This month, three Pasali units ( the Children’s Desk, the FSS- SRI team and the documentation team) went to Biao, a Manobo indigenous group community in Palimbang Sultan Kudarat to map it out. We looked into social, economic, political, cultural and health concerns.
Biao has been a controversial place before. Now, things are changing. A colleague who went there many times told me,” their food supply is even better than the lowland’s because they have more yield of corn in one stalk, something that’s unusual. Also, they have cultivated more lands for rice farming; all rain fed.This is why I was so curious and excited to see for myself the “talk of the town” indigenous community. Located 14 kilometers way above Milbuk, Palimbang we rode and walked for three hours the most impassable road I had ever been on. Big holes makes the trip longer and riskier. In fact, a motor operator got stuck in a hole and almost fell off the cliff. These holes are made by the giant multiple wheeled car used by “legal” loggers to carry their exploits. Locals say, since the Vietnam car entered their territory, their roads are wrecked.
The logging is said to be initiated by a Chinese business man. Manobos who wants easy money permits these loggers and even works for them for small amount of money. Since Pasali initiated the technology of system of rice and corn intensification, provided corn mill, community leaders have made farming as a source of income. The community is now aware of the effects of logging. Hopefully, other villages will also understand the long term effects to their water supply and to prevent landslides.
In the one hand, government has an important role: Biao inhabitants need legal authority over land. Their local government says it takes 25 years of settling before the people of Biao can get a land title. Government must speed up the land titling process or else these armed loggers, turn the vast forest into a bare, dry land and cause conflict.
The best part of our journey was when we sat down together after the trip the following day and shared findings in our different assignments in education, family, health, water supply, unique practices and recipes. We also evaluated our trip.This trip actually had so many learning moments for us. It turned out to teach us not just to map out a community but also to organize and prepare us in the coming trips we will have.