By LYN V. RAMO
TANAY, Rizal – “This is the land Makidiapat has chosen for the Dumagat. We inherited it from our ancestors,” a Dumagat chieftain asserted. Makidiapat is God to the Dumagats.
Ka Lope dela Cruz, who leads Dumagat families in Ilaya ng Nayon in Barangay Sta Ines here, deplored the military “now guarding the place.”
“They [the government] would construct the Laiban dam, but they did not consider us in the plan,” Ka Lope said..
The Dumagats, indigenous people of the provinces of Rizal and Quezon whose number has not yet been disaggregated in government surveys, have established settlements in a number of contiguous communities in Tanay, Rodriguez and Montalban, in Rizal; and in General Nakar, Quezon.
Home to Makidiapat’s People
Built of semi-permanent dwellings of wood, bamboo and roofing of either GI sheets or wild grasses in the area, a typical Dumagat settlement now includes individually fenced yards.
Village schoolhouses cater to pupils from Grades I to VI. Three to four teachers squeeze their time teaching multi-grade classes. There are secondary schools in Sta. Ines and Lumutan, but only a few Dumagat children finish primary level.
On a typical day, the Dumagat family takes a heavy breakfast of rice, dried fish, or whatever is left from the previous night’s dinner of fresh-water fish, crabs or shrimps, and coffee before the couple heads off to the kaingin (swidden farm) or the woods, where the men would pull lumber cut by enterprising lumberjacks.
Lunch is either boiled root crops such as gabi (taro) kamoteng baging (sweet potatoes) or kamoteng kahoy (cassava), or bananas.
Dinner at home is either rice or root crops and some green leafy vegetables harvested from the kaingin, or fresh-water fish from the river. Sometimes palos (eel) is caught from the river.
Spiritual growth of the Dumagat folk come from teachings of church leaders and the native priests, who still perform marriage and baptism rituals according to Dumagat system of faith and beliefs.
Ka Lope, also a Dumagat priest, leads young couples as they recite their marriage vows. “What is important is the advice that I give them,” he related. The registration with the National Statistics Office (NSO), which now recognizes native wedding rites, comes as a second priority.
Before the government recognition of the native wedding, many Dumagat couples make do with it. They still adhere to their traditional marriage vows and separation rate is low.
Dam Construction, Militarization
“If the [government] builds the dam, water from Lanatin will be impounded and Dumagat villages will be submerged],” Ka Lope said, “How can we give our consent to that?”
Seven Tanay, Rizal villages namely, Laiban, Sta. Ines, Sto. Nino, San Andres, Cayabo, Tinukan, and Ginabuan and Lumutan in General Nakar in Quezon would be included in the planned water reservoir, which would cover around 28,000 hectares, according to KATRIBU Partylist Chair Beverly Longid.
Longid is an Igorot who traces her roots from Bontoc and Kankanaey lineage in Mountain Province.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently ordered the Department of PublicWorks and Highways (DPWH) to complete the Laiban dam project in a panicky response to a looming water crisis in Metro Manila with the onset of the dry season.
Meanwhile, negotiations are underway for a Memorandum of Agreement on the Laiban dam construction between the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the San Miguel Corporation (SMC). The target date is somewhere in March, business reports from major Philippine dailies mentioned.
“While the fringes of the negotiations are being finalized in Metro Manila, government troops are in several of the villages desensitizing the people on their presence,” Nelson Mallari, KATRIBU Partylist secretary-general and third nominee, said during the 10-day national peasant Lakbayan that ended with a rally at the foot of Mendiola bridge on January 22, the 23rd anniversary of the Mendiola massacre.
There have been reports of military atrocities in the Dumagat territories, Mallari said. These include controlling community folk mobility by taking mug shots of Dumagat folk, especially those who usually go deep into the forests to make a living.
In Lumutan, General Nakar town in Quezon, the troops reside in the health center, barangay hall, school and rice mill, according to a woman in her 50’s. Most Dumagats live in this barangay.