Mamanwas And Their Fight
away from the urban din, their struggle against chronic poverty goes on
silently. No complaints and no yearnings. The only ambition is to live a
peaceful life. Simplicity
is the way of life for Mamanwas - a dark, curly haired semi-nomadic
Negrito tribe in northern Mindanao island of Philippine. Like many
indigenous peoples across the world, they are also striving to defeat
the menacingly dynamic poverty. Recently, we visited the two barangays
or villages in Agusan Del Norte province in Caraga region to study how
they manage to live despite all odds and what livelihood options are
available to them.
study team from Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project reached Butuan
city, which is the administrative centre of
Agusan Del Norte province. It was 1.20 hours flight from Manila
to Butuan city. After a 70 km. drive from Butuan city, we visited a Purok or hamlet in Mahayahay barangay in Kitcharao municipality
inhabitated densely by Mamanwa tribal community. Mahayahay barangay has
close to 400 households with a population of nearly 2500 out of which
about 300 belong to Mamanwa tribal community.
banana, rice plantations and wild shrubs endow the hamlet with hypnotic
greenery. The silence is
broken only by bird calls. Mamanwas do not have any specific work. They
accept whatever the rich forests offers. Python meat roasted or boiled
is a community feast. Skilled
in making handicraft items of daily use like banana holding basket, the
Mamanwas have limited sources of livelihoods. They collect rattan canes
for making household containers and other handicraft items. Their
winnowing baskets are famous in urban households. The Northern Mindanao
Community Initiatives Natural Resource Management Project (NMCINREMP)
aided by International Fund for Agriculture Development is working for
the socio-economic mainstreaming of Mamanwas and has taken up a number
of sub-projects to improve their access to sustainable livelihoods.
Municipal Project Manager Raul M. de. Agua informed that a housing
project has been recently approved for them. The Mayor of Kitcharau
Municipality Aristotle E. Montante expressed his concern for extending
health and education services to the Mamanwas. Their children have been
encouraged to attend special learning centres. Besides, the Indigenous
Knowledge Centres have also been opened to record and document their age
old learnings and wisdom.
Mamanwas are simply
unmindful to the consequences of over-population. Captain of the
Mahayahay barangay Mario C. Magsanay has six children. Some have at
least 10 to 12 children. Who decides about the size of family - husband
or wife ? we asked them and some women named their husbands, but Delina
Dayong wife of Mario C. Magsanay shared her reluctance to increase the
family size. They know about condom but are not using it for want of
advocacy. Mamanwas are known for their indigenous knowledge on the basis
of which they can predict happenings in the nature. For example, eels
coming out of the river water clearly indicate the impending disaster
for their settlements. Not a long back, some Mamanwas noticed eels and
got the message of forthcoming danger in St. Bernard village conveyed to
higher administrative authorities. The advance weather forecast
technology showed no such sign. As anticipated by Mamanwas, heavy
landslides occurred and at least 100 persons died. They keep constant
fire to drive away flies, which they belief are the bad omen for some
The Project Manager Mantnio B. Menor told us that a wide range of
livelihoods options are being offered to them under the Department of
Agrarian Reform, which is the implementing agency of the NMCIREMP.
Construction of Farm to Market roads to improve their access to the
nearby Filipino markets and potable water supply initiatives have been
taken up, he added. The handicraft items were displayed at the Manila
Annual National Trade Fair in June last. When asked how their handicraft
items like cradle, beautiful baskets would compete with the China-made
less expensive items that have flooded the metro markets, Mario C.
Magsanay informed that "natural products have no parallel. Man
loves nature and natural products. Mementos of Mother Nature
will always be liked, he said in local dialect.
His reply points out the level of confidence among Mamanwas in
their ethnic products and entrepreneurship. His statement is also a
guiding force for other indigenous peoples. It is only for the urban
communities to show reverence for skills of tribal artisans. Years back,
Mamanwas used to carry bows and arrows but have discontinued the practice. The new generation of Mamanwas is
now aware of their rights and entitlements. Modern farm practices have
also been introduced and small agriculture projects like Pineapple
Cultivation Project have been taken up.
The process of social inclusion of Mamunwas is at pace. Children
are attending schools because a common Filipino saying goes - Uai !
Lamang daa ta nakabasa pauyat wawa, which means if we can not read this
is shameful for it is merely a children's game.
'The Philippine Government has enacted Indigenous Peoples Rights
Act intending to protect their Right to Ancestral Domain and Lands;
Right to Self-Governance and Empowerment; Social Justice and Human
Rights; and the Right to Cultural Integrity. The Act lays stress on
development of indigenous peoples like Mamanwas, who can contribute to
the nation building and integration of society, informed Reynaldo C.
Estrella who represents a local NGO - EDCADS and is promoting self -help
groups among Mamanwas. Who will buy their ethnic products when China
dominates the urban markets ? No answer came from innocent Mamanwas. In
fact the question was wrongly addressed to Mamanwas. The answer lies
with the neo-rich Filipinos as they must respect indigenous peoples and
also their products.
specializes in rural reporting and has written extensively on
cross-cutting development issues in the context of south asia and more
particulatly India. Currently working with a DFID-aided Madhya Pradesh
Rural Livelihoods Project, India as State Coordinator- Communications. Working
on tribal communication strategies.