Surigao City Pilot School
District II, Surigao City Division
Education is said to be the equalizer for all. Those who want to climb up the social and economic ladder must pursue their dreams on the basis of knowledge and learning. But for the Mamanwas living in the hinterlands of Surigao del Norte, much needs to be done to put an end to the marginalization of their communities.
Mostly distinguished because of their kinky hair, Mamanwas are said to be the first inhabitants of the province, older even than the popular designated Negritos. These “kongking” are crisscrossing the vast Diwata mountain ranges being the “first forest dwellers” as the term Mamanwa derived from “man” (first) and “banwa” (forest). Characterized by their black skin, short stature, curly hair, snub nose and with black eyes, these people can easily get attention yet some shrugged their shoulders seeing them in the streets.
|Displaced IP's in Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of google search)|
Regardless of their physical attributes, Mamanwas are amazing people with unique, indigenous character.
One of their most celebrated customs is the Bonok-bonok. Most historians described Bonok-bonok as an ethnic Mamanwa dance performed by the natives during thanksgiving, worship, and wedding ceremonies. It is a communal tradition of the Mamanwas, where the elders from different villages—the most respected men in their communities whom they consider leaders—along with the women, dance, cheer, and sing for happiness and friendship. Men and women dressed in colorful native attires complete with their ornate accessories punctuate the whole festival. For the Mamanwas, dancing reflects their way of life and serves as an expression of their affinity with the spiritual and natural world, where earth, water, wind, air and fire are alive.
Without question, that is Mamanwas’ contribution to the rich and flourishing cultural heritage of Surigao.
Over the years, Mamanwas are a people undergoing tremendous change - from nomadic hunters and gatherers to semi-permanent village dwellers, from nomadic outsiders to those who are now taking part in modern society, from being illiterate to becoming educated.
Sadly, they remain indigents and missed all the opportunity of developing themselves. Many of them are still mired in poverty, lacking access to basic health and education. They lament the loss of their ancestral lands, the passing and vanishing of their traditional practices, and even some of them have fallen victims to extra-judicial killings.
Mamanwa settlements particularly in the town of Claver, Surigao del Norte are displaced because of the mining activities. Reports told that chieftains have divided themselves as to who get the largest pay over their demands of 1 percent royalty fee from the mining companies. Under the Indigenous People’s Right Act (IPRA) of 1995, mining firms must allocate royalty payments of “not less than 1 percent of the value of the gross output of minerals sold.
Emancipating poverty through education
Realizing that Mamanwas must be equipped with skills and understanding to nurture their own culture and instill individual pride, the Department of Education and the Province of Surigao del Norte organized the 1st Indigenous Peoples Congress on December 19, 2012. The maiden launch was held in Brgy. Cagdianao, Claver, Surigao del Norte and attended by other education bigwigs in the region and division, LGUs and tribal representatives. Primarily, it was aimed to strengthen the culture of Mamanwas as a vital component for a progressive new Surigao.
According to Regional Director Atty. Alberto T. Escobarte, Jr. in his keynote message read by Josita B. Carmen, the Department of Education is doing its best to reach out indigenous communities like Mamanwas to be part of a mainstream in government schools.
Under the adopted National Indigenous Peoples Education Policy (DepEd Order No. 62 series of 2011 ), the Philippine educational system include and respect the diversity of learners especially those belonging to the minority groups to achieve Education For All by 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals, and to pursue the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda.
In a statement of DepED Education Secretary Armin A. Luistro who was supposed to attend the congress, he described the policy as a basic mandate of DepED to provide basic education for all, and to recognize and promote the rights and welfare of IPs to enable them to face various social realities and challenges.
“When we were working on the education policy framework for IPs, we had in mind their special needs, history, language, culture, as well as their social and economic aspirations and priorities,” Luistro added.
IPs remain the most vulnerable and marginalized citizens because of their lack of access to basic social services, limited livelihood opportunities which lead to social, economic, and political exclusion.
It was not a promise but Director Escobarte brought hope that by next 2013, there are 100 items available for IP teachers who are eligible. And with the strong support of LGUs in opening schools exclusively for Mamanwas next year, according to Gov. Sol F. Matugas in her State of the Province Address last July 2012, there is a higher hope for Mamanwas, our link to the world, as empowered Surigaonons.