CHARACTER actress Ana Jalandoni, Excelsum Property Solutions Inc. (EPSI) and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) joined hands to give relief goods to the Dumagat tribe of Bulacan on Saturday, Dec. 12.

Jalandoni said it’s her first time to join the group from EPSI, a real estate consultancy firm, along with the AFP, who came in two army trucks. The charity activity began when thousands were rendered homeless during typhoon Ulysses, according to Col. Felix Emeterio Valdez of the 48th Infantry Battalion. They had also gone to Pampanga to help the Aetas and other tribes.

Obviously born to a well-off family, Jalandoni for her part said she still could feel how it is to be born poor. “Kawawa sila at walang makain at ito raw ang lugar na hindi masyadong napupuntahan,” she said.

Some 350 Dumagats were waiting for the groups’ arrival when the latter came at around 11am. Tribe members were already in qeue while practicing the one-meter physical distancing, before they were given the relief packs that contain noodles, canned goods, rice, among others.

Meanwhile, EPSI’s project manager Renard Robert Masongsong, who represented the company’s president Miko Abella, said that it’s their practice to share the blessings.

Most of the Dumagats with a population of more or less 500, work as farmers, fishermen, wild animal hunters, according to Valdez. Sitio Dike, San Lorenzo, Norzagaray, Bulacan was reputed to be frequented by the New People’s Army (NPA). “Ngayon, wala na. Dati nga ‘pag nakakita sila ng sundalo, nagtatago sila. Ngayon, hindi na,” Valdez said.

Dumagats’ origin is the same as Aetas in Northern Luzon. Their ancestral origin is traced to the Negritos, one of the earliest inhabitants in the Philippines. They are usually found in the hillsides and mountains of Quezon, Bulacan, Rizal and Laguna provinces.

The term Dumagat was reportedly derived from the word “rumakat.” “lumakat” or “lumakad” which means the migration of early Negritos to the Philippines by walking in land and not by sea. They used to be nomadic people. They stay in a place for a while, build temporary shelters, get their food from natural resources by hunting and gathering crops in the wild. After the sources are depleted, they move to another place and do the same.

However, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has gone to meet with the Dumagats of Bulacan and thought the residents, particularly women, with livelihood projects. Government agencies like the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has also gone to the area to help the tribe.

Dumagats are now into land cultivation and multi-cropping. For the government efforts, they also produce native products like rattans, etc. “We are always here to help them. Hindi kami maramot in sharing our blessings,” Masongsong stressed. They also have other sponsor members to help in the charitable activity.

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