Remembering the Roots
By Geraldine Belgica, GOP-UNDP Conflict Prevention and Peace Programme
A livelihood opportunity once again encourages the Mangyan-Alangan in Mindoro to aspire for a better and peaceful life.
On November 2006, the GOP-UNDP Conflict Prevention and Peace Building (CPPB) Programme, Ilawan Volunteer and Leadership Center, Tugdaan Center, and Cartwheel Foundation, Inc. (CFI) partnered to implement the Livelihood Assistance for Indigenous Communities in Conflict Areas of Mindoro. The project is designed to train leaders in the community through Culture of Peace (COP) sessions and in the production of Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO).
The project began with the construction of the VCO Processing Plant. With construction lasting from November 2006 to January 2007, the VCO Plant now stands at the Tugdaan Center (Mangyan High School) campus. Simultaneously, three sessions on COP were held on the months of December 2006 and January 2007.
The project culminated on January 28, 2007 when the blessing and turn-over of the VCO Processing Plant and the graduation of the COP participants were celebrated. Here, the project partners (GOP-UNDP CPPB, Ilawan, and CFI) passed on the symbolic coconut seedling as a sign of the project’s legacy. Tugdaan Center, through Principal Ligaya Lintawagin, and different leader representatives from the tribal community, Tugdaan Student Body Organization, Tugdaan Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) in turn expressed their acceptance, gratitude and total accountability for the project.
The COP sessions and the VCO Processing Plant truly gave hope to the Mangyan-Alangan. Sometime in January 2006, a Bingan (an elderly Mangyan woman) shared her sentiments while taking a short break from assisting in transferring sand for the construction. (The locals were tapped to transfer the construction materials from the highway since the cargo truck was unable to deposit directly to the building site). She said, “Napaka-simple naming mga Mangyan. Masaya kaming may dumarating na tulong tulad nitong livelihood project. Ngayon, kahit tumutulong ako maghakot ng buhangin, bale wala ang pagod. Dahil kahit papaano, alam kong nakakatulong ako sa aming lugar. Makatutulong din ito sa pag-aaral ng mga bata. At isa pa, meron kaming lulutuing hapunan mamaya.” The Mangyans are so simple. We are happy for having been given a chance such as this livelihood project. Now, even if I’m helping to transfer sand, it’s not that tiring. For I know that I share, even in my little ways, to build my community. This will surely help in the education of our grandchildren. Also, we have something to cook for tonight.
Throughout the project, community members were provided food packages of rice, noodles, and canned goods every time they render assistance. This food-for-work concept was able to respond to the immediate needs of the Mangyans. This provided relief to the families who lost their farms and were left with nothing to eat after the raging typhoons that hit Mindoro in December 2006.
Endeavors like this also strengthen the unity and resolve of the people. Like Aking Tonio (elderly Mangyan) said: “Hindi nangangailangan ng kapalit ang gusting tumulong. Bakit noon, tayo nga’y nagtatrabaho nang walang bayad, ngayon pa kaya, kung kailan nakikita na natin ang ating mga pinaghirapan?” (Those who are willing to help do not need something in exchange. If we have worked before without payment, why, this should be even more so now that we can actually see what we’ve been tiring for.)
Finally, the strategy of tying up of livelihood and Culture of Peace workshops proved to be a good mechanism to gather people. For the Mangyan-Alangan, this initiative reminded them of what their tradition upholds and what their land symbolizes-makaangyan, which means peace.