CURRENT SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
26 March 2016
We are in the middle of this cyclical El Niño phenomenon, which, the DOST-PAGASA is suggesting will undergo a “possible gradual weakening” in March-April-May 2016 leading to “ENSO-neutral conditions” in May-June-July 2016.
In its Drought/Dry Spell Outlook for end of March 2016, there are 19 provinces in the Philippines that are likely to experience drought, which is defined by DOST-PAGASA as 3 consecutive months of way below normal rainfall condition (> 60% reduction in average rainfall) and these are Palawan in Luzon, Negros Oriental and Siquijor in the Visayas and the 16 provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.
In the provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato, the Catholic Mission for Indigenous Peoples (CMIP), an organization set up by the Passionist Catholic congregation to cater to the various mission areas of the congregation among the indigenous peoples, conducted an assessment on the impact of drought among the various sitios and barangays in the various municipalities of the two provinces and their assessment gives us a clearer impact of the El Niño on the communities and their crops, including the children. It might be apt that the current weather phenomenon is El Niño as the ones bearing the brunt of the drought are the children.
But first, let us go to what they are experiencing so far. While most city-living Filipinos complain mainly of debilitating heat that makes it difficult even to just stay put in ones’ sofa or bed, the heat that is being experienced in these idyllic settings are predominantly “sakit sa panit maigo sa init” (heat causes stinging pain to the skin) from communities in Sitio Lamlifew, MALUNGON, Sitio Bukay eel, MALUNGON, Sitio Sapang Bato, Bgy Basag, T’BOLI, Sitio Sufu, Lamdanag, Kambing, Bgy Maan, T’BOLI, Sitios Balnabe & Fitak, in Bgy Maan, T’BOLI and in Sitios Clod, Bgy Lunen & Sitio Lambusong, Bgy Lamafus, T’BOLI though there are more graphic descriptions of the same condition – “mamaak na ang init” (the heat is biting) in Bgy Basag, T’BOLI or “murag nagbaga” (feels like blazing hot coals) in Sitio Glongga, Bgy Basag, T’BOLI, Sitio Motukling & Sapang, Bgy Mongokayo, T’BOLI. Communities in General Santos City, which are adjacent to these areas in T’BOLI town, speak about its effects : “makalipong” (dizzying) in Sitio Tanda, Bgy San Jose, GEN. SANTOS CITY or “maglingin ang mata” (one’s eyes feel like it is rolling) in Sitio Bagong Silang, Bgy San Jose, GEN. SANTOS CITY.
This heat is not only brought about by the record-breaking heat experienced all over the world as reported recently by the media and scientific organizations, but from the delayed rainfall that most of these areas have been experiencing, from as late as September 2015 in Bgy. Basag proper, T’BOLI, Sitio Datal B’laan, Bgy Basag, T’BOLI, Sitio Lutay, Samlang and B’laan, MALUNGON and Sitio Lamlifew, MALUNGON to December 2015, in Sitio Gumelo, Bgy Datal Batong, MALUNGON, Sitio Datal Lutay, Samlang and B’laan, MALUNGON, Sitio Lamlifew, MALUNGON, Sitio Bukay eel, MALUNGON, Sitio Balite & Alkikan, MALUNGON, Sitio Talambong, Mongokayo proper and Luheb, in Bgy Mongokayo, T’BOLI, Sitio Sapang, Bgy Mongokayo, T’BOLI and in Sitio Clod, Bgy Lunen and Sitio Lambusong, in Bgy Lamafus, T’BOLI.
If it may rain, it is very insignificant, describing it as “syam ka lugas”, an expression which means in very small quantities and they even say that if it rains at all due to cloud seeding operations, the crops will not be very receptive to it, they have this description of plants suffering from “pasmo”, similar to a person who may not respond well when one gets wet.
The immediate effect of all this heat and delayed to very few rainfall can be seen in their crops and their descriptions of the effect of drought on their crops might be a good starting point for climate scientists and advocates to clarify the concepts of “loss and damage” that even the United Nations Framework on Climate Change is still trying to figure out. The crops are either “dried up”, “died out”, or they have “stunted growth” or experiencing “zero to slow fruiting” to “ yielding only a few” and if one goes to other effects – rootcrops are empty, seeds don’t germinate, cow & horse got thin; in some households, chicken and horse died out; other crops eaten by babuy damu, even the grasses have died out, thus the livestock or farm animals get thin or they die out.
The most annoying pest of all are the rats, and they were infesting the crops since 2013 in Sitio Clod, Bgy Lunen and Sitio Lambusong, Bgy Lamafus, TBOLI; since 2014 in Sitio Balnabe & Fitak, Bgy Maan, or for over a year now, in T’BOLI, Sitio Kebuleng, Bgy Basag, T’BOLI or just last year, in Oct 2015, in Sitio Talambong & Mongokayo, Motukling Bgy Mongokayo, T’BOLI. These rats, in spite of attempts to poison them, are not really reduced or diminished at all, and this is a common pestering problem in all the areas affected.
But these are not all – there are also worms, black bugs and fruitflies eating up their crops.
All kinds of sickness abound in the households, mainly from combinations of sore eyes, cough, fever, LBM, high blood, migraine, and heat stroke.
How are they coping, you might as well ask. The communities are adjusting to survival mode of eating, from a variation of either “one day, one eat” or “one day, NO eat” or how about “3 x a week rice meal”or “rice only for dinner” or how about “coffee only for breakfast”. The children are prioritized by their parents for the rice, but even then, these are not enough, most of the school age kids temporarily stop going to school, mainly due to stomach ache, it’s because they are mostly eating “balanghoy” for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 24/7. These rootcrops and some bananas and pineapples are their main staples for now. There’s one household a member of the assessment team visited during their break and he just shared most of the rice he had with the five children who ate rice for the first time in the past three days, and that was mainly rice they ate, with nothing else!
Farming has stopped, they have shifted to ravaging what is left of their bamboos to turn them into barbeque sticks and the dried up shrubs and small trees they can find, they turn into “uling” or charcoal for fuel, which they sell to traders from Gen. Santos City. These traders from the city, (one of them is identified as 3D Marketing) perhaps sensing their opportunity, buy these produce at predatory or very low prices. These reprehensible practices also extend to usurers and those who buy or extend loans for the niggardly parcels of land of the indigenous peoples.
There were also reports of women setting themselves up as househelp, or for work in canneries or fishing companies in Gen. Santos City. Others go to Manila or Davao City. There’s one mother who gave up her 7 month old baby and went to Manila and what the family has heard, she took up with another man there in the big city. A more recent update from the team report about the trend of some parents putting their daughters up for prostitution, or what they call “nag-Malaysia”.
Truly things are bad and they are getting worse. That is why the Catholic Mission for Indigenous Peoples (CMIP), in collaboration with the Passionist Center for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (PC-JPIC), is doing its part to augment the efforts of barangays and governnment agencies in the areas affected in the two provinces, their emergency response initiative is dubbed TAWID-GUTOM sa EL NiñO, where rice, food and cash are being sought from those who may be willing to help. At least 3, 131 families from the municipalities of Malungon, Alabel and Malapatan in Sarangani Province and the municipalities of T’boli, Tupi and Banga in South Cotabato need this help.
The drop-off center is St. Paul of the Cross Pastoral Center at Novitiate Compound, General Santos City with the following
HOTLINE numbers: 09771395977