|Matigsalugs on health and literacy training
conducted by the Tribal Mission Foundation
CRUZ, Davao del Sur--Mango for you, strawberry for me. What will you have, young lady? So
asked the ice-cream Santa, in the same deep baritone that had endeared him to kids back in
the United States. It always drove the kids wild to see him and his ice cream. Ah, and the
flavors. In the U.S., they'd chorus back to him, in discordant voices and words, their
favorite flavors. But here, he didn't hear a chorus or a girl's skittish reply for a
....."Just like most children, these kids love ice
cream. But I was surprised to see that they would accept whatever flavor you gave them,
even if there was a choice," narrates the self-styled Santa, a 54-year old
Irish-American named Stanley Caldwell.
.....Suddenly, it dawned on him: These kids didn't know about ice cream
flavors. For them, an ice cream is an ice cream. But this realization should not have
surprised anyone. The kids, residents of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, have never known life
other than what poverty has shown them. And ice cream flavors are not among the stuff
taught by poverty.
....."I looked at the children and asked myself which of them would
become a doctor, and which would be a lawyer or businessman, if somebody paid for their
education," Caldwell recalls.
|Which of them could become a
doctor, a lawyer, or a businessman
if somebody paid their education?
of a vision
.....He cannot tell now which child gave what reply, but the experience
gave birth to his vision of a new community built from the pit of poverty.
.....Caldwell believes that, given the right opportunities, a poor
community can rise and become a "city" where people will have access to modern
technologies and infrastructure. A city where barriers and obstacles are turned into
opportunities for advancement. A city that empowers people regardless of their political,
cultural and religious affiliation, and allows them to live life beyond the worry of where
and how to get their basic needs. Similarly, Caldwell believes that any man, woman or
child, given the right environment, can succeed in life.
.....Almost a year ago, on July 6, 1999, Stanley Caldwell established
the Foundation for Community and Career Development (FCCD) in Davao City. Since then, it
has assisted several families and individuals through livelihood initiatives and
.....In a joint project with the Tribal Mission Foundation
International, the FCCD has helped combat the alarming health and illiteracy problem among
Matigsalugs, an indigenous group in Marilog district in Davao City, by sponsoring a
feeding program and an adult literacy class for them.
Sharing with others
.....Caldwell hopes that those trained through this program will share
what they have learned with their neighbors. "Properly trained and given the tools,
locals are most effective in reaching out to their own people and community," he
.....An FCCD-funded multi-purpose building is now rising in Sitio
Barobo, a mountain village in Gumitan, around 25 kilometers from Davao City. The building
will house a center designed to provide training in farming methods, health care, literacy
and livelihood projects for indigenous peoples in the area.
|Under construction: A
building on an ancestral domain in
Sitio Barobo, a mountain village in
Guimatan, Davao del Sur.
.....Another FCCD program, called "Feeding for a Lifetime," is
supervised by the Mindanao Entrepreneur Development Foundation (MEDF), based in Davao
City. Under this program, over 50 families in Davao del Sur have received initial capital
loans for small businesses, with the agreement that, as loan payment, they will give the
same amount to another family in the community. The amount is passed on from one family to
another until it has been shared and used by many family beneficiaries. The MEDF provides
close supervision and weekly meetings to guide each family in handling its business
....."Teaching a man to fish and providing him with the necessary
materials for fishing is a principle that should be observed when helping the poor. We are
interested in providing means for a man to feed his family for a lifetime, than providing
him a fish that would only last for a meal," the ice-cream Santa says.
.....Recently, FCCD set up a partnership with the National Commission on
Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to undertake programs and projects aimed at helping tribal
.....Explaining the foundation's decision to link up with the NCIP,
Caldwell cites a 1996 joint study by the United Nations Development Program and the
International Labor Organization, which reported that the indigenous peoples in the
Philippines "are amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged social groups in the
country. Illiteracy, unemployment and underemployment are much higher among them than in
the rest of the population. Their major problems are social discrimination, weak political
representation and social violence."
.....The FCCD will soon embark on its first major activity with the
NCIP, a seven-week "roadshow" in the seven ethnographic regions of the
Philippines, to help refine the foundation's programs and projects and make them truly
responsive to the needs of the people. The activity includes organizing, consultation with
and distribution of basic provisions to indigenous communities, says Caldwell.
.....While it sounds ambitious, Caldwell's vision is not unattainable.
Many people might not agree with his concept of a new city, but those that he and his
group have helped are grateful for the assistance.
.....Lilibelle Abigria of the Tribal Mission Foundation says that,
through the FCCD-assisted health and literacy program among the Matigsalugs, they have
succeeded in raising health and nutrition consciousness among the natives, in addition to
significantly improving their health.
.....Another beneficiary, the cash-strapped National Commission on
Indigenous Peoples, which stands to receive funding of $40 million from FCCD over a period
of three years for the processing of ancestral domain claims, can't be any happier. Said
the commission's budget director, Noela Paredes: "We prayed for such a person
[Caldwell], and he came."