Gawad Metronian Educational Foundation, Inc. [GMEFI] members met Bro. Martin Francisco of Punduhan ng mga Dumagat last March 23 at the Guest House of Metro Manila College where the office of GMEFI is housed. He introduced us to the Dumagats of Norzagaray, Bulacan based in a place called Punduhan ng mga Dumagat. One of GMEFI’s goals is to help in uplifting the life of Indigenous Peoples through education. Brother Martin was asked to come to know how GMEFI could help, what their needs are, and who they are as one of the ethnic minorities in the Philippines.
Present during the meeting aside from Brother Martin Francisco were GMEFI President Even Dominguez, VP Fr. Romy Gallo, E.D. Gil Reoma, Board Member Mirana Medina and Consultant Lolit Javier.
Brother Martin told us about the communal way of life of the Dumagats and how for them Sierra Madre is — that the whole mountain stretch is their abode. It’s a place that belongs to them — therefore, they could roam around any time they want; the reason why perhaps they are nomadic, and with no sense of permanence when it comes to settlement. They live transitorily. Their houses are usually only made of wood and leaves. We also came to learn about the mestizo Dumagats called Remontados who sadly suffer from identity problem. They are said to be those in denial with regards their roots.
Why the interest of GMEFI in Dumagats?
It’s a part of the history of Metro Manila College’s [MMC] existence that in the 90’s, a school extension of MMC was set up to serve the educational needs of the Dumagats living near Ipo Dam. It only lasted however until 1995, when MMC Founder Dr. Mamerto Miranda, Sr. died.
In December of 2014, GMEFI was officially recognized as an educational foundation. Dr. Miranda’s children, in their desire to fulfill the mission of their parents to provide education to the less privileged, including those who belong to the Indigenous Peoples, thought of having a tie-up between MMC and GMEFI towards that direction. But this time, instead of the Dumagats in Ipo Dam, they would now be catering to the Dumagats of Norzagaray at the Punduhan being managed by Bro. Martin Francisco. MMC started their Outreach Program there two years ago, and it is only but logical to move towards that direction.
A follow up meeting with MMC Community Extension Service [CES] Head, Ms. Glenda Ortiz and Dr. Dana Tibia, Dean of the College of Education was set up and held yesterday, April 3 to discuss about the possibility of giving the Dumagats of Norzagaray formal education using the IPed curriculum we first heard of from Brother Martin. Differing from the usual DepEd curriculum requirements, it includes the basic learning processes, or the 3Rs [reading, [w]riting and [a]rithmetic, and the Cultural Practices which must be preserved by the Dumagats.
Hopefully, the initiative succeds! Looking forward for an agreeable tripartite agreement between GMEFI, MMC and SAVE the CORDILLERA group of Brother Martin — for the betterment of the Dumagat people.
[Photos by Dante Locsin and Marian]