The Iraya Mangyans and the Love that sustains them

May 24, 2012 Travel

It is a different kind of love story.  

Last year on Valentines Day, I chanced upon one of the most memorable love stories I ever saw on television.  It was the love that inspired me to move forward with more heart for our indigenous brothers and sisters.

Their story is typical.

Their cultural group prospered along the coastal areas until they were forced to move from their land.  They were treated as second class citizens, neglected and discriminated against.  That was until the love developed between Dona Bea Zobel de Ayala, her husband Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala and this Mangyan cultural group from Mindoro.

Earlier this week, I helped a friend, Panorama former editor Randy Urlanda and his friend Robert Evora organize a group of journalists from Manila to cover an environmental forum organized by the local government of Puerto Galera.  Our local hosts, led by Puerto Galera Tourism Officer Aileen Bareng, organized a tour for us a day before the actual conference.

She told me we would visit a Mangyan Village but I never expected that we would actually visit the village built by the Ayalas for the Iraya Mangyans, one of 8 Mangyan cultural communities in Mindoro.

Right now, our group Trails to Empower Kids or TREK is in the middle of planning for our next outreach in Quirino Province and monitoring a classroom we are helping to build in Aurora.  So, I am just happy with this new surge of inspiration.  We are mostly mountaineers who travel far to reach out to our friends in isolated areas.

We were welcomed by the right hand man of the Ayalas in Mindoro Mr. Pabling de Jesus, who is at the helm of this project.  

The Mangyan Village is located at Sitio Talipanan, Barangay Aninuan in Puerto Galera. 

In the story produced by the PROBE Team, the Mangyans didn't have access to basic education, health care and decent housing.  When we visited the community, there was already a public school, a medical facility being managed by Indian nuns, common comfort rooms and 62 houses.  

It was amazing seeing all of these.  Mr. de Jesus also allowed us to go inside one of the new houses.

This is what Mangyan families receive from the Ayalas, a nice 36 square meter hut with two bed rooms, beds, furniture, and even kitchen and eating utensils.  Each house is estimated to cost Php 150,000.00, which already includes labor and materials.  The house also has electricity, which reduces the family expense down to P 45 from almost P 400 when they used gas.

62 houses were already built and priority was given to the community elders.  

According to Mr. de Jesus, they are looking at building 200 houses.  The whole property, which is owned by the Mangyans, is 3.3 hectares.

The elementary school accommodates grades 1 to 6 students.  High school and college students have to study somewhere else, but they remain scholars of the Ayalas.

Tourists who visit the Mangyan Village can also avail of locally produced handicrafts.  Mangyans are expert basket weavers.  

Yes, money flows abundantly from the Ayalas, but it was not money that built and sustained this. It is the love, the real kind of love - the love that also inspires me and my group and the love that can give a better life for all our indigenous brothers and sisters.

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