BAGUIO CITY — Minutes after Manny Pacquiao beat Erik Morales last year, gongs could be heard ringing joyously throughout this northern city. Last Sunday, when Pacquiao wrested the World Boxing Council superfeatherweight belt from Juan Manuel Marquez, Baguio’s foggy communities were silent. Yet it may hardly been because residents here were less appreciative of The Pacman’s efforts this time around.
Even last year, pattong, or playing the gongs, could not have been for Pacquiao. Pattong is simply not done for individuals without relations in the community — even if that individual happens to be the “Pambansang Kamao (National Fist).” More likely, the gongs were brought out by some families here to announce a victorious bet made over the fight and to invite neighbors to partake of celebratory drinking and eating.
THE story of the Bugkalot, the last of the Philippine headhunting tribes, is a chronicle of loss. Like many indigenous peoples in many parts of the world, they have been dispossessed of their land, their culture destroyed, and the forests from which they derive sustenance exploited by outsiders.
EVEN AS a child, Renato Zosimo Evangelista knew he was different. For one, he dreaded Christmas. Unlike other children who would get excited at the first whiff of the “–ber” breeze, he would get anxious for the coming days ahead.
It gets colder in the mountains during those months. But it was not the cold that bothered him too much; Christmas was the time when his fellow Mangyan would come down from the mountains and ask for money from the lowlanders. As the youngest Mangyan studying in predominantly Tagalog Holy Infant Academy in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, he was often bullied by his classmates who would tell him: “Bakit ka nandito? Doon ka sa mga kasama mo. Di ka ba mamamasko? Nasaan ang bahag mo? (Why are you here? Go stick to your own kind. Aren’t you going to ask for Christmas charity? Where’s your g-string?)”
SHE SAID it was a crucial journey for her children’s future.
Weeks before classes opened last month, Myrna Verde packed few clothes, gathered her four school-age children, and boarded a bus for Manila, some 138 kms from their village in Zambales. It was their first time to travel that far from home, but Verde, 57, had a mission: to look for kind-hearted city people who would give her money or any kind of help so that her children — all blind since birth — could continue going to school.
THERE ARE about four television sets in Tinoc, a remote town in Ifugao Province at the eastern foot of Mt. Pulag. The TVs are powered by solar panels. But there is no TV or even radio signals in the area. The TV sets are used in conjunction with DVD players.
One would think that Tinoc would have a long list of wants and needs. But last December 1 saw the inauguration of a local law that is expected to change profoundly the lives of the people of Tinoc and the rest of the province: the Ifugao Reproductive Health Code.
HOME OF the Sultanates, sarimanok, and Islam: Visiting Lanao del Sur province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is like going back to centuries ago, when women walked around gracefully in their malongs (traditional wrap-around clothing) and men who had betel-stained golden teeth played chess all day. But although being transported to a place that seems stuck in time could be soothing to a frazzled urbanite, the truth is Lanao del Sur is that way largely because it is one of the poorest provinces in the country, while ARMM is the poorest region in the Philippines in all indicators of human development.
M—’S EYES are closed, but the rest of his bronzed, chiseled features are tight and tense. His heavy, muscular frame, sprawled on a rough-hewn bench of thick pine slabs, seems suspended on his big-boned hands that are desperately grasping a little homemade bong. His thick lips suck furiously on a small bamboo pipe stuck into a disposable plastic water bottle filled to a fourth with water, now swiftly turning green.
DONATELA is a lyrical Italian name, and when I reach past the pain and bitterness of my childhood, I can see how perfectly it fits my beautiful mother. For many women, beauty begins fading quickly almost as soon as the first flush of youth ends. But my mother, who just turned 70 this year, has been lucky, because there are still more than traces of the physical radiance and attractiveness she once possessed, most of her well-chiseled features on a Castilaloy face defying time and a past filled with heartaches.
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