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Life in exchange for Development that Future Generations will have Peace

Written by COL Ferozaldo Paul T Regencia INF (GSC) PA, MWGI. Posted in Commanders Blog

“I will live and die fulfilled with the thoughts that I have in one way or another helped in the development of my Mangyan Community and assured with the idea that our tribe will be socially relevant in the country’s progress.”                                                                                                                                                --Ariston Mameng

                                                                               

It was one coolday of January2011 in the House of Representatives that we come across a letter from the School Head of a Mangyan Community of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro requesting for a school buildingthat will cater to at least 370 children. Without any designated contact person, we learned of a certain Ariston Mamengwho later on became the coordinator for this purpose whose contact numbers were hand-written on the lower left margin of the said letter. Then came the succession of communication and visitation that first saw the meeting of minds after a months’ time. The bitter sentiments of the Mangyans were so deep rooted that simply saying it does not really give any credence to whatever plans there are.Considering that their request for a school building was first officially made known in 1978 and since then it just fell on deaf ears. After simply contenting themselves of using classrooms made of bamboo and cogon grass which has the bare ground as their floor for more than 33 years,in 2011 will soon have their dreams finally see the light of day.

After the community consultations, everybody just took the “promise” with a grain of salt and it was only after 2 weeks when the soldier-engineers with their equipment and construction materials started pouring in that people now were publicly acclaiming heartilyto everyone with a smile in their faces, an expression of a glimmering hope in their hearts saying that “lahat ng sinabinila ay totoopala” (“everything they said is really true”) and that “lahat ng nasabingayon ay mangyayarina” (“everything said can now be done”). In fact this added to their enthusiasm that without any prodding the Mangyanshelped in laying-out the groundworksfor the school building and they decided to construct with their bare hands a 1.4 km access road to make sure that the construction materials can be brought easily to the site. They were all there on hand,shift after shift every day that made the completion of the project went smoothly even though the duration was a little way off from the target dates because of the weather and very difficult terrain.

By standard, a 2-classroom school building can be completed by the soldier-engineers in one month, but this project because it was very difficult to bring the construction materials into Upper Yunot, Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro,was started in March and was completed by July. After four (4) months in the making, a big celebration was done on 19 July 2011 to make the turn-over of the project worth remembering and for the record, it was the infrastructure project that has the most involved stakeholders who contributed so many value added items that surely helped alleviate the plight of the Mangyan children assured for a longer period of time.Provided to the school among others are computers, e-media learning modules, television and DVD sets, books & workbooks with bookshelves, desks & chairs, school supplies with bags, umbrellas, electric fans, t-shirts, clothes and including a 160-day feeding program for the children with a medical mission. Even after the program was done and in the next succeeding days thereafter, needed resources keeps pouring in.

After the ceremonies were done on that historic day, the soldier-engineers on cue went down the slopes from the school building under the watchful eyes of those who were present unknowing of what may happen next. As the soldiers formed in line they looked up and wave to the people goodbye, at an instance without any outside motivationbut a sheer manifestation of childlike appreciation, the children run down the slopes with tears flowing from their eyes, hug the soldiers so earnestly saying their gratitude for what was given to them. It was a sight worth documenting, but escaped the cameras as everybody was caught unaware and awed by the gesture in sight that left most if not all teary eyed. That was one picture perfect moment that can never be published but will remain engraved in the hearts of those who were there to witness that very momentous flash of inspirations.

All these came into being because of the effort of one man who came from a poor family of SitioAbakahan, Barangay Pamaytayan, Oriental Mindoro. Though this realities did not hinder him to pursue higher education which was a four (4) – year agriculture course scholarship that includes the condition that he has to serve his community after graduation.This all the more encouraged him to equipped himself of the knowledge that will support him to be of helped to his fellow Mangyans. He did come back immediately after his course and begun his quest for humanitarian endeavors bybringing with him solicited canned goods, clothes and other basic necessities from generous donations.This started his benevolent efforts for his beloved people.He further strived to look for prospects of alleviating their poor living conditions by institutinglivelihood projects and the establishment of a cooperative.In his desire to also be able to impart knowledge by other means he initiated the “Lakbay Aral” for primary students together with their parents.This will expose and orient them regarding city life and itsmodernism which in a way will give them a broaderperceptionof nurturing and enhancingprogress.Notwithstanding the fact that his place is once a hotbed of insurgency, he went around looking for assistance from NGOs, the government, the politicians and even liaising with the military, making sure that he gets the appropriate development that will benefit his people.Ariston Mamengbecame so influential in getting what he feels is needed in his community like, electricity to the households of Upper Yunot; preserving the culture and indigenous rights of the Mangyans in his barangay, and the construction of a 4-kilometer access road from their secluded village to the main connecting road. Beforehe was killed, he was undertaking his plan so overwhelming that at the rate he is going the outcome of his efforts mayeventually cascade to the other Mangyan communities throughout Mindoro.

With his tenacityin pushing for more of these developments, endowed with a persisting determination in asking help, electricity has eventually found its way to their once less fortunate “never heard” discarded place. This he reported in his last TV appearance at PTV4, where he also emphatically left his last words of hope for the peace loving Filipinos to hear, “I will work for the betterment of my place and more infrastructure development will be instituted for the future of our children. I will not be taunted with so much overwhelming dangers and seemingly impossible odds but rather is challenged to simply pursue more the realization of my people’s dreams and aspirations.”

All these efforts in a moment without notice was gone to waste by four (4) bullets that pierce the heart of courage, hopefulness and faith in a man whose only fault is wanting to help built a peaceful, happy and comfortable life for his people.

Through his untimely death, hundreds of Mangyans including Mayor Villas and Administrator EdizerAceron together with the Association of Barangay Captains of Bulalacao gathered to condemn the brutal killing. Addressing the crowd in the vernacular, Mayor Ernillo Villas said, “Killing innocent people is totally wrong and we cannot tolerate the methods of the NPA. True and positive change must be done through peaceful means and not in this unjustifiable manner”.

“Mameng is a good example of a life filled with pure intent for service.  He could have done more for his Mangyan community, yet because of ill willed, ruthless people who do not want others to progress gave end to Mameng’s service with a gun-shot.  Pitiful indeed! We now question, “Is it a crime to dream and hope for your fellowmen? Is it a crime that in order to fulfill these dreams you seek help of the government and non-government agencies? And is it a crime to simply talk with the AFP who simply wants to help achieve Mameng’s dream?” --KaEnong

“In memory of Mr. Ariston Mameng whose only dream is to have a better place to live in for his Mangyan Tribe, a peaceful and developed future for his beloved place and people, whose efforts and opportunities done for Sitio Upper Yunot was abruptly brought to an end when he was abducted in front of his family and killed by the NPAs in the evening of 20 July 2012.”

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