Lost in the concrete jungle-A A +A
Saturday, October 19, 2013
ROEL was my regular horseman in the boondocks. The horsemen are the guys who bring the horse we will be riding, fix them up and yes, on dangerous slopes, walk beside us to ensure that they are within beck and call if ever we lose control of the horse.
In trails too narrow to gallop in, I let the horse canter and Roel and I would talk endlessly. From him I learned some of the ways of the Matigsalugs, their strife, their lives.
Like many indigenous tribes in this part, the Matigsalugs still practice some of their old ways, among which is the practice of parents wooing a man to marry their daughter. Roel had a constant string of suitors because first, he’s single (the Matigsalugs, like some other tribes still practice polygamy, thus it’s not unusual for parents to be wooing married men for their daughters), he tends to plots of land for farming and also helps in his father’s farm. Kugihan or industrious is a word often used to describe Roel. He even owns a horse, a possession reserved for a very few.
In the poverty-stricken communities of Matigsalugs, Roel was among the “arang-arang,” the man with more means.
In my last trip there where we needed horses, Roel was not around, only his brother Noli. It was an unusual sight because these brothers worked as a team as our horsemen, our cooks, our porters, and our source of more stories.
“Nanarbaho sa Dabaw (He found work in the city),” Noli said. Roel was recruited for construction work, the brother said. Many of their menfolk were, he added.
In the hinterlands where the Matigsalugs live, Roel was better than the rest. He was industrious and kept abreast of the little farm technology that come their way in trickles, care of non-government organizations at that and never the government. He tended to his farm, planting more than just rice, but a variety of crops and fruits as well. He regularly harvested corn, beans, vegetables, and once a year, he harvested rice. He had a hut of his own and the vast land to bask in under the sun. But like most of his tribesfolk, these are just enough to get by -- To feed the family and share with neighbors, to earn a little, but never enough. Up there where they live, money is very hard to come by.
Up there, most of them only completed primary school. Those who reach high school are very rare; one villages upon village may not have a single resident who has reached high school.
Like many of his tribesfolk, Roel only completed primary school.
Up there, that doesn’t matter. He has his land to tend, he regularly harvested, he has his own hut, and grows enough to share.
Down here, where Roel must be laboring under the heat of the sun, his ability to tend to a farm well will not count. Nor will his string of parent-suitors. His employers may not even know him, nor will they be interested to meet him. The most he will be dealing with is a foreman, who will only see his brawn because in that foreman’s eyes, fourth grade was all he completed. Down here where even college graduates do not have jobs, someone will make sure that Roel will be forever grateful he has a job with just a fourth grade education to speak of. Down here, he may have a little money, but I’m sure, he will never have enough to share.
Before Roel, the darling of the tribe was Diego. Like Roel, he sought his fortune in the city and very little now is known about how he is surviving.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 20, 2013.