The Last of the Dumagats
By Tony Oquias
17 Aug 2007
They are a peace-loving and happy people who, for centuries, lived in the bosom of Mother Nature and the watchful eye of Father Spirit. Their home is virtually Adam and Eve's paradise where fish, animals, fruits, and plants are theirs for the picking. But unabated logging and mining have displaced them, devastating their environment and ancestral land. In addition, the continuous influx of lowlanders in search of grounds to till has pushed them further and higher to the inner recesses of the forest.
The majority have succumbed to the pressures and surrendered their land in the name of development. Worse, many have learned to embrace the environmentally destructive practice of "kaingin" or slash-and-burn method of farming of their lowland colonizers.
Today, many Dumagats live in abject poverty in the fringes of their so-called host "barangays" or villages in the northern portion of Luzon. They can be seen in these places foraging for food or begging for money. Some have fallen into drunkenness. The Dumagat nowadays is synonymous with oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.
But an elderly Dumagat in the northernmost portion of the Sierra Madre Mountains is resisting the continued onslaught of this supposed development, which has ruined many Dumagats. He has chosen to preserve their ways and whatever is left of their ancestral land, and hopefully teach his grandchildren the ways of their forefathers -- the proud rulers of this beautiful and bounteous forest.