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Punduhan ng mga Dumagat - Culture Immersion

Punduhan(noun) port, dock, landing place, meeting place

Punduhan ng mga Dumagat is a 10-hectare land area allotted to the Dumagat Tribe by the NAPOCOR in Barangay San Mateo, Norzagaray Bulacan. It is a Provincial Coordinating Center for all Programs and Projects for the Tribe.

We, the Pollution Control Advocates of ALAB went to Punduhan on January 05, 2019 for Culture Immersion with the Dumagats. We were met by Brother Martin Francisco BSMP, President of Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc. (SSMESI), a Non-Government Organization founded to help the indigenous Agta ethnic communities. According to Bro. Martin, the Dumagats are Aetas from Aurora and Quezon Provinces who lives in Sierra Madre Mountains. But since the mountains are continually being devastated by activities like illegal logging, mining, deforestation, etc., they were forced to move out and re-settle in Bulacan.

I was lucky enough to have a quick chit-chat with Nanay Violy, while the others are serving the refreshments. She said her son was the first to move to Punduhan, who later become part of the Dumagat Sagip Forest Ranger, one SSMESI’s projects. One day, when they came to visit their son, Bro. Martin asked them to join the group so that their other kids can go to school as well. Convinced that they will be in good hands, she together with her husband decided to stay, and they haven’t regretted their decision.

In the middle of our kwentuhan, Nanay Violi’s husband Tatay Robert joined us. He told us about his routine of collecting Pulot(bee-hive) from deep in the forest. He’s usually accompanied by his son, Jordan. They collect Pulot from January to August, and they sell them for 100 pesos per bottle. He even promised us that he can bring us with him the next time were back.

In another interview with Bro. Martin he told us the story of SSMESI. According to him, the original name of the organization is “Katutubong Tribo ng Bulacan” but they thought it had no appeal to people in other places/regions because the name has no identification. That’s when they changed it to Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc. He also shared that this is their sixth attempt to build a community for the Dumagats. But compared to their previous attempts, this one is turning out to be a success. He explained this is probably because the location of the program is the group’s ancestral domain, because there are way more people helping out and because the Dumagats themselves are becoming very responsive. He also added that while we are teaching the Dumagats, there are also a lot of things we can learn from them. Like the fact that they wait for the tree trunks to dry before they gather them for their firewood. They never cut down trees for their own benefit. One of their known values, is they only get what they need, cause if they get too much, there won’t be much left for tomorrow. A value I think a lot of us should reflect on.

This day has been a unique experience for our Team. It made us realize that there are so much more to other cultures. And how we can always learn from other people, no matter the race, the gender and the beliefs. We even came up with the saying, “take it from the Dumagats.” 😊

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