Culture is distinct in every group. It describes every individual’s tradition, values, history, and their identity.

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Manobos Kumbiti, where tradition is culture.

The Manobo people in the hinterlands of Bitaugan is one of the groups of the indigenous community in the region who continuously live in peace and in harmony with nature. Their prime belief that is respect amongst them and to others manifest in their generosity to their neighbors, friends and even to their visitors whom they are given much attention by means of providing them their casual needs like food, security and shelter.

These acts of bounteousness of the Manobos are being exercised by their manigaun (elder) and are transmitted up until this age to their children’s children, where these acts are doubled during days of Kumbiti.

Despite the advancement and development brought by technology and economic growth, the Manobos in the highlands of Barangay Bitaugan, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur posit the unique tradition of marriage.

Kumbiti in their culture is traditionally imposed by parental arrangement. The asking of kumbiti (panumaid) to the girl begins when the two families chose their manigaun. After long days of negotiations and observance of groom’s clear intention to the bride, the kumbiti will then be scheduled.

Manobos may have practiced kumbiti in their own ways; however, putting all these things into paper has been their problem. This somehow is an enigma that dwindles their efforts during the long days of preparations to make their kumbiti a memory that lasts forever.

Bitaugan, occupied by 243 households with 1,404 Manobos, is situated 45 kilometers away from San Miguel proper. It will take a seven-hour ride through a pump boat and a day-walk to reach the sitio. Around 124 households are registered partner-beneficiaries of the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Indigenous People (MCCT-IP) while there are 109 households for the Regular CCT of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Pantawid Pamilya, as it is shortly called, is a human development measure of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to the poorest of the poor, to improve the health, nutrition, and the education of children aged 0-18. It is patterned after the CCT schemes in Latin American and African countries, which have lifted millions of people around the world from poverty.

With the coming of MCCT-IP in Bitaugan, the Manobos found a relief to the problem. Their participation in community family development session (CFDS) opened their thoughts to the changes happening around, living into practice their credence and custom.

During these sessions, the Manobos have the chance to participate and speak their minds. Discussions on the rights of the child and women, family planning, active citizenship, importance of marriage, and others are shared to the attendees. To the Manobos, the things they learned through CFDS are new and heard for the first time.

Because of their participation in the monthly-held sessions, the Manobos in Bitaugan has come to understand the importance of having a birth certificate. This has also instigated them to file immediately the certificate of no marriage (CENOMAR).

With this response, the MCCT-IP has partnered with the Local Civil Registrar’s Office of San Miguel to conduct the mobile mass wedding registration in selected areas of the municipality-Poblacion, Brgy. Libasud, Sitio Catabadan, Brgy. Caromata, Bagyang and Bitaugan. This collective effort of the two institutions has produced 97 Manobo couples (most updated number) ready for kumbiti scheduled last September 15, 2015.

The ceremonial kumbiti was then initiated by the Honorable Mayor Alvaro S. Elizalde. It was witnessed by the Local Civil Registrar Mr. Celso B. Bangoy, Social Welfare Officer III (SWO III) Cryste Mae Jiminez with the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR), Datu Jimmy I. Guinsod.

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Manobo couple hold hands as they promise to live their forever as one.

Dahil sa CFDS, nalaman ko ang kahalagahan ng aming Kumbiti (marriage), para sa aking sarili at sa aking mga anak,” shared Michelle I. Delapena, Manobo parent leader from Barangay Bitaugan.

The conducted ceremonial kumbiti manifests positive empowerment among MCCT-IP partner-beneficiaries in the hinterlands of Bitaugan. The development that evolves within the Manobo people of Bitaugan shows the positive impact of the program to every Manobo who believes that change can happen to them if they will work and believe on it.

Their kumbiti is not just a mere wedding; it portrays their beautiful culture-them and their identity (###DSWDFieldOfficeCaragaScocialMarketingUnit###).