Formulating Innovative Resiliency Solutions for the T’bolis of Datal Ligaw

Sitio Datal Ligaw, Brgy. Tasiman, Lake Sebu South Cotabato

Celeste Reyes, Ma. Fe Terencio, Victor Gonzalo, & Henry Blasan

Formulating Innovative Resiliency Solutions is a value-centered, culturally-sensitive disaster risk reduction (DRR) program and manual for the T’bolis of Datal Ligaw.

This innovation envisions to incorporate the DRR indigenous knowledge of the T’bolis into their barangay’s development plans. This will lead to the recognition, improvement and adoption of these indigenous knowledge by the local government unit.

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The team hopes that various government units and agencies will actually help with this innovation, so that it will really be integrated with the barangay’s plans and it can be replicated in other sitios.

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That’s our biggest problem because almost every month, there is a storm. Even if we want our crops to grow well, we can’t. The crops are always destroyed by the impact.

This is how they want Datal Ligaw to be. The facilitators identify what they need and the step-by-step process to achieve it.

OVERVIEW

Formulating Innovative Resiliency Solutions is a value-centered, culturally-sensitive DRR program and manual for the T’bolis of Datal Ligaw in Barangay Tasiman, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

The village is frequented by storms and the T’bolis mostly relied on indigenous knowledge in their efforts to prepare and mitigate disasters. The innovation team hopes to incorporate indigenous knowledge into Datal Ligaw’s development plans. They have organized the community and conducted trainings among the residents of Datal Ligaw.

BACKGROUND

Sitio Datal Ligaw in Lake Sebu is a remote area in the highlands of South Cotabato, mostly inhabited by the T’boli ethnic group. They plant and sell corn and other crops for a living.

However, frequent weather disturbances deter them from having a stable source of income.

“That’s our biggest problem because almost every month, there is a storm,” laments Jeplit Sugan, 27, a motorcycle driver. “Even if we want our crops to grow well, we can’t. The crops are always destroyed by the impact,” he adds.
Their homes too, are battered by strong winds. Bimbo Samflon, a farmer, recounted how his house was blown away when a storm plowed through Datal Ligaw storm. “There’s nothing we could do but cry when our houses and crops are destroyed. There’s nothing to harvest. We lose everything when storms come and we can’t do anything about it,” Samflon.

Maria Fe Terencio, Program Coordinator of Stiftung Solarenergie Philipppines Mindanao, recalled how their innovation was born. In 2017, she says they received a report that eight houses in the sitio were completely wiped-out by Typhoon Paolo. “Even the roof of the school was completely destroyed,” describes Terencio, but the damage was not reported to concerned government units.

CHALLENGE

Datal Ligaw is geographically isolated and hardly accessible to government services. Still, the T’bolis managed to overcome landslides, strong winds and typhoons even without the assistance from local government units and government agencies. They mostly relied on their traditional or indigenous knowledge in disaster preparation and mitigation.

Jeplit said that community also plays a part in keeping each other safe. For example, when a house is destroyed, they just work together to rebuild it.
Samflon calls this “the T’boli way of living.” “One important trait of the T’boli is helping each other. What we ask, we also give. When we gather something from the forest or from the city, we give it back to the community, to the families in need. We really help each other.”

For Terencio, mainstreaming the T’boli’s indigenous knowledge meant empowering them in times of calamities. “We want them to be aware of what to do in these situations. We want them to know that the government can also help victims of calamities,” states Terencio.

There’s also no electricity in Datal Ligaw. Samflon, who has four children, describes how they cope with this reality. “If we’re going to go somewhere, we use dried leaves and twigs to light our way and look for our kids.” Local also keep kerosene inside their houses, making their homes prone to catching fire.

The group also saw how most of the houses were made of lightweight materials, which makes it extremely dangerous, since they mostly use kerosene and sack as lighting for their homes. “That’s why we came in because they’re vulnerable not only to storms, but also to these kinds of hazards,” explains Terencio.

RESPONSE

The lack of electricity in Datal Ligaw was addressed by initiating a solar lighting project with Stiftung Solarnergie Philipppines.

Terencio’s innovation team also organized a group of 17 facilitators from a pool of traditional leaders and representatives from various sectors: youth, women, elders, sitio leaders and even, habal-habal drivers. The group received a series of seminars regarding DRR, which helped build up their capacity to respond to disasters.

Samflon is also a co-facilitator and in-charge for security in the area. He says “the most important lesson that we learned is how to practice safety first.”

The residents now know where to bring their families to keep them safe and to stock up food when a storm is coming. They were also taught that root crops can survive storms better than traditional crops like corn.

Aside from the family disaster preparedness trainings and hazard-mapping, the innovation team led by Terencio taught the T’bolis the value of saving. Every month, PhP 50 is deposited to a cooperative bank in Lake Sebu. The contribution will be used to maintain the solar lighting system in the village.

“This is how they want Datal Ligaw to be. The facilitators identify what they need and the step-by-step process to achieve it,” says Terencio. Now, residents have a barangay DRR agenda based on their trainings.

“After their trainings, facilitators shared their knowledge with the community. Things like, ‘what is disaster?’ They even translate it to T’boli. They they know what a disaster is and that there is funding for victims of calamities.” The DRR plan was also portrayed in songs, dances and paintings to help residents understand what it means. Datal Ligaw is a low-literacy community.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND IMPACT

“We already saw our impact the moment community members themselves presented what they want for their community,” declares Terencio.

All of the facilitators were passionate to have everyone in the community involved because they want their sitio to improve and be more disaster resilient. The facilitators also believe that they deserve better services and that their voices and needs should be heard and addressed. For them, the T’boli heritage should be respected and protected. They want the tribe to be safe when disaster strikes because it’s when they are the most vulnerable.

The facilitators said that they felt empowered by the innovation because they now know about their rights to the assistance due to them during disasters. The mitigation, preparedness, and response trainings also increased their knowledge and understanding in handling their community in times of disasters.

Dolores herself is grateful for the program—not only for the lights that it provided their homes, but the light it serves in their lives. “I am also thankful because now I know how to properly care for my children, my husband, and my own body.”

“I can say that there is a huge difference from the way we lived our lives. It’s better now,” says Samflon. He says the community now organize, plan ahead, and do things differently. “We no longer eat in the dark. We no longer grope around at night looking for each other.”

More important for Jocelyn Samflon, one of the facilitators, is learning more about helping each other. “If someone needs help, we will all help each other. Whatever you do for others, will also be done for you,” stresses Jocelyn.

SUSTAINABILITY

Jiplet, facilitator from the youth sector and one of the most active participants in the innovation, saw the changes in their community. He now dreams of going back to school.

Dolores, a mother of eight, also wishes for a school that will can teach their children all the way to college.

Bimbo, meanwhile, hopes that a corn miller be provided in their area so that they no longer need travel to the town to process their crops. “We want to be self-sufficient. We want a health center, we don’t need to go down to the barangay to ask for medicines. We want a school. We really want self-sufficiency in our area to better our lives,” states Bimbo.

Jocelyn wishes for better infrastructure. “Roads will help us find better work, and will help us travel more efficiently.“

Terencio says some parties have already committed to helping Datal Ligaw, but it needs the support of the government. Facilitators themselves presented the DRR plan to the municipal and provincial government, and to various government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Terencio also revealed efforts to replicate their innovation in other sitios. “This is the first time that an initiative like this was done in Barangay Tasiman. The 17 facilitators are willing to share their learning to the other sitios, especially to the other T’bolis.”