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UMTV: Growing Hope in the Philippines



There are still places in the world where people live off the land as their ancestors have done for hundreds of years. Modern civilization is encroaching on the Dumagat people of the Philippines. The United Methodist Church is helping the natives preserve their way of life.

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(Rizal Province, The Philippines)

Hours outside the capital city of Manila, in the Sierra Madre mountains of the Philippines, the native Dumagat people are finding hope through a United Methodist partnership.

Domino San Pablo, Manggahan, Philippines: "It's my children. So I got to do everything to help them eat, to give them education."

This village has no running water, electricity, or basic medicine. The nearest town is 50 miles away, but no one here owns a car.

Danilo B. Toquator, Manggahan, Philippines: "The first problem the people live here is how to provide all the things they need to support family and to live here."

Danilo Toquator moved to this area from another Dumagat village 40 years ago.

Danilo B. Toquator: "In the early time this is a beautiful place because the good river, clean river, green forest."

For generations, the Dumagats were nomadic, foraging food and hunting over a vast area. Today their ancestral lands, rich in resources like iron, marble, and gold are occupied by outside settlers and mining companies who pay the natives very little for hard labor.

Rebecca Asedillo, Board of Global Ministries: "Here is someone transporting lumber drawn by his caribou. It is about a two-hour trip for which he will be paid 30 pesos or 70 cents."

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working to empower the Dumagat people and equip them for a changing world.

Low literacy rates make the villagers easy prey for those looking to take advantage. UMCOR has established evening classes, and all ages are learning basic skills after working long days in the fields.

Families here used to be able to forage only enough food to eat every 2 or 3 days. But training in agriculture has improved the food supply.

Danilo B. Toquator: "We plant. During the month of May we plant palay (rice), corn, vegetable and the other is coconut, fruit trees, and camote&ellipsis; root food."

There is produce to eat and sell. During the rainy season, villagers make baskets to supplement income.

Tony Bueza, UMCOR Project Manager: "We trained them to do this. Some of them who know how to make this are the ones who teach those who don't know how to make baskets and bags."

UMCOR's goal is self-reliance for the Dumagat people. It may take some time but this empowerment project will allow these native people to remain on their ancestral lands for years to come.


The Dumagats face a number of health challenges too. Summer heat brings outbreaks of skin boils and ringworm and the rainy season sees flu complicated by chronic malnourishment. UMCOR's approach is to encourage the use of herbal remedies from native plants. The water supply is also a problem since there is not enough clean, available water to keep villagers well.

For more information about this program, contact the United Methodist Committee on Relief at 212-870-3802.

Posted: August 6, 2012