Pasayahin ang Pasko ng Batang Pilipino

As part of the continuing efforts of the Task Force Children of the Storms (TFCOS) together with its member organizations in reaching out more children who were affected by the devastating onslaught of the typhoon Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses, the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns joined an activity spearheaded by Association for the Rights of Children in South East Asia (ARCSEA) for Dumagat and Remontado children in Sitio Malibay Brgy. Lumutan General Nakar Quezon and Sitio Magata Brgy. Laiban Tanay Rizal last December 18-19, 2020.

The two-day activity with a theme “Pasayahin ang Pasko ng Batang Pilipino” was aimed at providing help for hundreds of Dumagat and Remontado children and their families. The activity was conducted with the objective of providing food and essential needs of target beneficiaries necessary for their recovery from the typhoons; provide psychosocial support and intervention and assess the situation of the community and to identify the other needs.

Before reaching the community, the volunteers and staff have encountered several problems. During the arrival, the typhoon Vicky (i.n: Krovanh) has brought a tremendous rain causing some of the roads going to the community to become muddy and bumpy. There were times that the staffs need to get off the car and help in pushing it to avoid getting stuck in the mud.

Since the previous typhoons have destroyed the bridge that connects Sitio Manggahan and Sitio Magata, the TFCOS team was forced to cross the river using a native boat. Unfortunately, there was only one boat available at that time. It took them an hour before finishing the transport of the staff to the other side of the river. Some of the donations were even accidentally dropped in water. Luckily, these were immediately recovered.

A variety of children’s activities were greatly accentuated by the smiles and laughter of the young participants. Some of the children’s activities conducted include Sino ang Batang Dumagat (Who is a Dumagat Child?), Boat-Making Workshop and story-telling. In between activities, recreational and modified games were facilitated by volunteers.

In some of the activities, children were able to express their situation amidst calamities. One striking statement was the articulation of children with regards to their opposition to the Kaliwa Dam project, which serves as part of the New Centennial Water Source (NCWS). They discern the construction of the dam as destructive not only to their community but to the environment as well.

This coincided with the statement of the Dumagat-Remontado community members where they have observed that the impact of recent typhoons to their community has worsened—leading to damages to crops and to the collapse of hanging bridges that are vital to their movement in and out of their communities. They have even likened the typhoons to COVID-19 Pandemic  as it only brought destruction and suffering to them. For them, these are some of the problems that affect different aspects of their daily lives; and these have been further aggravated by state neglect.

During the interview with adults, some of the participants said that they have lost their houses which were swept away by flood waters from the mountainous area of Sierra Madre during the typhoon. The massive flooding in their community has forced the villagers including children to climb dangerous and steep mountain trails and cross the big river. It also caused devastating impact to the livelihoods and agriculture of the Dumagat and Ramentado. Most of them were only relying on crops for their daily food consumption.

Evidently, the series of typhoon have caused trauma to both children and adults. Alongside children’s activities and focused group discussion among adults, the team also distributed storybooks, drawing books, art materials and toys for the children as well as food packs, sleeping mats and blankets for their families.

The activity was held in partnership with different institutions including the Task Force Children of the Storm, Katribu PH, Liyang Network, I Support the girls Manila, Liyang Network, I Support the Girls, Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation, BTS V Union, Kuya J, Tita Carmen, People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action (PAGASA), Taegers fans of Kim Taeh Yung, Save Our Schools Network, KTH Philippines, Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas and Katribu Youth.