The Taubuid Mangyan, a conservative ethnic group living in the upper areas of Calintaan, Occidental Mindoro lived mostly in isolation until roughly five years ago. Then, they decided to move to the lowlands after hearing the words of a native clergyman. Aside from the missionary’s preaching, what moved them greatly was the Bible.
Leaving their mountain fastness was a brave decision for the tribe. Settled in their new location in town, they then asked the local government for a school. They knew they had much to learn, the Bible was just the beginning.
The response came with the construction of the Balangabong Elementary School –Ulango extension. Soon after the school was built, three teachers arrived, two of whom are subsidized by the government.
The teachers were keen to improve the children’s literacy level but they also saw the need to teach the tribe about personal hygiene. Poor sanitation practices have been linked to the high mortality rate in underdeveloped areas, especially in the remote areas in the regions.
“I still have to request for hygiene kits from the local government,” said Irene de Guzman, one of the first teachers in the area.
Recently, her plea was answered by a cooperative that was ready to provide aid beyond the tribe’s basic needs. The cooperative specializes in helping crop and livestock farmers in Occidental Mindoro.
The Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) partnered with Trails to Empower Kids (TREK) to bring hygiene kits and other essential items to the extension school and its main branch – Balangabong Elementary School.
De Guzman said that about 200 individuals have benefited from the hygiene kits that contain a toothbrush, a piece of soap, a face towel, a tube of toothpaste, a packet of tawas or alum, a bottle of alcohol, cologne, and shampoo.
SIDC representatives and TREK members trooped to Calintaan despite the constant heavy rains and rough roads.
De Guzman said that since Calintaan is not very accessible, they hardly get any visitors, adding that the outreach group was the first to visit them this year.
The tribe, she said, was elated upon seeing friendly new faces.
“We are beyond grateful for the outpouring of generosity. To say ‘thank you’ is not enough. We pray that they will continue their support to the children especially in the far-flung areas,” she added.
The coop way
Helping others and giving back to communities is what SIDC is all about. It was founded in Sorosoro Ibaba, Batangas in 1969 by farmers and other individuals who wanted to improve the way they do business. From a local store that sold supplies to its members, SIDC has since branched out, from its offices in Batangas, to building roads, opening grocery stores, and extending financial assistance to communities.
With their increasing reach, SIDC has been able to open stores in various provinces in the country. The SIDC-affiliated businesses in Occidental Mindoro are located in the municipalities Calintaan, Santa Cruz, and San Jose.