TREK Mansalay: Meeting the Hanunuo Mangyans

September 04, 2013 Voluntourism

The Hanunuo Mangyan is one of the eight indigenous groups found in the Philippine island of Mindoro. They have their own tribal name, language, customs, and writing.

We finally decided to go down south of Manila and meet them.

I first learned about them through Fr. Ewald Dinter. He was one of the honorees of The Many Faces of the Teacher of Bato Balani Foundation, one of my clients, five years ago. He established several schools for the Mangyans. 

One of them is Anahaw Elementary School, TRails to Empower Kids or TREK's chosen beneficiary.

It took us more than eight hours to travel from Manila to Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. From the municipal hall, we traveled 30 minutes more on board a dump truck then trekked for two hours. It was not an easy one.  We crossed rivers, hiked up for minutes and walked on muddy trails. 

The volunteers at the jump off point

the trail to Anahaw Elementary School

But this is our mission. We go to communities that are far, because oftentimes, these are the ones neglected. Normal help doesn't reach them. 

That is why Fr. Dinter is such a blessing to them.  Education, according to Fr. Dinter is their weapon to protect their lands and to stop others from treating them as second-class citizens.

One of the parents who joined us affirmed that.  He used to sell coffee. Lowlanders paid him five pesos a kilo and sold it for 95.00 per kilo. 

Of course, we couldn't help but imagine how the pork barrel could have helped them. Poverty was evident in the area. The kids wore worn-out clothes and their feet were soiled.

When our team conducted the recon a month ago, the requests were specific. Teachers normally asked for school supplies. In Anahaw, they prioritized slippers, hygiene and mess kits.  

They suggested Duralite slippers. We didn't know about that. We had to research. It was more expensive but we saw why they asked for it. With the amount of mud in the village, ordinary slippers wouldn't stand.

They also asked for mess kits. During the past feeding programs, children only used coconut husks.

We only had a month to gather the donations. There were 380 students at Anahaw Elementary School, not counting the preschools. Lucban Elementary School, which is two hours away, added 200 more students.

With God's grace, we were able to gather enough, plus 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 saw how much the kids appreciated the gifts.  The teachers said that it was the first time they experienced something like that. They thought it only happened on television.

The turnover took more than an hour. We sang songs with them. We played games with them. We even had our names written in Hanunuo Mangyan.

Before we leave

We were all muddy but we all left happy. They got their raincoats, slippers, notebooks, soaps, toothbrushes, etc.  We got happy memories and pictures of smiling kids and more friends. 

“All are equal before God. Let’s all walk together towards a beautiful future.”

- Fr. Ewald Dinter

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