The Tagbanua in Culion, Palawan

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2010 by ayshey

I was hanging out at Mog Wai in Cubao X one night with friends in November 2009 when I met someone who suggested I do a story on the Tagbanua in Palawan . He found out I was going to Palawan for Christmas break. So I said yes.

I decided to go to Coron first and then from there would meet up Raf,  friend who was based in El Nido and then we would go to Puerto Princesa, our last stop before heading home to Manila. I had 3 other friends with me on that trip. We had booked our tickets on the Superferry 3 months before the vacation. There were no promo plane tickets left so it was either get on a boat or no Palawan! So on Dec 25 at 5pm, we left the Manila pier along Roxas Boulevard and got on our Superferry for Coron. It took us 13 hours. We slept well on the boat. Coron looked promising when we got there at 6am the next day. The Palawan adventure had began.

I first met the Tagbanua schoolkids on Dec 27, on our third day in Coron.  We had to go and see them on their island because they had no way of coming to see us from where we were on Tending island. The Tagbanua kids photographed here were all students of Mina, a teacher hired by an NGO in Culion to do a LITNUM (Literacy-Numerals) program for 3 months. This short encounter with the Tagbanua made me ask questions of myself. First, did I want to tell their story? How do I begin? What story must be told? Do they want their story told? Who will be interested in their story? I knew that I needed more than just a day’s encounter for me to know what it was that they were really thinking. They would not  answer directly when asked.  I asked a friend who was with me in Palawan and she helped me think about the issue more deeply. It is not a new issue for me. Since I started traveling around the country in my early 20s, I had encountered the same issues of Indigenous Peoples (IPs). One stark memory I have is that of the MANGYAN people in Mindoro. They have always been discriminated against by the lowlanders whenever they see them in the center of town. They wore g-strings, were usually thin and unkempt. But you would never laugh at them once you see how fast and nimble they are inside the rainforest! They are also soft-spoken and have an ironic sense of humor. I have many stories of the MANGYAN which I hope to talk about in another page later.  But the issues that the Mangyans faced then , the Tagbanuas face also today. Issues of discrimination by  mainstream Filipinos, their lack of skills of negotiating when it comes to selling their skills or whatever crafts they have–they are almost always cheated, these are all current problems together with their health and their very existence on the islands of Palawan. They are  quietly looking at extinction, I think.


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