Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tugdaan: Mangyans' seedbed of hope

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

In Paitan, there live gentle people who know not the ways of war, people the color of clay, shy and swift like the deer, mountain-sturdy, brothers and sisters to the vanishing tamaraw.

I wrote that in 1988, I visited Paitan, a village in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, where a community of 250 Alangan Mangyan families lived. I stayed at the 220-hectare Paitan Mangyan Reservation. I was there to find out and write about their endangered lives and ancestral domain, and also to immerse myself, even for a short time, in their way of life. I listened to their myths, legends and everyday concerns. I went there upon the invitation of Sr. Victricia Pascasio, a Missionary Sister of the Holy Spirit and social action veteran whose heart, mind and soul are attuned to the concerns of indigenous peoples (IP).

My piece came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (“Reclaiming a Lost Eden,” 4/7/1988). It was about the intrusion of non-Mangyan into their territory that had been declared ancestral domain and the threat to their lives (a leader had been slain) and peaceful ways.

I did go back to Mindoro some years later to write about yet another Mangyan community, the Tadyawan. The Mangyan of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental are grouped into Alangan, Tadyawan, Bangon, Buhid, Iraya, Hanunuo and Tau-buid.

In 1989, Ben Abadiano, a young anthropology graduate, came to Paitan, stayed for a couple of years to put up Tugdaan (Alangan word that means seedbed) that would later expand as Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development. The Holy Spirit Sisters were there to lend a hand. Abadiano went away for a few years because he thought he might become a Jesuit, but he did find out soon enough that his calling was with the IP communities. Tugdaan was waiting for his return.

Tugdaan, the seedbed, grew. It now occupies four hectares in the 220-hectare Alangan Mangyan’s Paitan reservation. It has a junior and senior high school, food processing centers, a heritage center and library, a training center, gardens, and more.

For his groundbreaking work that is Tugdaan, Abadiano, was awarded the 2004 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership. He was 39 then. Abadiano, now president of Assisi Foundation and the Philippine Equity Foundation, also founded Ilawan Foundation and Pamulaan — which also means seedbed — a college for IP students from all over the Philippines. The school is inside the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City. He also set up Advocafe, an entrepreneurial offshoot of IP endeavors.

I was in Tugdaan last week for the turnover of the new training center donated by the Embassy of Japan. Atsushi Kobayashi of the embassy’s economic section came. An Alangan Mangyan elder conducted a “tawtaw” ritual to bless the structure and offer it to Kapwan Agalapet (God the Creator), while the students, all in their Mangyan finery (girls in intricately braided “yakis” skirts, boys in G-strings), sang songs. It was a proud day for the Mangyan leaders, particularly for Ligaya Lintawagin, director of Tugdaan and head of Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Mangyan Alangan. Representatives of the Hanunuo Mangyan were also present.

At the center of the training hall is the “palangganan,” a sunken square area which is a feature of Mangyan dwellings that shelter entire clans or neighborhoods. Here members of the clan place food and farm products for everyone to partake of. Changes will happen in Tugdaan in the coming months. Soon to be housed under one food processing center are the production of virgin coconut oil, calamansi concentrate, hibiscus concentrate, coffee and cacao products, etc.

Tugdaan (with the Department of Education) has published a beautiful booklet on IP education as implemented among the Alangan Mangyan of Paitan. Tugdaan’s Balay-Lakoy Research Center for Mangyan Culture has published children’s books as well as a compilation of Alangan words and phrases. By the way, the Mangyan are among the few indigenous groups in the Philippines that have an ancient syllabary or system of writing. Efforts have been made to preserve and make the young Mangyan proud of it.

Being in Tugdaan and with the Alangan Mangyan this time around was a wow moment for me. More another time. #

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Schizophrenic in Marawi and Iligan

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Heartbreaking is the news that of the over 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs or evacuees/bakwit) from the bombed out city of Marawi, more than 7,000 are now exhibiting schizophrenic behavior or are on the verge of developing schizophrenia because of the stress they have been going through in the past two months and a half. These IDPs are mostly camped in neighboring Iligan City and waiting to go home—that is, if there is still a place they can call home or a peaceful one where they can feel safe.

But before they can go home — and they have no idea when that would be — the stress they go through is taking a toll not only on their bodies but on their minds as well. Lanao del Sur Crisis Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong has been quoted as saying that some 2,500 evacuees are showing signs of schizophrenia. His source was the Integrated Provincial Health Office.

Schizophrenia is defined as “a serious mental illness characterized by incoherent or illogical thoughts, bizarre behavior and speech, and delusions or hallucinations, such as hearing voices.” In common parlance it means losing one’s sanity. I do not want to use colloquial terms here which would trivialize the state of mind of the affected IDPs. This is no laughing matter.

I don’t know how the IDPs’ mental and emotional state was assessed. Was there one-to-one examination of the evacuees, or were the conclusions based merely on casual observations of external manifestations? Whatever the case, it must have been easy for observers to see that something alarming was happening to many IDPs and it did not need trained psychiatrists or psychotherapists to conclude that the IDPs were in bad shape mentally, emotionally, physically. How much more can they take?

Most of the IDPs may not be shell-shocked as they were not caught in the crossfire and did not experience up close the fire fight between government troops and the Maute terrorists. If they did, it was only in the beginning. But the IDPs are badly traumatized because they have been forced to flee and leave their homes which, by now, might be rubble. Many of their family members have not been accounted for or are presumed dead.

Right now the IDPs are staying in evacuation centers and wanting in food and amenities. They may not die o f bullets but their lives may be shortened because of the hardship they undergo, the insecurity, uncertainty and fear. Government soldiers are surely undergoing something of their own, like shell shock, war trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder. So, too, are journalists and other media workers in the war zone.

This is the time when the National Mental Health Act should be in full use. Approved last February, Senate Bill No. 1354, which was sponsored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, seeks to integrate mental services into the health system and for the government to provide mental health services at the community level and professional (psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic) services in all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.

Article IV (on mental health services) lists the ways the services are to be dispensed in all these levels. I wonder how these services are now being implemented in places such as Marawi, Iligan and neighboring places affected by the ongoing fire fight where casualties on both sides are now in the hundreds. While the government is promising billions of pesos for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, what about the rehabilitation of its people? It is so much easier to repair structures that have been destroyed or to build entirely new ones, but restoring individuals’ shattered mind and spirit is no easy task. Traumatized individuals and families with losses to bear, if left on their own, could become like the walking dead, bereft of hope and direction.

The rehabilitation of mind and spirit should start now, even while the fighting goes on. Children are said to be resilient, but you never know. Let us not overestimate them. Neither should we underestimate them. If ignored, their fears and anger can become festering wounds that will be carried to adulthood. The children of war bear ugly scars. Who knows how the sound of guns would one day stir the silent rage in their hearts?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

'New ways of being church'

Thousands of candles lit up at Sunday’s closing Mass of the three-day Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE4) held July 28-30 at the UST Quadricentennial Pavilion. More than 6,000 Catholic participants from all over the country came to reflect on the many “new ways of being Church.”
Now on its fourth year, the PCNE is hosted by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. This year’s theme is “One Heart and Soul.”
There was a tempest named Gorio on Friday, the first day of the conference, but the online announcement said the conference was going to proceed. Despite rain, wind and flood, thousands of participants came. As in previous PCNEs, some of the most inspiring were the stories from the ground shared by those close to the ground.
While this joyous gathering of hearts and souls was going on, a monsignor from the Antipolo diocese (and reportedly with a degree in moral theology from a university in Rome) was arrested and detained for allegedly paying a pimp and taking a minor to a motel.

Ecce, behold this wounded Church.
First, the “imported” speakers: Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council on Promoting New Evangelization, delivered a keynote message on “Being Christian in the Age of Indifference.” In his homily on the last day of the PCNE he told the crowd that there was one must-see for him—a giant mall by the sea where thousands of Filipinos flock on Sundays. And he did learn — that it is in malls that many now attend Sunday Mass.
The permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, spoke on “The Role of the Church among Community of Nations.” Auza, a Filipino, was the apostolic nuncio in Haiti when the killer earthquake struck the Caribbean nation in 2010 and left more than 150,000 dead. I interviewed him via email that time for a front-page story.
Every day, in different venues, there were 10 tracks or sessions going on simultaneously, among them on the environment, new media and evangelization, ecumenism, social justice, the youth.
(May I note that there was much to be desired in terms of information in the PCNE4 media kit. Also, too late I found out that there was a complete and glossy prgram/brochure—something I needed—but it was for paying participants only, not for the media.)
Close to home was Bishop Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David of Caloocan Diocese (younger brother of professor and Inquirer columnist Randy David) who spoke on “Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion” for the session on parishes and basic ecclesial communities. “Parochial” (relating to parish) has acquired a negative connotation, he stressed—that of narrow-mindedness. Are our parishes really communities? he asked.
One could see that Bishop Ambo has quite a following, as his session had to be held in the plenary hall. So was Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo’s session on the last day. “Pareng Bert,” as he wants to be known, is an anthropologist and poet of “Sanayan Lang ang Pagpatay” (you get accustomed to murdering) fame.
One recalls that Pareng Bert had helped bring out witnesses of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao but, as a consequence, false accusations were thrown at him. But his talk was not tinged with blood. With joy he spoke about “Kapwa and Loob: The Filipino Concept of Communion and Solidarity” and livened his sharing with songs and bird sounds.

Also close to the ground were “people who long for communion and who work for communion,” in “Heart to Heart with the Cardinal” in a plenary session. Three from show biz: Dimples Romana, Dingdong Dantes and Alden Richards.
Medical mission nun Mary Jane Castillo shared the essence of her work and life—endangered, I must say—in solidarity with Bukidnon’s lumad who protest aggressive intrusion into their ancestral domain. Robito Mahinay of Zamboanga grew up with vengeance in his heart and later came face to face with his father’s killer, and in sacred space at that. What happened next—if it were a movie—was a four-hankie scene.
Behold a Church finding new ways of being Church in a fast-changing world. I have a gold pendant with hollowed-out letters and a question mark: WWJD? As in: What would Jesus do?