Thursday, February 28, 2019

Needed boost for Mangyans' tertiary education

As the school year draws to a close, and while environmental issues plague the ancestral domains of the Mangyans of Oriental Mindoro, it behooves government agencies to look into the needs — higher education among them — of the special communities that are the de facto, default guardians of Mother Nature.
I have made known in this space a number of times the issues plaguing the Mangyans, and I have been grateful for some prompt government responses, from Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu particularly. So I am emboldened to bring up yet another one, particularly in the field of education.

Long ago in 1992, while doing research for a magazine article on the Tadyawan Mangyans, I happened by the vicinity of Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology (Minscat) and spoke with members of an Alangan Mangyan community there. They were very much concerned about their ancestral land then as they are now.
 Their cry: “Dumating ang doser at kami ay dinoser nang dinoser.” (The bulldozer came and bulldozed us.) Their leader, Virginia Maligaya said: “Ano kami, baboy damo? Dinoser nila at dinala sa ilog.” (What are we, wild pigs? They bulldozed and drove us to the river.)

There was then an ongoing battle between the Alangan Mangyans and Minscat. Years before, the Mangyans who happened to be within the 3.68-hectare Minscat “property” since the time of Adam and Eve were driven out, relocated to a place called Ibolo where they stayed for many years. But again, they were driven out of the place already grown with coffee trees, because it was to be converted into the Marcos government’s Palayan ng Bayan (which failed). After that, they were again told to go back where they came from. They did, and after several years, were again being doser-ed.
The Mangyans always lost.
Fast forward to 2019. Sister Victricia Pascasio of the Holy Spirit Sisters, a staunch advocate for Mangyan rights, is one with the Mangyan communities in calling for Minscat “to equalize educational opportunities for the youth in Mindoro by reaching out to would-be Mangyan scholars. It would be a big boost to Mangyan communities if their youth can be trained in agriculture and other technologies.”
She adds that while the state college can give equal access to education, it can also be instrumental in recognizing the land rights of the indigenous people (IP)  as well as legitimate farmer-settlers.
“It is high time to resolve the land issue which has dragged on for decades,” she tells me. “The Department of Agrarian Reform, prodded by the Mangyan original occupants and farmer-settlers, had worked on this for more than a decade. The survey of available unutilized lands by the school in the 1990s really justified distribution. It is never too late to let justice prevail and provide opportunities for marginalized sectors to live with dignity.”

On the education issue, Minscat can learn much from Pamulaan, a tertiary education program for college students from communities of IPs all over the country. Pamulaan was founded by Benjamin Abadiano, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee. Pamulaan boasts of a special curriculum for IP college students, a dormitory, a Living Heritage Museum and a library. Pamulaan is located within the University of Southeastern Philippines’ Mintal campus in Davao City. I have seen it for myself and was very impressed.
Mangyan youth, especially the Alangan, should be able to avail of scholarships both from Minscat and Sta. Clara International Corp., which had promised benefits to Mangyan communities of Balite, Banuton and Caburo, hosts of the corporation’s hydroelectric project located in Naujan town. It will be a big boost for Mangyan youth who need to be trained in agriculture and other technologies.

(There was news the other day that Sta. Clara’s Oriental Mindoro headquarters and heavy equipment were burned by an armed group.)
As to boosting the education of perpetually doser-ed Mangyans, the time is now. There is now a good number of Mangyan professionals, teachers among them.
Ah, but the Mangyans should never lose their own way of writing, a distinct baybayin or syllabary once only etched on bamboo, something they can be proud of and preserve for future generations.