All the tribal Mangyans living in Mindoro, Philippines want to do is to live on their own terms. Deforestation affected their nutrition and livelihood, flooding spread disease and then the eruption of Volcano Taal cut off their food supply. The ash from the volcano was causing breathing problems. COVID-19 epidemic was the straw that broke the camel's back.
COVID-19 affects the respiratory system. That's something I relate to. I’ve always had severe sinusitis complicated by bouts of Bronchitis. My breathing had become so bad that I needed surgery when I was seven years old. I also have a family history of adult-onset Bronchial Asthma. The Mangyans needed help, and based on my experience running medical camps in New Jersey and working on a medical mission in Haiti, I knew I could provide it. I found unique fundraising ideas to gather over $16,000.
We were planning to treat nutritional deficiencies, Hypertension, Diabetes, respiratory diseases, abscesses, and visual impairment. But during all of these preparations, I was scared. If affected by COVID-19, there is a high chance that I may damage my respiratory system. It can affect normal people too. My challenge was having to choose between our team’s health, and the health of the people there. Ultimately, I decided to go, take more precautions than deprive people of life-saving medical care.
I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience.
Our mission was to help the Mangyans on the Island of Mindoro, Philippines
Mindoro is the seventh largest island in the Philippines by land area
Mangyan is the generic name for the eight indigenous groups found on the island of Mindoro. Each group has its own tribal name, language, and customs. The total population may be around 280,000, but official statistics are difficult to determine under the conditions of remote areas, reclusive tribal groups and some having little if any outside world contact.
The Mangyans were once the only inhabitants of Mindoro. Being coastal dwellers at first, they have moved inland and into the mountains to avoid the influx and influence of foreign settlers.
Today, most Mangyans still live secludedly in remote parts of Mindoro. They come down to the lowlands in order to make usual trades. Their sustenance are farming for their own crops, fruits, and hunting.
A few Mangyans have joined civil service. Some send their children to local schools too. Gradually, some tribes are integrating into the local population but some tribes are trying to stay away and this causes a lot of tension in certain parts of the Island.