Like many endangered species on this planet, these indigenous people are vanishing too.
But if their voices are heard, they might have a chance of survival.
After 1 hour long trek, 5 river crossings without the bridge, we found them in the midst of the mountains. I do wonder how they survive living in the middle of nowhere, like what will happen in case of emergency.. it will take a reaaally long time for them to get to the hospital.
Significant observations though:
1. They still chew nganga or betel leaf, which is similar to what I observed with burmese people.
2. Women are topless, I felt uneasy considering that my trek companions are guys. But it is in their culture.. which reminds us how our ancestors lived once upon a time.
3. Houses have no doors. I’ve heard of houses in remote areas in the Philippines where houses have no doors and this is one of them. Indication of how open and trusting they are of nature maybe.
4. One of their sources of livelihood is to sell almasigas, it’s a crystal like hard stuff that burns very slowly. Ideal for bonfire camping I guess. You should buy some when you get to visit them to help in their livelihood.
5. Education levels are low, the highest learning a tribe member have earned is Grade 5 and they cant pursue it further due to many factors especially that you have to trek 1 hour and cross 5 rivers to the nearest school. And of course, there is not enough funds for a member to go to high school or college.
It is very interesting to note that one of my trek buddies is from head hunting tribe in the north of the Philippines and he is now a nurse. I hope the Batak tribe can produce the same among their members.
I’ve read quite a few articles on why they have ended up to be in the mountains and it will take a long process to get indigenous people to level up to how our current society is living.
But even if I wonder of how they are able to survive in the mountains, maybe they are also thinking of how are we able to survive the pollution, traffic, and all the bad elements in the city.
How to get there and visit the vanishing Batak Tribe:
From san jose terminal in Puerto Princesa, ride a bus going to Batak Center. Travel time is around 1 hour and fare is around 70-80 pesos. There is no entrance fee but you have to pay 300 pesos for a guide if you dont want to get lost in the mountains.
**BIG thanks to Josiah Sicad of http://www.lakas.com.ph/ and friends for being great travel buddies, I did plan to do this alone but I guess dudes are helpful companions just in case I tumbled down in one of the rivers :))