After 2 visits or exposures to the village of the Dumagats in Rizal, I still find it hard to write what I saw, felt and experienced. I don’t understand why. One reason could be because I couldn’t find the words that would describe what I have witnessed.

It’s not really true that the place of the Dumagats is far from Tanay, Rizal. Actually, Brgy. Sta. Ines is just about 50 kilometers from Manila – just about the same distance from Naic, Cavite, and significantly closer compared to San Fernando, Pampanga – 2 hours away from Manila where my family always goes to.

But why is it not that easy to go to Sta. Ines? Is it because the trip of public vehicles is not as frequent and it is scary to ride the top of the jeepney? Or is it because a larger part of the road is rough and not yet developed, not to mention crossing several rivers that could become deep when there is downpour? Is it possible that the difficulty is in the impression that it is dangerous in Sta. Ines because of the friction between the military and the rebel group? Whatever it is, I still can’t say it because for me, the difficulty of going to this exquisite place cannot be equaled by the golden character of the individuals that I have gotten acquainted with in such a short time. These are people who have respect for others and love for nature that cannot be bought by false progress.

“We also use soap when we bathe… sometimes.” That is one of the first lines that Tatay Lope (the recognized elder in the village) said to us when we first talked to him. I don’t know why the usage of soap is one of the first things that he mentioned – maybe it is because people from Manila like us are very particular with body hygiene especially with taking a bath. These words remained in my head because for me it resembles the difference between the ways of living of the Dumagat and us here in the plains.

For us to eat, we need to work in an establishment where the salary is given daily, weekly or bi-weekly. If we have this job, we will earn money and whether it is enough or not, this is what we will use to buy the food that we want from the market, grocery or store. The food is cooked and served. Sometimes, we could also buy from popular fast food chains or restaurants if we don’t feel like preparing our food.

Many of us here in the city will most likely receive salary for food especially if we have a stable job in a stable company. In fact, others are so sure of their income that they borrow or spend money in advance that it usually affects the supposed income in the next month or even the next couple of years. Many long-term debts are made for things that aren’t needed for everyday living and because these aren’t really necessary, they are marketed through installment schemes to attract the masses.

These debts raise the stress level of many people in the city because they hardly realize that their incomes are already depleted when they haven’t even received it yet. During pay day, there is not enough left for food or bills payment. There is also nothing left to save for emergency.

The natives don’t experience this kind of stress. They don’t panic when the ATM is offline. They do not worry if they still have a job the next day or not. They don’t have to please or suck up to a boss. They have no time in or time out and they will not get any deductions if they don’t show up for work. They are also not affected by any traffic management scheme that the government implements no matter how far they are from their source of living.

The Dumagats depend on their land and its organic nutrients as well as the flow of water from the streams and the sunshine that is essential for their crops. For the natives, land is life. This is not some sort of property nor is it a measure of their power. It is a treasure that no single man or family can claim because it is older than they are.

Their understanding that they need their land to survive is deep because it gives life to animals and crops that they consume. They, of all people, can feel the effect of calamities like typhoons because it can destroy their crops and submerge their dirt roads.

This article is translated from the original Filipino (Tagalog) version from Floyd Castro’s blog. To read the original article, please click here. Read the Part 2 of the article here.

For more photos on this trip, please click here.