We Are One – At Last!

PhilDec2017There is a time for everything. This is the time when the Dulangan Menubo of Kulaman, Sultan Kudarat are rejoicing over changes in the provision of health services, especially by our Local Hospital. At long last their voices and sentiments were heard!  As Indigenous Peoples (IP), they, too, have the right to an equitable part in the health system in this Municipality.

For many years, the Dulangan Menubo we are assisting have painfully endured an IP ward / Non-IP ward segregation with special consideration for the Non-IPs in the hospital. Bed foam, for example, would be provided for the so-called “Christian settlers ward,” while the IP ward was denied this privilege. IPs were prohibited the use of indoor toilets, available to the non-IPs.  The list goes on.

As we celebrate our 30 years of Loving Presence in Kulaman, we are reaping the fruits that our sisters who have been assigned here over the years have planted. We have established effective collaboration with the local health units, and, this year, they acknowledged our partnership with them by inviting us to join the Municipal Health Strengthening System Program Training and participate in the Local Health Board meeting. This paved the way for us to lobby for the expressed needs and reality of our IP patients and IP Community Health Workers, particularly the discrimination in the local hospital and root causes of IP health problems.  Local health stakeholders became conscious of the cultural biases interfering with basic health services.

The solution that was supported by the members, as articulated by the hospital’s Chief Doctor was that instead of an IP ward / Non-IP segregation, the ward would be divided into Female and Male wards.  Bed foams will be distributed on a first-come-first served basis and the toilet will be opened which was previously closed for the IPs.

Some changes were noticeable late last year, and we hope they will continue.  To support the trialing of these changes, we are visiting the hospital at least once a week, together with our trained Community Health Workers to educate our Dulangan Manobo patients and watchers about health and sanitation. We are sharing with them that this change they are now experiencing entails responsibility from the tribe as well. Tensions are expected, as non-IPs also adjust to the new situation, but we are full of hope that, in time, a mindset supporting the rights of Indigenous Peoples right to proper medical care will grow.

The mountains of Kulaman, Sultan Kudarat are home to the indigenous tribe known as the Dulangan Menubo, one of the poorest and most vulnerable indigenous groups in Mindanao.  Since their foundation in the Philippines, RNDM Sisters have worked to advocate on behalf of and provide opportunities for the Menubo people, developing PhilDec20172programs in the areas of education, health and livelihood.  Over the years, through the generosity of international and local benefactors, the Delesan Kailawan Center (the “home of the Good People”) was built, its mission to affirm, appreciate and respect the culture and traditions of the Dulangan Menubo while accompanying them in their journey towards self-determination.  On behalf of the Dulangan Menubo people, we are deeply grateful to all who have partnered with us in this mission.

Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions - Casa Generalizia Roma 00164 (IT) - Phone: 0039 06 6615 8400 - Email: gensec@rndmgen.org