As her nimble feet moves with grace with the cadence to the bamboo sticks, 11-year old Christine Arche jives to the rhythm of the Pinikpikan music as she performs a well-timed tribal dance at her abode in Barangay Maliwanag.
A barangay in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, Maliwanag is haven to the indigenous tribe recognized as one of the largest tribe in the Province, the Banwaon people. The name Banwaon is derived from the word banwa which means “home.”
Keeping up with the tradition
The Pinikpikan dance patronizes and promotes everything indigenously Filipino by showcasing cultural values of the IP tribe through graceful and fluid dance moves following the rhythmic and melodic sounds played from indigenous instruments.
Even in these modern times, the Banwaons have managed to keep their culture and traditions intact, such as the close-knit family ties, ceremonial offerings, and knowledge in farming and fishing.
“Ang Papa ko ay nagtatrabaho sa bukirin, nagtatanim ng netibong bigas, kamote, kamoteng-kahoy, iba’t-ibang gulay, at palkata. Ang Mama ko naman ay isang Barangay Day Care Worker, kaya tuwing Sabado lamang kami nakakasama kay Papa sa bukid (My father works in the farm, plants native rice, root crops, vegetables, and falcate trees. My mother is a day care worker that’s why we can only go with my father every Saturday),” Christine narrated.
With the meager income that her parents earn, they cannot afford to hire a babysitter, thus her mother had to carry her to school while teaching other children. She remembers feeling all the love and attention from her parents even when she was still three years old back then.
Christine grew up to be a responsible, talented, and intelligent kid. She was a consistent honor student from Grades 1-5, and is active in all extra-curricular activities in the school – she even is one of the most active members of Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP).
Pursuing education amidst financial shortage
“Buotan nga bata sa akong classroom, responsable, cooperative sa mga classmates labi na sa mga academic activities. Siya usa pud ka lider sa Kabataan Kontra Basura (KKB). Tanan nga aktibidad, maasahan gyud siya (She is very kind, responsible, and cooperative to her classmates especially in academic activities. She is a leader of the KKB too. She is responsible and is reliable in conducting activities),” Rowena Calo, her class adviser, shared.
Now that she is already in sixth grade, she reminds herself to study hard and chase her dreams, because she wants to help her parents in uplifting their living condition. Thankfully, they got a little lift through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program’s (4Ps) sub-component, the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Indigenous Peoples (MCCT-IP).
Salient features of the MCCT include modification in terms of targeting, conditionalities, program interventions, and mode of implementation. Also, it aims to provide social protection services fit to the needs of IPs, according to the Memorandum Circular 19 series of 2014.
Her mother Dinah is all but praises to the program, saying, “Dako ang among kalipay kay nakatabang kini sa pag-eskwela sa among duha ka anak. Nakita man gud nako nga naningkamot pud sila, maminaw kung patun-on ug masinabtanon sa kahimtang namo (We are elated because it really helped in the education of our two kids. I see that they are determined, they listen when I tell them to study, and understanding in our situation).”
Taking pride of her heritage
While pursuing her studies, Christine continues to cope with the different challenges, especially in the changes in their environment and community. This, being the case that their barangay has little access to basic services. But with the MCCT program, Christine, and her fellow Banwaons now are hopeful of a better future ahead.
“Ang MCCT ay nakapagbigay ng pag-asa sa mga batang mahirap na katulad ko na nangangarap na makatapos sa pag-aaral. Sa kabila ng lahat na aking nakamit at natutunan sa eskwelahan at sa komunidad, bilang batang 4Ps ang pinakamahalaga para sa akin ay ang pamilya at pagkakakilanlan. Ito ay maituturing ko na aking munting tagumpay (The MCCT gave hope for poor children like me who have dreams to finish school. In all that I have learned in school and in the community, as a 4Ps child, the most important for me is family and indentity. This, I consider, is my little feat),” Christine shared.
With all the blessings going their family’s way, and the new opportunities that Christine now enjoys, she thanks the Pantawid Pamilya Program for modifying its guidelines to fit the situation of the Indigenous Peoples through the MCCT-IP. She strongly believes that preserving their cultural identity as Banwaons is important especially during the “new normal” set-up. She believes that even in times of the advancements in technology, it is always necessary to look back, and take pride of one’s heritage.
Christine believes that the fluid dance steps, the sound of loud and melodic brass gongs, and sophisticated, elegant garments and dresses, are legacies for the next generations of the Banwaon tribe in their remote community. But with the MCCT-IP modality, the 4Ps grantees are certain of a more hopeful heritage for tomorrow. ###(Social Marketing Section/DSWD Field Office Caraga)