In the September 20 episode of Iba ‘Yan, a simple and preserved culture of an indigenous tribe called the Dumagat in Sitio Suha Norzagaray, Bulacan situated in the mountains of Sierra Mountains and Angat watershed was brought into the spotlight as host Angel Locsin socialized with the members of the said tribe. The small community where they are currently situated is called “Punduhan.” Brother Martin Francisco, a missionary, was the one who founded this community for the Dumagats. He has actually been living in the mountains of Sierra Madre since 1996. He shared that the term ‘punduhan’ actually came from the culture of the Dumagats which is having a stopover every time they go and transfer to a place. And this “punduhan” was made to serve as a temporary shelter for the Dumagats - a shelter they can always go to and satisfy their basic needs.
The indigenous group name “Dumagat” came from a Kabuwelan word which means “hubad sa gubat.” The Dumagats live in Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, and Bulacan. In Bulacan where Angel immersed herself, there are three tribes of Dumagat - Agta, Alta, and Remontado. Before Brother Martin lived with the Dumagats, he was actually discouraged by the people around him as he was told negative impressions and stories about the group. People told him that Dumagats were lazy and too nomadic. However, Brother Martin proved those allegations wrong when he himself saw how the Dumagats live. He shared that they aren’t sluggish - it’s just that they have different priorities and they consider their own culture and practices in surviving their everyday lives. Angel was actually told how “nganga” is made for the group’s betel chewing which is one of their preserved cultures.
But Brother Martin admitted their life in the mountains of Sierra Madre has not been easy at all. They have been experiencing problems with clean water supply, thus children have been suffering from amoeba-bearing diseases. They also don’t have electricity as the generator set given to them can’t be used. Moreover, health problems are also a major challenge in their everyday lives. Skin diseases like scabies among children can’t be avoided because of the dogs living in the community.
Angel met one of the tribe members that Brother trusts when it comes to taking care and preserving the punduhan. Angel and Brother Martin went to “Bato sa Bitbit” or more commonly known as “Monte Cristo Caves” and there Angel met Resendo “Ka Sendo” Cruz, a volunteer forest ranger, a rescue officer, and a tour guide in punduhan. Ka Sendo said that he chose to live with his daughters in punduhan and leave the mountains because he wants his children to finish their studies. He gives much importance to education because he believes that is the only way they can stand up and fight for their rights against the people who try to step on them and disregard them as rightful owners of their ancestral lands.
He added that he and the whole tribe will do everything they can to preserve the forest, because losing it, according to Ka Sendo, also means losing their parents or the source of their lives. And because he serves as a tourist guide, Iba ‘Yan team gave Ka Sendo helpful and protective gears he can use including heavy duty flashlight, hard hat, gloves, backpack, raincoat, socks and boots, first aid kit, umbrella, tumbler, and t shirts.
Iba ‘Yan team also made helpful signages which can also help him in touring people around the community and in caves. Angel also told Brother Martin that they will help in fixing the papers needed for eco tourism.
In the afternoon, the Dumagats prepared a special gathering and ceremony as a welcome assembly for the whole Iba ‘Yan team. And Angel gave them the first surprise for the night which was a nganga. There were special presentations like the cultural dance that was performed by the Dumagat children. The Iba ‘Yan team in return prepared a dinner gathering for the whole community. They were also given 10 sacks of rice from Sagip Kapamilya, five boxes of canned goods, cables for the generator set, and liter of light for every Dumagat family in the Pundahan community.