Municipality of Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Located 89 kilometers north of Davao City, the municipality of Talaingod boasts of rich natural resources that abound their 6,000 hectares of forest suitable for rubber, pineapple, rice, abaca, and corn farming. But the living conditions of the Ata-Manobos in the municipality are a stark contrast to its rich natural resources. Some people who are living in the remote areas of the municipality are deprived of their basic needs as these abound somewhere nearer the poblacion. To get to where these needs are, the Ata-Manobos have to walk for two to three hours as the transportation costs greater than the actual amount of money they have.
Kauyagan, an Ata-Manobo word which means “kaayohan” or welfare, is an association situated in Brgy. Sto. Niño, Talaingod, Davao del Norte composing of 27 Pantawid beneficiaries of the Indigenous People community of the Ata-Manobos all having the desire to uplift their socio-economic conditions and doing it altogether. The association now boasts of their own general merchandise retailer located at the heart of their barangay where their needs could be provided by their own products such as food, school supplies, clothes, toiletries, and many more. This is not only open to the patronage of their own members but also to their other brothers and sisters in the Ata-Manobo community who live near their area so they would not have to spend huge amounts of money for their transportation to the Poblacion.
What’s interesting about their project, aside from the fact that it actually makes all the needs of the beneficiaries accessible to them, is the practice of allowing members to get products from the store and pay them eventually when they receive their individual 4P’s cash grants. From the usual 75% addition of products from other abusive store owners in the barangay, the Kauyagan SLP Association allows only at least ₱10.00 per kilo increase in a kilo of rice, if loaned, or only an interest rate of 25%. The members have their own booklets where the storekeeper writes down all their borrowed food and non-food necessities.
Since the implementation of the project, the association has bought with their cash grant not only the products but their very own refrigerator, freezer, and the lot where the structure is built. In fact, the association even owns the lot behind the structure where they hold their regular meetings. It was recommended by the Regional Program Management Office (RPMO) that they venture out to selling products out of what they can utilize from their own produce in their lands.
With the directive of President Rodrigo R. Duterte on the ₱600.00 cash grant for rice subsidy, the Kauyagan SLP Association is also a legitimate rice retailer where the Municipal Link actually gets information if their neighbors in the community have been spending the money appropriately.
In an area where people oftentimes lose their faith towards themselves, it’s the unity of some which fuels even the smallest flame. The Kauyagan SLP Association remains a model to other IP communities in the province that with the right motivation, proper coordination of the government and its constituents, and the unity within the community also known as bayanihan, progress knows no distance.
The Sustainable Livelihood Program – Micro-enterprise Development Track caters to participants who exhibit potential and willingness for entrepreneurship. Under this track, the participants may avail of the different modalities such as the Seed Capital fund amounting to ₱10,000.00 per person, Cash for Building Livelihood Assets, and Skills Training. The Kauyagan SLP Association, having 27 members, received a total of ₱270,000.00 as Seed Capital Fund for the implementation of their project. As in all the programs of the Department, the objective of this project was to improve the well-being of each beneficiary particularly in the economic activities of the community. The implementation was a convergence among the programs of the Department with the Local Government Unit, the Municipal Convergence Coordinator, and Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer.
The project was only a dream. The beneficiaries wanted something that would help them in their day-to-day lives while the SLP envisioned leaving a legacy to the Indigenous Community with the help of the intervention of the government.
Some storeowners, whom our partner-participants rely on for food, tend to become abusive by increasing the amount of the original price to almost 70% if they don’t pay it in cash. Some would allow them to get food but only after scolding and insulting them.
The beneficiaries, despite all the awful words said to them, would bow their heads because they know they have no other option but to humble themselves for them to be able to loan in the future. To have their own store was a result of their needs.
The Ata-Manobo beneficiaries willingly participated in the election of officers, the crafting of the association’s Constitution and By-Laws, and the actual project identification. All of them decided to pursue the Microenterprise Development Track and together they also agreed to venture forth in the General Merchandise project.
Upon the turnover of the check worth ₱270,000.00, the association immediately gathered to plan out the operational flow of their microenterprise. Families of the members also helped in the planning especially the husbands.
The president led the distribution of roles of the members. Some were in charge of buying the products and equipment such as refrigerator and freezer at Tagum City, more than 43 kilometers away, while others took the initiative of clearing up the lot where the structure was to be built. It was actually rented at first but eventually they bought it at ₱25,000.00.
Supportive husbands went all out in the building of the actual structure. Children watched their mothers clear the grasses and sweep the ground clean. On the same day, the procurement of all the goods like rice, canned goods, noodles, bottled water, toiletries, slippers, and many more was facilitated by the SLP PDO himself together with 5 members of the association at NCCC Mall of Tagum City.
And since then, the SLP PDO did not cease in reminding the members to help sustain the said microenterprise. “Dili ni para sa ako, para ni sa inyo (This is not for me, but for all of you),” he told them during a cluster meeting in their area.
With the existence of the Kauyagan SLP Association in their community, the Ata-Manobo beneficiaries will be more empowered to lead and organize themselves amidst all intervening factors that will come along their way. Further, they will no longer be stepped on their dignities anymore.
The bayanihan is not only seen in the coordination of the members of the Ata-Manobo community in the Kauyagan SLP Association but also in the community outside of it, the family members, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Local Government Unit. The aforementioned, in their own little ways, contributed to the implementation process of the microenterprise the association now boasts. It is with the effort of everyone that the dream they envisioned before has become their reality now.