There does not seem to be one definitive definition of indigenous people, but generally indigenous people are those that have historically belonged to a particular region or country, before its colonization or transformation into a nation state, and may have different—often unique—cultural, linguistic, traditional, and other characteristics to those of the dominant culture of that region or state [UNFPII].

In some parts of the world, they are very few indigenous people, while in other parts; they may number into the hundreds of thousands, even millions. Over the years, many groups of people have been wiped out, either by diseases of colonizing peoples, or through policies of extermination.

In the Philippines, the issue of extermination among indigenous peoples is very alarming. Threats, mis-demeanor and injustices often cause them to relinquish their livelihood for good and for safety. Thus, making them transfer from one place to the other, making them nomads.

In Barangay Pangaylan-IP, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, a group of indigenous people “just” live not-so explicitly with other tribal group’s stories of extermination and the so called disease of colonizing people.

They are the Mamanuas, the only Negrito race of Mindanao. Mamanuas are believed to be gentle and peace-loving people. They prefer to settle disputes amicably and pay the manggad [fine] for minor infractions and oyagaan [heavy fine] for serious ones rather than prolong conflicts. In fact, they only use their spears for hunting and as ornaments on ceremonial occasions [USP].

For a long time, the Mamanuas have resisted the “outside” world, living only in the dignity of their own culture. At present, due partly to the patient efforts of the government and some NGOs, they are slowly adapting to the changing world.

“Sa una, kaingun jud ko nga wala nay paki-alam sa amo ang Gobyerno. Kay wala man gani project sa among sitio. Pero, sa pag-abot sa Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program nabag-o gyud ang tanan,” Haidy P. Ilaga shared.

(Before, I really thought that the Government is not doing anything for us. In fact, there is no established Government project in our sitio. But, when Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program came, all my perspective about the Government shifted,” Haidy P. Ilaga shared.)

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is one of the core poverty reduction programs of the government being delivered through the DSWD. This program was formerly called Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino. It aims to eradicate extreme poverty in the Philippines by investing in health and education of children particularly in ages 0–18. It is patterned on programs in other developing countries like Brazil (Bolsa Familia) and Mexico (Oportunidades).

“Tungud sa Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, natagaan mi ug higayun nga ipagawas ang among mga gipangbati mahitungud sa among mga nahing-agian,” Haidy added.

(“Because of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, we were given a chance to express our feelings about our experiences,” Haidy added.)

Because of Haidy’s educational background, she was chosen by her community to serve as representative in dealing with all government related transactions. This is because Haidy is one of the few who could read and understand all pertinent documents written in English or in Tagalog.

Haidy studied her secondary education at Northern Mindanao Colleges through a sponsored program of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP). She tried going to college but ended as drop-out because of pregnancy.

“Sayang lagi kayo sir kay wala nako mahuman ang akong pag-skwela. Pero, wala man gihapon koy dapat ikamahay kay kabalo ko nga naay bag-o nga grasya nga muabot sa amo. Ug wala gyud nagdugay, niabot ning Pantawid Pamilya. Wala man ko kahuman, pero akong paningkamutan nga sa tabang sa Programa, malampos gyud nako ang pagpa-skwela sa akong mga anak,” Haidy relayed with tears in her eyes.

“I regret my inability to finish my studies in college. But as days passed, I realized that greater things will come soon. And not sooner than it was expected, Pantawid Pamilya ornamented our community. With this blessing, I will do my best to send my children to school and help them reach their dreams,” Haidy relayed with tears in her eyes.

Because of their humble beginnings and their being transparent to the stories they shared, NGOs, DSWD and other government agencies have extended their little help to Barangay Pangaylan-IP. They became a recipient of the CAR-C or the Cadahundahunan Agrarian Reform-Cooperative of the Department of Agrarian Reform-DAR where Haidy was elected as chairperson. Also, the ILO or the International Labor Organization extended help through teaching them livelihood programs related to agriculture. An International based Non-Government Organization also has exposed them to trainings on basic IP-rights, rights of a woman, and even doing project monitoring and documentation. The Department of Agriculture-DA also has given them seedlings of “Adlay” since agriculture is the main source of income of their tribe.

“Kaning tanan dili na kaayo bag-o sa ako tungud kay kanunay man ni namo nga gina-estoryahan sa Family Development Session-FDS. Dinhi sa maong session among gina-balik-balikan ug tuon kung sa unsa nga paagi makatabang sa komunidad ang mga kababayen-an,” Haidy relayed.

“These things are not new to me because these are all part of our discussion in the Family Development Session. In this session, we keep on studying how and in what ways women could help more in the improvement of the community,” Haidy relayed.

“Sa maong session usab mas nasabtan nako ang dako nako nga responsibilidad sa akong mga anak. Dili lang diay taman sa pag-pa-skwela ang responsibilidad sa usa ka inahan kundili apil usab diay ang pag-pangga ug pag-amuma kanila mao ang among prayoridad,” Haidy happily shared.

“Also, I learned in the session the roles of the parents to their children. That our responsibility doesn’t end in sending our children to school but also, taking good care of them while they are growing is our outmost priority,” Haidy happily shared.

Haidy’s marriage to Isagani P. Ilaga is flowered with five wonderful children. Jhonrie,18 is a high school graduate; Gerlyn, 16 is now a grade 10 student of Santiago National High School; Cristine, 13 is now in grade 6; Dhenber, diseased and Micca, 5 is studying as a pre-school student. With her husband’s work as a company guard of the MRL Mining Corporation and the support of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, Haidy is hopeful that she could send her children to college.

“Ang akong paningkamot para sa akong mga anak. Tungud kay gusto nako nga makab-ot nila ang ilang mga damgo ug nga sila ang magpadayun sa akong mga nabugto nga mga pangandoy,” Haidy closed.

“All of my efforts are dedicated for my children. Because I want them to reach their dreams and continue my dreams in life,” Haidy closed.

Despite of Haidy’s experiences, Haidy visions a wonderful future for her children. Because like other mothers, all she wanted is the best for her gems-her children.

Haidy P. Ilaga, 40 is a parent leader to her forty (40) IP members. She is a recipient of the educational scholarship of the NCIP and is the present chairperson of CAR-C. Last June 22-24, she is of the participants who attended the training on Parent Leaders as Program Advocate at Goat2geder Hotel and Convention in Butuan City.(###DSWDFieldOfficeCaragaSocialMarketingUnit###)