Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rosalito Labi, a leader of his tribe

MAITUM, Sarangani (October 21, 2010) - Rosalito Labi’s parents were born in Angko village. In the late 60’s, his family moved to barangay Baningo, now barangay Ned of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

In Ned, he became a Tboli chieftain and supervisor of the Alternative Learning Center. In 2005, Labi, now with a family of his own, returned to his roots in sitio Angko.

In sitio Angko, he found the houses of his relatives far from each other. He encouraged them to transfer their houses near to each other so that they will be recognized as a sitio. Soon after, the two original houses mushroomed into 30, thus sitio Angko was born.

There is no sign of progress in this sitio – no electricity, no potable water, help from the government is nil because of the distance and the difficulty in going there.

Mulling over their pitiful situation, Labi, a father of 9 children, called for a meeting with his tribe and told them, “Nothing will happen to us if we just resign to our fate. We must think of positive things that could possibly change our destiny. Your problem is my problem too. The problem of your children is the problem of my children too. Why can we not unite and plan for our future?” Labi told them. They all agreed.

In that meeting, Labi asked the villagers their concerns and identify the most urgent ones. The villagers unanimously agreed that they need to build a trail that would connect them to the dirt road. If they built a trail, there is a big chance for them to bring down their crops for selling in the town.

On May 27, 2006, they started building a trail. They used “buyo-buyo” or sharpened wood. They did this during Saturdays and Sundays. Labi tearfully recalled how they worked even with empty stomach as long as they can build the trail. Every able-bodied villager contributed to the construction of the trail. Each was given equal portion of the trail to work on. “We proved to ourselves that walang imposible kung magkaisa kami,” Labi said.

In 2007, with prodding from the residents in sitio Angko, he ran as barangay kagawad for Bati-an and handily won.

He continued leading his people. With the “bayanihan spirit” as their best weapon, they built a waiting shed beside the dirt road so that when it rains, their farm produce will not get wet while waiting for a motorcycle to bring them to town. Later on the waiting shed became a resting place for travelers from Tuanadatu and Ned.

To boost their farm production, Labi led the construction of a nursery makeshift building where they propagated coffee, banana, and other seedlings which were later on distributed to the residents. This helped increase their income.

Labi was also concerned about the future of the children. So he requested his married daughter, a high school graduate, to teach children how to read and write. A vacant space in their house was used as classroom to more than 30 daycare children. But if there are visitors, the children would look for somewhere else where they could continue their learning.

“I bought a blackboard from my honorarium as barangay kagawad, Labi said. I gave half of my honorarium to my married daughter as her honorarium too for teaching the children.” Labi believes that “yung galing sa tao dapat ibalik sa tao.” So he spends most of his honorarium for the villagers. The local government gave paper pads, pencils, and other school supplies, while the Indigenous Peoples Development Program of the provincial government gave teaching materials. Now, it is the local government which pays the honorarium of the volunteer teacher.

“The International Aid (IA) came to sitio Angko. We were told to build a Health and Nutrition Post or HNP. Again, we built an HNP through “bayanihan”. IA gave two weighing scales and BP apparatus for the HNP. We were promised medicines worth P25,000 and we are hoping the medicines would come soon,” Labi said.

Their struggle is far from over. There are still a lot of things to be done. But Labi, an elementary graduate, believes that if they unite, nothing is impossible and that his sitio will rise above poverty.

Today, Labi can look back with nary a trace of bitterness but pride. (Beth Ramos-Palma Gil/MAITUM INFORMATION OFFICE)

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