Jesus, no matter how high and unimaginable his status, the fact He is God, when he came down here, saw us as if we were his equal. No longer we are strangers, and enemies, He calls us friends, brothers/sisters; although he is Lord, we are His sons/daughters.
Who are we then to classify, label and discriminate?
I say this, because I’ve done it. In my heart and sometimes in my actions, I discriminate, its a daily battle to treat everyone humbly and equally.
And so as we enter the communities we serve, we strip off all marks of superiority. They are, after all our brothers, the Aetas, Mangyans, Dumagats. They are a people whose culture is preserved and practiced up to this very day, amidst globalization. Something that’d call for respect.
MAP since 2010 started serving the Abellen Aetas in Sitio Tangan-tangan through friends and supporters.
To visit the community at Sitio Tangan-tangan in San Jose West Tarlac, one has to climb 2 mountains, cross 2 rivers 4 times, these requiring 2-3hrs of walking/climbing. Most of the Abellens are only found in the mountainous areas of this province. They farm (uma) on, around and in between mountains, their usual livelihood are planting rice (palay), bamboo (for sawali, used as walls for kubos), sometimes ginger and taro (gabi) and making coal (uling) sold at lower prices, lower than the usual.
The number of houses (nipa huts) currently is about 100 or a little more, with an approximately 1 nipa hut is to 1 family ratio (with about 4-10 members/house). These sitios resident to majority of Aetas and some Ilocanos had been the target water dam project for the past 5 administrations (30 years) and up to this day that project hasn’t materialized yet. Although houses situated near the highway nearer to the municipality of San Jose are being built for relocation of those in Brgy. Maamot.
There is only but 1 registered pharmacy 30-40 mins away from the nearest sitio, and 3 hours away from the farthest sitio; alongside with 1 lying in clinic/rural health unit. Major health problems/cases are to be brought to the provincial center, 3-4 hours away from the farthest sitio. Access to health service or to any kind is hindered also and greatly by discrimination. They’d rather send their children to study in Capas, Tarlac (3-4 hours away) than intermingle with Ilocanos (living in the nearest sitio), just to keep away from daily bullying.
From July to October, there has been 4 deaths caused by disease (diarrhea, tetanus, primary TB, and malignancy), 3 of which belong to the infant-late childhood bracket, and 1 adult. All disease entities identified early, given primary health care, as these patients were also strongly instructed by the designated local Abellen FHW (family health worker, trained by MAP) to seek medical attention in the provincial hospital immediately, however all were brought in too late. They can’t afford private ambulances, and there is only 1 jeep that travels in and out of the area each day. And before getting that ride they have to go down two mountains and cross 2 rivers 4 times (which is deeper during the rainy months) to bring their sick. They could travel by motorcycle though (tricycle) once in Maamot, but this is more costly .
Just very recently solar panels were installed to every home in the community, (1000php/house), which brought an end to the use of oil lamps. But it can only supply power to radios and led lights. Asthmatic patients in acute attacks can’t be given nebulization on the dot, solar power can’t power it.
The staff stayed for about 6-9 months/year with breaks every 3 months for the last 4 years in Tangan-tangan. Medicines were brought, and trainings were given which produced ten FHWs all of which are local and Abellens, endordsed to the LGU and assigned to their own puroks (block). Presently MAP nurses and doctors visit to do monitoring and give refresher courses.
Korean Methodists donated a church structure many years ago however, there hasn’t been any pastoral visits for many months now. It’d be good also to be able train laymen who’d be able to lead Bible studies and preach every now and then. The soul shouldn’t go hungry, for it empowers the body for good works through the reading of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. It causes transformation of character that transcends and supersedes all the other realms of person-hood. It is the only permanent change that has eternal value.
I visited just recently, after 4 years since my last, with Julius, my husband who was one of MAP’s pioneer staff of 5 years ago in the community along with the present staff Sir Oliver Yanos. The purpose of the visit were as follows; to reconstruct the health station’s toilet, check the health station if it needs fixing, do medical check ups, and give refresher health lessons. The river was waist deep with a pretty strong current going to the community but was shallower on our way back home.
I addressed the recent mortality and the diseases that caused it, gave tips of how to address emergencies with their limited resources and taught them how to deal with dosages when facing pediatric patients. We’ll be bringing a wall clock and a big calculator when we visit again on December. Hoping that the station also be installed with a new solar panel.
The toilet bowl was cracked in half, two children threw rocks in it, wondering what this white bowl is for, amazed that it has little water in it. There are about 7 toilet bowls installed by the government in Tangan-tangan, 2 are in use (including the one in the station), yet many still prefer to dig holes and do otherwise.
There are 2 functional pump wells, and a river which about comprise the water source of the community. For more than 30 years there had been no effective water system, and this goes for every far flung community with no potable water; and pump wells/water systems that could help grow their rice paddies all year round.
There has to be a collective effort not to leave any tribe/community/barangay/sitio behind as others are charging towards might not reach that epitome, but at least lets help them access it. Mary Grace, an 11th grader, is the first and only Abellen to reach this level in Abellen Aeta history. She aspires of becoming a teacher. So far, just her. Maybe her brother too, but leaving home to study in Capas makes him miss his mother so bad that he’d rather not study at all, he’s now in 7th grade, both of them excel in class.
Sir Oliver met with 7 FHWs during our visit to see how things are running. We also had one fellowship night. Three sacks of cement with a toilet bowl were brought to the station with the help of three locals. The water closet was reconstructed with the help of Tatay Freddie and Ambo (locals); some of the other FHWs were harvesting their grains that time. We had about 20 clinic visits. A two month old badly needed to be nebulized, and one that was a primary Koch’s suspect.
These Bible verses were recited from memory by Nanay Leah, an Abellen, the leader and representative of the FHWs;
“Umawit sa kagalakan ang lahat ng mga bansa! Si Yahweh ay papurihan, paglingkuran siyang kusa; lumapit sa presensya niya at umawit na may tuwa! O si Yahweh ay ating Diyos! Ito’y dapat na malaman,tayo’y kanya, kanyang lahat, tayong lahat na nilalang;lahat tayo’y bayan niya, kabilang sa kanyang kawan. Pumasok sa kanyang templo na ang puso’y nagdiriwang, umaawit, nagpupuri sa loob ng dakong banal; purihin ang ngalan niya at siya’y pasalamatan!”
Mga Awit 100: 1-4
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Psalm 100: 1-4
by: Precious B. Melad, MD