TREK Mansalay: Meeting the Hanunuo Mangyans

September 04, 2013 Voluntourism

The Hanunuo Mangyan is among the eight indigenous groups in the Philippine island of Mindoro, distinguished by their unique tribal name, language, customs, and a distinct form of writing.

In our quest to connect with them, we decided to journey south of Manila. My first introduction to the Hanunuo Mangyan came through Fr. Ewald Dinter, an honoree of The Many Faces of the Teacher by the Bato Balani Foundation, five years ago. He dedicated himself to establishing schools for the Mangyans, including Anahaw Elementary School, chosen as the beneficiary of TRails to Empower Kids or TREK.

The journey from Manila to Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, lasted over eight hours. From the municipal hall, we continued for an additional 30 minutes on a dump truck and then embarked on a two-hour trek. It was no easy feat; we navigated river crossings, hiked uphill for minutes, and walked along muddy trails.

The volunteers at the jump off point

the trail to Anahaw Elementary School

Our mission takes us to communities that are often neglected because normal help doesn't reach them. This is where Fr. Dinter becomes a blessing. According to him, education is their weapon to protect their lands and to prevent others from treating them as second-class citizens.

One parent who joined us affirmed this truth. He used to sell coffee, receiving a mere five pesos per kilo from lowlanders who sold it for 95.00 per kilo.

Witnessing poverty evident in the area, with children in worn-out clothes and soiled feet, made us reflect on how the pork barrel could have made a difference.

During our recon a month ago, specific requests were made. In Anahaw, they prioritized slippers, hygiene kits, and mess kits. They suggested Duralite slippers, unfamiliar to us at first, but research revealed their necessity in the muddy village where ordinary slippers wouldn't suffice.

They also asked for mess kits, highlighting the need for an improvement from using coconut husks during past feeding programs.

With only a month to gather donations, and 380 students at Anahaw Elementary School (excluding preschools), along with an additional 200 students from Lucban Elementary School two hours away, we, by God's grace, managed to gather enough supplies, including raincoats, storybooks, toys, and school supplies.

The students of Anahaw Elementary School

Playing catch

High five
She gets new raincoats, slippers, hygiene and mess kits

We witnessed the genuine appreciation of the kids for the gifts. The teachers expressed that it was the first time they experienced something like this, thinking such moments only happened on television.

The turnover process took more than an hour, during which we sang songs together, played games, and even had our names written in Hanunuo Mangyan. These shared moments of joy and connection made the experience even more special for all involved

Before we leave

We may have left the village all muddy, but our hearts were full of joy. They received their raincoats, slippers, notebooks, soaps, toothbrushes, and more. We, in turn, took home happy memories and pictures of smiling kids, along with new friendships.

Fr. Ewald Dinter's words resonate: 'All are equal before God. Let’s all walk together towards a beautiful future.

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