Lumads residing near the foot of the mountains in a northeastern Mindanao province have now found a more profitable source of income as tour guides of mountaineers with the help of a technical assistance (TA) project of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
DILG OIC-Secretary Eduardo M. Ano says that the lumads or the native indigenous peoples and their families of Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte are among the beneficiaries of the DILG’s TA project in collaboration with the Caraga State University (CSU).
Ano says that under the project, lumads who used to receive a measly amount for each big log that they carry down from Mt. Hilong-Hilong are now earning much higher as tourist guides and porters.
“I am pleased to know that our project is really changing lives for the better, particularly for the IPs in Cabadbaran City,” he says.
The DILG-funded project, the Mt. Hilong-Hilong Tourism Sensitivity Program, studied the tourism potential of the mountain with the hope of creating a sustainable tourism development plan for the area and benefiting the lumads and their families.
The project was proposed by the CSU based on the results of the Citizens' Satisfaction Index Survey (CSIS) which showed that of all the services of the local government of Cabadbaran City, tourism ranks the lowest in terms of awareness of the people.
CSU was one of the 15 recipients of the P200,000 financial grant under the DILG Technical Assistance program for Local Resource Institutes being managed by the DILG's Bureau of Local Government Supervision which aims to address local problems and issues identified in the CSIS results and promote good local governance.
CSU Research Team Leader Earl Ninofranco says the idea of coming up with the proposal to help address the lumads’ problems of poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities came up as he immersed in their community.
Ninofranco narrates that in one of his conversations with the lumads, he learned that they are paid P150-200 (or one peso per board ft.) for each big log they could bring down from the mountain.
A big boulder log is usually tied to the lumad’s body with sling in order for him to carry its enormous weight for 2-3 days.
Moved by their desolate situation, he teamed up with other professors in the campus to craft the proposal which led the way in training lumads to become tour guides and porters.
With the help of the DILG-CSU collaboration project, local chieftain Datu Berto and his wife Bae Rosalinda share that the lumads now earn as much as P1,500 per day as tour guides and P500 per day as porters. Payments increase depending on how many groups are going up in the mountain and how long the tourists would hire them.
Meanwhile, Punong Barangay Melba Dagohoy of Barangay Mahaba located at the foot of Mt. Hilong-Hilong says the barangay has started receiving help from the city government and several national agencies eversince the CSU teachers presented their findings at the Cabadbaran city hall.
For one, the Department of Tourism has began holding eco-guiding seminars for mountain guides in Cabadbaran. One recent seminar was attended by Datu Berto and his fellow lumads and some 20 other participants.
For his part, Cabadbaran City Administrator Rene Retiquez admits the DILG TA program was an eye-opener for them on how they can further develop the area for the benefit of the IPs.