Service beyond borders: An adopt-a-tribe project-A A +A
Saturday, September 29, 2012
WHAT does it take to render service that transcends the mediocre abstractions? How much sacrifice must one embrace to obtain the courage that will sustain the spirit of volunteerism to extend help in the absence of reciprocity to those who are in need the most?
These and among many other service-oriented theses had readily filled the hearts and minds of the Sociology-Anthropology students -- undergraduate, graduate and post graduate -- of Xavier University when they conceptualized the launching of the “Adopt-a-tribe Project” in Sitio Simsimon, Barangay Kalagangan in San Fernando, Bukidnon last August.
The goal of the project was to share books and school supplies like notebooks, pencils and paper, slippers and hygiene kits like toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and bath soaps.
The beneficiaries of the project were the 10 sitios of Barangay Kalagangan -- Simsimon, Dilon, Malugon, Lugawon, Ambong, Dapiluan, Metapol, Alubijid, Maugan and Balakayon.
San Fernando, Bukidnon is geographically located in the southeast portion of the province. It is bounded in the north by Malaybalay City, Davao City and North Cotabato in the south, Quezon and Valencia City in the west and Talaingod, Davao del Norte in the east.
Topographers estimate that San Fernando’s area is 80 percent mountainous. As a matter of fact, the Pantaron Mountain Range forms a parcel of the border separating San Fernando from Davao provinces in the west while the Aga mountains separate the municipality from Valencia City and Quezon.
In terms of the bodies of water, San Fernando has two major river systems, namely the Tigwa River that empties to Cotabato and Salug River that empties to Davao Gulf.
Reading about the geographical profile of San Fernando would somehow give one an impression as to the magnitude of its remoteness from the urban or city life. There is no shortcut or “warp zone” to reach San Fernando. To get there with Cagayan de Oro as the starting point means to travel by land of at least three hours going to Valencia City. From there, one has to take a structurally-modified motorcycle ride or in local slang “skylab” or “habal-habal” until they reach a certain “drop-off-point” at Sitio Macupa where no vehicle, no matter how small, can feasibly proceed because it’s a dead end. No bridge -- primitive or modern -- has been constructed yet to overpass the Salug River. Because of this, one has to hike along the above-knee level Salug River for about an hour to reach Sitio Simsimon.
This is what exactly the brave and dedicated 16 student sociologists of XU under the banner of the Organization of Sociology-Anthropology Students (OSAS) did.
Enduring a 12-hour travel from Cagayan de Oro City to San Fernando, not minding the heat of the sun, the rain and taking the unpredictable risks of river crossing, the OSAS volunteers made it to Simsimon, San Fernando, home to the Matigsalug Manobos, a tribe of cotton-weavers in the 70’s.
Simsimon has been selected as the base of the OSAS volunteers and is estimated to have at least 45 households.
From Simsimon, they extended the aids to adjacent sitios that are already far-flung.
“We left Cagayan de Oro City at 5:00 o’clock in the morning. We arrived at Simsimon past 5:00 o’clock in the evening,” recalls Laurine Alexis Yonson, OSAS president.
Simsimon is known to be cut off from the culture of post modernism -- no electricity, no loud music, no cellular phone network signal and no Facebook.
“Immediately the night that we arrived at Simsimon, we started sorting all the resources -- books, hygiene kits, etc… -- we had gathered with only several candles to light the small room that we, the OSAS volunteers, occupied,” Yonson adds.
Mona Lisa Pangan, OSAS moderator and an M.A. in sociology student, shares they woke up half-past five in the morning in Simsimon.
“We prepared ourselves and the needed things but before anything else, we were welcomed that day with a small ritual that consisted of beheading a chicken prepared by an elder of the tribe,” she says.
She adds: “The ritual was supposed to diagnose whether or not the good spirit was with us and could foretell the success or failures of our endeavors in Simsimon.”
After the ritual, the OSAS volunteers began cooking arroz caldo to be distributed among the Matigsalug Manobo children, who at their assumption had varying forms of malnutrition.
While waiting for the arroz caldo to be served, some graduate and post graduate students took the lead of demonstrating how to do calisthenics exercises to children.
After nourishing the children, the group took some time interacting with the tribal leaders. From there, they were able to assess that among the needs of the community are related to education, especially school supplies, livelihood and health.
“In a typical conversation with some of the tribal leaders, it was revealed that the Matigsalug Manobo children had to reach the next Sitio for schooling. As such, they had to travel seven kilometers and cross seven river bends,” Pangan shares.
Compounding to the problem was the fact that the health center was also located several kilometers from reach.
When the interaction was over, the OSAS volunteers distributed the books and hygiene kits, making sure that all the targeted beneficiaries received their share of the blessings.
“I was overwhelmed with the experience. A good number of people and organizations responded to our invitations to share their blessings to the people of San Fernando,” Pangan says.
Although much help has been extended, the OSAS volunteers believe that there is still much work to be done if the living conditions of the people at San Fernando are to be alleviated.
“Self-sustainability is the key to improve the lives in general of the people of San Fernando. What we have done is only a temporary measure,” Yonson says.
The OSAS would like to express its gratitude in making the adopt-a-tribe project possible to the following donors -- Children International, Coca-Cola Misamis Oriental, Chikita UniFruiti, Happy Soles, SCF General Manpower Services, XU College of Arts and Sciences Parents-Faculty Council, XU Council of Nursing Students, Alumni and to all XU students who shared their blessings.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 30, 2012.