started to introduce health food in their feeding program.

The medical and dental mission of the caravan is the showcase and giving-back celebration of the health and nutrition component of the project.

The Psychosocial Therapy component was also crucial for the community as they had been crossfire survivors of countless armed skirmishes and forced evacuations before. The psychosocial activities for parents and children were indeed therapeutic for them and led them to better express and understand the effects of war and find ways to arrest such trauma.

Such understanding of their uprootedness and helplessness also keep them enlightened of the need for peace advocacy and conflict management. Through the project’s peace forum and other peace advocacy trainings, the community has a better grasp and assertion of their peaceful existence in their ancestral domain, particularly with other local government units.

The Disaster Preparedness trainings were also appreciated by the communities because of the systematic organization and significant roles identified in their cases.

The beneficiaries of the the Action Repair Projects on the 3 areas of MULING, TIYABONG and BUGTONG LUBI total 86 households with at least 375 individuals excluding its neighboring communities.

As Datu Binandong Mogan said,” I was so thankful of the project especially that it solved our problem with potable water.” Actually, Datu Mogan reside in the neighboring sitio but was just too excited not to witness the fulfillment of their dream.

The megaphones and collapsible tents given to them are important tools to help them when disasters struck, aside from other pertinent uses of the community.

Baroy Tiklonay has his tooth extracted. Jaime Bacos learned much from the sustainable agriculture training he attended. Korajan Tomogsa made some drastic realization on child rearing while attending the psycho-social training for parents. And a 14 year old girl named Miriam Onja was able to read, write and count through the literacy-numeracy program. All were one in saying that MISFI is the only organization that reached their very remote place and made a very positive impact on their lives.

Of course, it was mainly the desire, resilience and hard work of the people of Sitio Muling that made all the difference. #####

The residents were very excited with the final testing of their corn sheller.

Tribal leaders from eight communities made a thanksgiving ritual (panubadtubad) at early dawn (3 am).

The health volunteers were excited even with the long, dangerous ride on an improvised logging truck.

One of the 27 children circumcized was very relaxed and calm during the procedure.

“Ampig” was also calm and relaxed as his tooth was extracted .

Hundreds of children and parents benefitted from the feeding program.

The parents were very participative in the herbal medicine making.

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