By ALI G. MACABALANG
The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), along with three national government agencies and the local government of Davao del Norte, will lead the launching of the “Adopt-a-Tribal Family” Program in the hilly village of Gupitan, Kapalong town on Monday, Oct. 12.
At least 150 families from the isolated tribal village of Sitio Tapayanon in Barangay Gupitan stand to benefit first from the program designed to provide them decent homes, sustainable livelihood projects, education for their children, and basic services which they never received from government since birth.
The Oct. 12 event comes less than a month after the first engagement between MinDA officials and members of the Ata-Manobo community that was never served by government and thus called the “Lost Tribe,” Agency Chair Manny Piñol said in an online post.
The “Adopt-a-Tribal Family” Program was conceptualized and designed by MinDA shortly after Sec. Piñol visited the village last September and discovered a number on inadequacies ranging from past improper logging operations to lack of national government interventions, Dr. Adrian Tamayo, MinDA communications director, said.
The Ata-Manobo families were discovered by a Long Range Patrol team of the Philippine Army in 2019 deep in the forests in the tribal-boundaries of Davao del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon while pursuing communist rebels belonging to the New People’s Army, Sec. Piñol earlier said.
“Only able-bodied men of the village served the community’s link to the outside world and this happened only when they sold fibers of Abaca which grew wild in the forests to the nearest population centers in San Fernando, Bukidnon or Kapalong, Davao del Norte,” Piñol said.
Physically-fit male Ata-Manobo men had to walk through the forests for two days carrying 15 to 30 kilos of Abaca fiber on their backs and coming back with salt, sugar, tobacco and rice, he recalled.
When found by the Army troopers in February 2019, the community was controlled by the NPAs. Many of the houses were made of round timber and tree barks and there was no symbol of government in the area, not even a school, he said.
Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, TESDA Secretary Isidro Lapeña, Indigenous People’s Commission head Sec. Allen Capuyan and Sec. Piñol will represent the national government in the program launch.
Davao Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib, Vice Gov. Rey Uy, and Kapalong Mayor Tess Timbol as well as members of the provincial board will join the ceremony, Dr. Tamayo said.
He said the province’s two Congressmen, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Alan Dujali are also expected to witness the ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement among the agencies involved in the program.
Initial assistance which will include farm tools and seeds, along with food supplies and clothes, will be turned over during the ceremonial launching.
The program of reaching out and caring for marginalized and neglected tribal families will be replicated in other areas in Mindanao, Tamayo said
Private sector support
In another online post, Sec. Piñol said the private sector, including big corporations, is expected to join the program by adopting tribal families.
A California-based Fil-Am Supermarket chain has signified support for the venture by buying “Ube,” “Saba” bananas and aromatic coconut produced by the tribal communities in Mindanao, he said.
Piñol said Island Pacific Supermarket Chain Founder and COO Niño Lim told him via Facebook messenger message that Island Pacific, which has about 16 outlets in Eastern America, has been looking for suppliers of “Ube,” “Saba,” and aromatic coconut from the Philippines.
When informed that such products could be sourced from tribal communities now being assisted by MinDA and three government agencies, Lim said his company would find it more interesting to rally the convergent program, he said. (Ali G. Macabalang)