Myrna Ongay of the Matigslaug tribe.

DAVAO City  -Marilog District consists almost half of the land area of Davao, the mountainous rural parts where indigenous tribes thrive. Located at the highlands of Marilog District, Davao City is Sitio Upian, a small community inhabited predominantly by the Matigsalug tribe.

Matigsalug means “people along the ‘Salug River’ (Davao River)”. The Matigsalugs are one of Davao’s most colorful lumads. The Matigsalugs are also known as sturdy, resilient and strong people. They are best known for their fierceness and bravery as occasioned during territorial feuds and wars.

Forty-two year old Myrna Ongay lived in Sitio Upian for most of her life. “Kaming mga Matigsalug kulang mi og kaalam, wala mi kabalo unsa ng deworming o unsa kaimportante ang maayong panglawas sa amoang mga bata o ang edukasyon para sa ilang kaugmaon (We, the Matigsalugs, are illiterate, we did not know what deworming is or how important is health, nutrition and education to our children),” Myrna recalls.

Myrna and her husband, Renato earn a living by upland farming. They work hard to raise their seven children: Remie, 16 years old; Regina, 14; Renah Mae, 12; Ariah Mae, 11; Mery Ann, 7; Renato, 5; and Rene, 3 years old.

In 2010, Myrna and her family were included as one of the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. “Dako gyud nga tabang ang Pantawid Pamilya sa amoang mga Matigsalug, ilabi na sa akoa nga napili nga usa ka Parent Leader. Mahadlok pa ko nga dawaton sa una ang pagka-PL kay dili man ko kabalo moihap ug mobasa. Apan karon, nga na-PL ko nahimo kong instrument aron makatabang sa akoang mga kaubanan nga lumad aron usab sila makakat-on (Pantawid Pamilya has been a huge help to the Matigsalugs, especially to me that I was also chosen as a Parent Leader. I was afraid to be elected as PL before because I did not even know how to count or read. But when I accepted the role as PL, I became an instrument for my people, the lumads, to also learn),” shares Myrna.

Makahinumdom ko sa una nga wala pa ang Pantawid Pamilya, hugaw kaayo ni ang amoang palibot. Dili mi kabalo manglimpyo. Basta mag-uma lang mi aron maka-kaon, wala mi pakialam sa amoang palibot. Apan pag-abot sa programa, nakakat-on mi sa importansya sa sanitasyon ug kalimpyo sa palibot. Karon kung makita nimo amoang komunidad, hinlo na kaayo. Dili namo pasagdan nga hugaw ang palibot ilabi na naay mga bata (Before the program was introduced, we, the lumads, did not really care about cleanliness and sanitation. Our environment was very unhygienic. We go to work at the farm without cleaning our backyards or houses. But when the program came, we learned about the importance of sanitation and the tidiness of our surroundings. Now, if you see our community, you can really appreciate the big change the program has made. We will be mindful of our surroundings , especially with kids around.),” she added.

Myrna and other program beneficiaries endure the 10-kilometer walk to the barrio where the Health Center is located to make sure that their children are kept healthy. “Pangandoy namo nga dili nami ma-behind sa uban nga mga tribo. Tungod sa Pantawid Pamilya, dili na gyud kini damgo. Amoa na gyud gipuy-an ang amoang pangandoy (It is our dream to not be left behind by other tribes. Because of Pantawid Pamilya, it is no longer a dream, we are now living the dream).”

Pantawid Pamilya or the Conditional Cash Transfer Program gives cash assistance to identified poor households in the country provided they comply with conditions on health, education and attendance to Family Development Sessions (FDS). Pantawid Pamilya covers 72,550 IP households in Davao Region or 38.5% of the total number of beneficiaries. DSWD