As part of our agricultural assistance to the Dumagats, we decided to visit them for the second time. This time, though, we visited the tribe in Barangay Laiban. With me were Jeng and Bong.
The trip to Tanay, Rizal took about 2 to 3 hours. We had a quick stop there for lunch and we also met with our partner from Harris College, Kuya Ed Jocson. Before boarding the jeepney to our destination, we bought tools and seeds that we would give to the Dumagats to start their farming. We also bought some supplies for ourselves for our stay there.
The trip to Laiban was not easy but it was a fun adventure. We had to board through the top of the jeepney just like the rest of the group. The inside of the jeepney was occupied mostly by goods that the driver and his helper would deliver to the folks in Laiban. We had to endure the hours of sitting without changing positions and we had to hold the railings to keep from falling but the view was breath-taking so we barely noticed how tired we were.
We reached our destination at dusk. The place was very peaceful and reminded me a lot of my home town. There was no electricity and none of us could get phone signals. We spent the night at Ate Nelia’s house. Her mother is a native Dumagat and her father was a Tagalog settler in the area. Together with her family and her husband, they are one of the pioneers of communal farming in the area and their small farm has become an inspiration to the other natives to start a similar farm.
The night was very cold and quiet. In the morning, we had our breakfast and went ahead to visit their farm. We helped them plant string beans as part of our ‘warm-up.’ We then walked for about 45 minutes to the next village, greeting folks along our way. Also with us was Kuya Jeffrey, an Igorot who is helping out with the farming.
When we reached our destination, we were welcomed by Nanay Lingling. She was one of the recipients of the farming tools and the seeds that we brought with us. She served us our second breakfast of rice and mixed vegetables with coconut milk. I loved the generosity and hospitality. One other thing I really liked was Nanay Lingling convincing her friends and neighbors to also join them in their farming.
After our breakfast, the three of us tried nga-nga, a popular vice among the natives. It consists of betel leaf, areca nut, tobacco and calcium carbonate powder. It was our first time and we did not know its effect. Needless to say, Bong and I felt drowsy but Jeng chewed like it was just a piece of organic chewing gum.
We walked to the farming area still feeling lightheaded. When we finally recovered, we joined them in clearing the area of thick grasses and vines. The work was naturally very strenuous and very tiring but the company of the natives made it fun and we enjoyed seeing our accomplishments. We were exchanging jokes and telling stories and Nanay Lingling even sang her own song for us. We also had young coconut water for hydration. It was a very productive day. We were able to clear a large area and we were also able to plant the first crops of string beans and black beans.
On our walk back to the house late in the afternoon, we stopped by Kim’s house. Kim is one of the recipients of our educational assistance program. We met her family and had a few photographs with them.
We had another stop at the river near the house. We stopped by to swim. The water was cold and the current a little strong but we felt refreshed after that. We reached Ate Nelia’s house at around 7 in the evening where we dined and bonded with her family.
Early the next morning, we finished our breakfast and went back to the town and eventually back to each of our homes feeling sore but accomplished. It was one of the best experiences of volunteering that I have experienced. We promised to be back with the rest of the group for a merrier stay. I am personally looking forward to it.