Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday, November 06, 2016
An old Dumagat couple at Maktang Beach
A three-year old Dumagat kid named Diana in Masanga


General Nakar's Dumagat natives are in danger of having their ancestral domain taken away from them. This may not have a direct bearing in your life wherever you may be in the Philippines, but it certainly affects your identity as a Filipino. The country's early settlements, as you may know, used to be populated by their ancestors who have long retreated to either the uplands of the Sierra Madre or the long and winding coast of mainland Luzon from Cagayan up north all the way down to Bicol. Also called Remontados, these indigenous peoples (IPs) are the descendants of lowland locals who intermarried with the Negritos after fleeing from the Spaniards in the latter's long period of subjugation.

Just a few weeks ago, I tagged along with a Dumagat friend to visit the tribe's settlement pockets in Brgy. Umiray's Maktang and Brgy. Canaway's Masanga. It was there where we found out that entities are moving about the Sierra Madre's coast forcing them to have their land surveyed or else suffer the consequence of losing it. The ruse is to provide a nonexistent condition -- that someone else already owns their land. What comes next is the offer of an expedient solution -- have their land surveyed and sold -- which is something that they can hardly say no to. Fortunately, most natives are against it. They even plan to arm themselves with bows and arrows should they be agitated to fight back.

Cooking inside a home of a Dumagat family in the farthest cove of Masanga
Bathing atop a rock formation in Maktang where gold is assumed by locals to be once buried.
Shell fish for lunch in Masanga
A Dumagat native stalking the beachfront of Lulumnan Beach for seafood

Land Grabbing Script

With real estate jargon to boot, these cohorts of a mysterious land grabber have a ready script that the simple-minded natives can't possibly talk their way out of. It's just a matter of time when they will be displaced once again in the name of tourism, business expansion or progress.

Some natives have even gotten it worse. They were told that the spaces where their houses and crops are located have been surveyed and sold already. Compensation have been released, but it was not them who got paid.

The Importance of Ancestral Domain

The way of life of General Nakar's Dumagat natives is dependent on where they live. They use it for dwelling, cultivating crops, and hunting for food whether in the uplands or at the coast. Their daily nutrition reflects who they are from their broad feet to their stained teeth that's due to betel nut chewing, a habit that can be likened to city dwellers' affection for drinking coffee.

A young Dumagat couple at Maktang Beach
Dumagat natives of Masanga
Scaling the rock formation in Maktang that natives call Tibulsot
Shell fish that natives collect at the miry coast for food

Whispers of Buried Gold

Stories about buried gold in the Dumagat natives' ancestral domain in General Nakar is popular among neighboring lowland locals as far as Rizal and Laguna. And even the natives themselves talk about stories of such that were handed down from their ancestors. However, the locations of the elusive treasure have also faded with time. No one from the present generation of the tribe members know where they are exactly or if they even existed to begin with. This is why any major dam project like the Noynoy Aquino administration's Kaliwa Dam Project that's being planned for Sierra Madre is perceived by the natives as a camouflage operation for nothing more than treasure hunting.

A wading pool-topped rock formation in Maktang
Lulumnan Beach where Dumagat kids are known to cliff-dive for fun on a good day
Maktang where a settlement of Dumagat natives can be found
With no land to call their own, what will be the fate of their culture? Once they are displaced and forced to disappear, how will any Filipino's identity be complete? If the issue of the day is only as exciting as the opening of the latest branch of Jollibee in the neighborhood nearest you, then the clever ruse happening in Quezon Province is as good as undetected. The land grabbers will win.

Dumagat natives chewing betel nut at Maktang Beach
Know more about General Nakar:

Read about my compilation post about General Nakar.
Check out my visit of Lulumnan Beach and Falls here.
Check out my visit of Maktang Beach and Falls here.
Check out my visit of Masanga Coves here.
Check out my visit of Tutulakan River here.


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