Dumagat Leticia Doroteo, 50, left her home in Sitio Paglitao, Antipolo City at dawn Friday to make it to the Department of Social Welfare and Development's distribution of cash aid in Barangay Calawis at 8 a.m.
To reach the area, Doroteo had to ride a horse and cross two rivers from the mountainous part of Antipolo. The trip took around 3 hours of riding and walking, all to get the P6500 subsidy the government had allocated for poor Filipinos affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Sabi ko ‘hay salamat’ napakahirap ng aming buhay... Buhay namin ay ganun-ganun na laang. Kamoteng kahoy, kamote... Talagang napakahirap. Lalo na nung hindi makalabas... Pananamit nga nami’y wala na eh,” Doroteo said.
“Wala nang makain pati wala na ring damit... Nagugutom talaga,” she added.
Personnel of the city social welfare department later on assisted Doroteo in processing her social amelioration program subsidy.
When a social worker handed over the money to Doroteo and advised her to count it first before leaving the area, she shyly asked the former to count it for her.
Asked if she knew how much money she received, Doroteo shook her head.
Life during the lockdown in Sitio Paglitao, according to Doroteo, is harder than usual.
Because of the lockdown, they could no longer plant, harvest or sell their crops - their only source of income.
“Minsan sinasalitan namin 'yung nabibigay na isa-isang salop na bigas ay magkakaano gayun pag marami? Isang saing laang,” Doroteo said.
“Sasalitan namin 'yung kamoteng kahoy ng kaunting bigas, tatadtaran namin ng kamote 'yung bigas,” she added.
Doroteo said she would spend her cash aid for rice and other needs of her family.
While the situation is hard for residents under the lockdown, there is no COVID-19 or any health problem reported in the Dumagat community, she said.
Their secret she said, is rubbing alcohol with grated chili and mango on any painful part of their body.
They also do not forget to pray, Doroteo said.
Lerma Lusa, 78, came next to Doroteo in receiving the cash aid. Just like Doroteo, Lusa expressed disbelief at the amount of money she got.
Asked why the community remains healthy, Lusa credited the tribe's religious practices.
“Naga-alay kami ng manok,” she said.
Already visually impaired and having difficulty walking, 73-year old Rosendo Lopez, meanwhile, came with his grandson at the aid distribution.
The P6,500 cash aid that he received will be used for his medicine and food for his children.
“Ako na makakapagpabili ngayon... sa pagkain. Dahil wala naman silang trabaho,” Lopez said.
Antipolo Civil Social Welfare Department assistant head Frescuan Canlas said the DSWD covers 407 families in Barangay Calawis.
Antipolo has around 6,000 indigenous families. Calawis is home to around 365 families.
Of this number, around 200 families are covered under the social amelioration program.
“Ilan sa katutubo natin dito ay kabilang sa 4Ps. 'Yung iba naman ay sa modified cash transfer,” Canlas explained, referring to the long-standing conditional cash transfer program.
The slow processing of cash aid was mainly due to the incorrect information that beneficiaries wrote down in their forms.
“Minsan po nababaligtad po nila 'yung babae at lalaki... tinutulungan po namin, ginagawan po namin ng sertipikasyon na ito pong taong ito ay pareho lamang,” he said.
Nemencio Cortez, chieftain of indigenous peoples' communities in Sitio Apia-Paglitao, meanwhile, appealed on behalf of 60 Dumagat families in the community.
Many of them now could only eat once a day, he said, as they could no longer go farming because of the lockdown.
To protect their communities against COVID-19, tribal leaders in the whole province of Rizal are set to perform a ritual to pray for the health of the Dumagats in the province and of the entire nation.
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