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69723185725 “An Encounter With The Mamanua” (a personal account) Ever since I could read my first word I was already intrigued by those dark skinned and kinky hair creature they commonly refer as “kongking”. I regard them as a creature because I usually hear from the parents of my playmates whenever they don’t want their kid to go to the street to play or as a punishment they would always say I let the kongking stool you away because they eat bad children. My yaya even used that same line for me not to be a bad toddler. But unlike normal children who were dead scared of them, I always find compassion and curiosity why they are different. When I tried to discuss the issue with my parents my little toddler way the only answer I could solicit is a very technical of some sort. That they people resembles the movie hero/villain kingkong that’s why they were named as such. I couldn’t have known their real ethnic group name Mamanua not until 2 decades later. Every Christmas I could see them on the streets with their improvise water pipe drums dancing for a few penny from the motorist and passers-by. Many dread them because they became nuisance halting traffic and creating hazards for the motorist. They live under overpasses using it as a temporary shelter from the cold of the night. As a preschooler during that time I could not understand why the mothers are letting their infants be exposed in the searing heat of the sun or gamble their safety as they play catch with the fast moving traffic. When my other has always an umbrella to cover me and hold me tight as we cross the street. I could not forget those little children laid on the side walk as if their mother is using them to create mercy of few cents from the people walking by. 69723011714480 754380-152400When I entered high school my classmate begun to dread them because they are no longer begging for money but are harassing, specially women, by grabbing their purse or scratching their arms just to extract money from anyone. I personally experience that in the premises of the church where they usually corner innocent passers by. I managed the courage to ask them before giving them their stash of 5 pesos from limited allowance, why are you forcing me to provide you?, the only reply I got before running away was “I’m hungry!”. Since that time even amidst my confusion as a youth asked. Who are this people? Where did they came from? What are the Government doing to them? Or Are they even Filipinos? Is it true that they are one of the forsaken people of GOD? The small encounters continued as they become a permanent fixture in the city where I was born and raised. Incidents of mauling were even recorded because these people now resort to snatching and other related crimes just to have money. My questions were even more impossible to answer as these people were now the dark part of the society. I could hear from the media about blaming the government on the plight of the Mamanua. Actually, I even called them Mamanua after a local radio program named their tribal group. I feel so guilty that time because I felt I was part of mocking these poor souls. As I passed my turbulent youth, I was fortunate to land an early job in one of the biggest bank in the country and was assigned in the main office located in Makati. I started a new life in the city totally forgetting my life here in the province, I was swallowed by the lights and sounds of the city, as if not knowing Butuan existed. Not until one cold December morning as I was walking to work along Ayala Avenue, a dark figure just like a shadow approaches me with both arms spread wide. As I look closer I recognized the features but trying to dismiss it as maybe an Aeta or Bajao which dominates the streets of Metropolis Manila. I swayed to the left trying to avoid his hands as well as his deepening stare but he persisted. I succumbed and give all the coins in my pocket, somewhat intrigued and maybe missing home after 4 years of being away I asked him where are you from, he replied “Kitcharao”. I 754380190500 don’t understand why I suddenly became so happy meeting these poor fellow. I ask again tempting to use the term kongking, which most of them consider as very insulting, are you a Mamanua he nodded and smiled as he went towards another passerby. A co-worker said that when the holiday comes such as Christmas they ride on cargo ships from the Visayas and Mindanao just to reach Manila and beg on the streets. But what struck me the most on that encounter was the realization that I am not happy with the life I have in Manila. I though the luxurious living can cover the warmth my family can provide. During the holidays I had a more encounters with that same Mamanua and his comrades as if the would wait for me every morning on that same spot. I even raised some clothes and money in our department for them, which was featured in our company’s newsletter. After the Christmas rush they suddenly disappeared but the urge for me to go home strengthen, finally after 4 years of being away I requested a transfer to Butuan Branch. But destiny still played its part since there was no vacancy in Butuan I was assigned in Surigao City. There on a bus ride from Butuan I happened to sit by a Datu name Kamiling, ruler of the Kitcharao, Santiago group of Mamanua tribe. He told me the history of his tribe. Proudly he said that during the pre Spanish era the Mamanuas were the most respected tribe amongst the tribe in the province of Agusan and Surigao. Other neighboring group visit the settlements just to seek advice n some issues. His exact words are “kami ang hari hong Agusan hong Surigao” (we were the kings of Agusan and Surigao). But one answer to my ancient question why are they migrating to the streets of Butuan and Surigao or even Manila, the answer struck me a lot , since the 1960’s when the logging industry started in the region we were driven from our ancestral homes forcing us to abandon our tribal life. Some of us were pushed further into the forest were its is most dangerous to the wild, others occupied untilled land near the highlands but with only limited produce due to land abuse. Others 697230-371475 were used by lawless elements to become their private army thus doing hold ups and extortions in behalf of them. The most alarming, the weaker members of the tribe, mostly women and children run towards the nearby cities to live in the streets and survive on alms. I was so bothered about the revelation but relieved because my questions was answered. From that time on, I see them during my stint in Surigao, as people with heritage and struggling to preserve their pride as a people. I see them deprived of the land they cultivated for thousands of years by unscrupulous individuals who only stayed and saturate its natural resources. I had a short stint in Surigao City because I transferred right away in my home town Butuan City. I had no major encounter with the Mamanua from that time on. Still I see them asking for alms in the street but nothing significant, not until I decided to take up nursing. Being a second courser and was away from school in quite awhile. I had many reservations in taking up the nursing course. They said that nursing is a calling and when your called to care you will be lead into it. I wasn’t convince with that statement not until another turning point in my life. During my 3rd year clinical duty at the Surgery ward of Butuan Medical Center, as I was about to do my bedside care a new patient was admitted. It was a male, dark skinned, kinky hair 37 years old Mamanua, with wounds on the back and on the side. He was a victim, of a shooting incident involving a sumpak (improvise shoot gun from water pipe) with lead bullets that splattered all over his body. He was conscious but in shock due to mass loss of blood. He walked 2 kilometers to find help then was carried another 6 kilometers to hitch a ride at the back of a dump truck with gravel on it, that brought them to the hospital 40 miles away. Many orders were given to stabilize vital signs including blood replacement unfortunately the couple had no money. They even have no clothes with them so I tried to solicit extra clothing from other patients in the ward. By this time he is now showing signs of infection with 39 C temperature, rapid pulse, and inflammation on the different parts of his body. Since he has no money to buy even paracetamol, the whole shift I rendered TSB. The next day, I was stunned by what their quak doctor did to his wound secretly without the knowledge of the night shift nurse. They rub each wound with ashes and laid it with a leaves from the forest. They believe according to his wife that the black blood coming from the wounds are bad spirits driven away by the ashes of their ancestors. So I explained to her that what her husband needs are 3 bags of blood and anesthesia for him to be operated. She replied without a blink, then I guess he has to die because I don’t have any money. After my shift I guided her to the Philippine National Red Cross to procure free blood and amazingly she refuse to carry because for the Mamanua anything fluid that is colored dark is dirty. 849630-3429000 The next day being confident that I did my part without making the patient dependent and the wife will do the rest . But what transpired when I’m about to start my shift was the patient was arguing with the staff nurse because he doesn’t want to be given pre operative medications, believing it will kill him. With the assistance of the anesthesiologist who donated free anesthesia and the explanation of the surgeon finally convinced the scared Mamanua to push thru with the operation. The succeeding post operative days was very challenging for the medical team because of the knowledge deficit of the patient and its family who never received any education. Patience was the key and I’m proud to say that it was the first time I realized I was destined to be a nurse. I felt the genuine fulfillment of extending a mile just to help your patient survive. And the satisfaction of helping someone without waiting for something in return, a true Altruism. That was the main reason why I pushed for a seminar on the health practices of the Mamanua during our final project on my senior years. And without hesitation Datu Kamiling agreed to be the guest of honor with some members of his tribe. I was so glad seeing an old friend and relieve that for the first time I could get back at the people who inspired me a lot. 697230-66675 It’s about time to honor this people who are the care taker of our forest. According to Datu Kamiling who is the only person, educated on their tribe. “we are now strangers on our own lands, the trail we use to traverse are now roads for big trucks who passes us by, they said it’s for our own improvement but until now nothing is happening, the mountain we used to sustain our needs was now no more because of the mining, the forest we used to hunt was denuded by loggers who exchanged their millions stashed with canned and gun point, and the waters we used to fish was now contaminated due to the mining chemicals and the silts from the denuded mountains”. We want to protect our ancestral land but what can our bolo do with the long fire arms of the rich Christian Filipino businessman? The words struck a note in everyone listening during that event. I know it was just a start of a long battle for these dwellers of the forest. In the words of the NCIP (National Commission on the Indigenous People) representative, this people were deprived of their lands, their culture, their rights and their families. The current situation made many broken families, broken lives and broken heritage, in danger of extinction. He said further that the Filipino will never improve if they don’t know how to look back where they came from. rcd