by Dahren Sta. Ana

Brief Background

Bulacan is one of the places in the Philippines where ethnic groups still exist- the Dumagat tribe. An estimate of 745 families of this indigenous group reside in the towns of Norzagaray, San Jose del Monte and Donya Remedios Trinidad (DRT).

According to Brother Edwin Cardel, the Provincial Dumagat Administrator, the group of Dumagat originally lives in Sierra Madre. But since the mountains are continually being devastated through illegal logging, mining, deforestation and ethanol project, the Dumagats decided to leave the place and find a stable living condition.

There are 20 settlements, 20 chieftains and 20 Tribal Health Workers in those three towns of Bulacan where the Dumagats live. These Tribal health workers are assigned to help the Dumagat patients if they need medical assistance. In addition, Brother Edwin said the Chieftain and Tribal Health workers are given a thousand pesos per month as allowance. 

Tribe Adversities

Despite the benefits the Dumagats receive, the fact that problems still come their way cannot be erased.

Poverty is the major problem that the Dumagat group faces. Families can rarely afford to buy food that is sufficient for a day.

“Kapag walang kita 'yong asawa ko saging na lang kinakain namin, nangunguha na lang kami diyan pati 'yong ibang gulay. 'Yong mga bata nagtitiis na lang din, wala naman kami magagawa kasi walang pera eh,” said Lablyn Hilpus, 20-year-old Dumagat and a mother of two.

Second problem is the supply of electricity. The Dumagats just use lamp or flash light that their municipality gives them. 

“Wala rin kaming kuryente. Mahirap kapag gabi na kasi madilim na talaga dito sa labas namin. Gasera lang ang gamit namin dati tapos 'yong munisipyo namigay ng flash light, may radio rin diyan,” said Analyn.

Meanwhile, according to Brother Edwin, one of the reasons why the local government does not want to have an access of electricity in the part along the Angat Dam is that there’s a possibility that the people (outsiders) who will live there will pollute the river.

Poor shelter and housing is another problem of the Dumagats. If there is a typhoon, they are worried for their houses since those were only built using light materials like bamboo and pulpy leaf of plants like the coconut. Though they do not experience flood, they are afraid that their houses will be blown by strong winds.

Furthermore, the land that the houses of the Dumagats were built is under the possession of the government. The government plans for a rehabilitation along the Angat river, and this leaves no other choice for the residents rather than to leave their homes.

Next is the schooling adversities. Since poverty is the major problem, the education of the Dumagats is severely affected. With no money, there is no education. Often times a Dumagat had to stop studying because of financial instability.

Source of Livelihood 

Several of the Dumagats work as fisherman like the parents of Analyn. They leave the house at night and will come back in the morning of the following day.

Brigido Salongga and his eldest son work as carriers of fish. According to him, one cooler of fish costs ten pesos. Frequently, they manage to carry 40 to 50 coolers of fish everyday, but the money that has been paid to them will be divided to five or more persons. Only 50 to 100 pesos will be taken home a day.

Furthermore, they also sell Rattan and also have mini sari-sari store. But Salongga admits it is still not enough to sustain the needs of his family.

Meanwhile, Rosalya Calderon, 47, and a resident of Angat for almost 20 years, works as scavenger of garbage. Sometimes she also sells rattan and bamboo to earn money to buy food. Since her husband cannot work due to certain illness, she considers herself as the breadwinner of their family, which is very hard since she has eight children.

To sum it all up, the Dumagats commonly work as fisherman, and rattan and bamboo sellers. Since they were not able to finish their studies, it is very hard and almost impossible for them to find a job that can give them adequate salary.

Education Status

Though the government gives the Dumagat tribe an access in system and program in Angat, the children have very limited opportunities for basic education. Most of them cannot go to school but instead work in order contribute to the family income and ration. This is yet another indication of how poverty affects access to basic needs. Though knowledge is one of the very important thing that a person should have, poverty obstructs their way to gain knowledge. 

But now, education for the minority group is one of the priorities of the local government though it is still on process. According to Brother Edwin, they have a formal and non-formal education. The non-formal education allows children to be taught basics like writing and reading even under trees or in the mountains.

A school was donated by the Chinese people as their contribution to the Dumagats, wherein about 70 Dumagat chilldren are currently enrolled. The Department of Education (DepEd) also built elementary schools for the Dumagat that is located in DRT- the Sitio Pinaganakan Primary School and Sitio Basyo Day Care. 

Also, through the help of Provincial Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado in his scholarship program, 10 out of 20 Dumagats have been given a chance to enroll in universities, having passed in the scholarship examination.

Usually, the Dumagat who enrolls in college only get a 2-year course. But there is a Dumagat who finished educational course for four years. At present, there are about six Dumagats enrolled in Bulacan Polytechnic College (BPC) and one in Bulacan State University (BSU).

Religious Philisophy

Before, the Dumagats do not have a religion but they believe in spirit wherein they called it as “Makedetet” (tantamount to Jesus in Roman Catholicism). They do not go to church, instead they go to a sacred place wherein they believe that the spirit of Makedetet stays. The Mount Irit that is the navel of the Sierra Madre, is considered as the place of worship for the Dumagats.

But then, as time goes by, this culture of Dumagat gradually disappeared due to many religions that came in their place like Born Again, Seven Day Adventist, Hecuba, and Mormons that lead them to have a different religions and beliefs.

Some of them embraced the religion of Seven Day Adventives wherein they are not allowed to eat pork, catfish, shrimps and snail. Through this many religions that came in the life of the Dumagat, Brother Edwin Cardel considered it as a disadvantage for the reason that they lose their unity.

Access to Government

The Local government gave the Dumagat group a right to a proper health care. Anyone who needs medical assistance can directly go to Mrs. Norma, who is in charge in the health of the Dumagat people, financially speaking.

The Local government also gave some goods for the Dumagat people. According to Brigido Salongga, every year they receive a kilo of rice, can goods and other food from the government. They also gave them flash light and lamp that serve as their light at night since they do not have an access to electricity. Another was radio that serves as their television.

Moreover, the present administration has a program entitled “Pantawid Pamilya Program” wherein several Dumagats were given goods.


Jenny Panelo
4/23/2016 18:41:00

Thank you for this information about the Dumagat tribe. I would like to know more about the present condition of this tribe. I reside in San Jose del Monte Bulacan. Which place is the nearest where I could go visit this people group. My church is praying for this tribe especially the people group who are not reached yet by local help.

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