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Photographer's Note

This is part of a series of pictures of my stay in Miarayon, Bukidnon, Mindanao with the Tala-andig people: Miarayon and the Tala-andig

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As you may know from reading my intro I'm currently doing some volunteer work with a Philippine NGO called the Cartwheel Foundation. The org works to provide educational opportunities in depressed indigenous areas.

In Miarayon we operate a pre-school, run adult education classes, and provide college scholarships.

On my second day in the area I saw the pre-school graduation ceremony for the young graduates of the Sta. Teresita and Sitio Abel schools. As Lolits Bautistil, a teacher, explains “before the pre-school, the children went straight to elementary and they didn’t know how to write—they didn’t even know how to hold pencils!

As with many indigenous groups, they often have less access to education which keeps them marginalized. “Before, when there were only a few with an education people from neighboring towns would taunt us. They would call us ‘ignorant,’” says Luell “Totong” Danio, a college scholar studying in Malaybalay.

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As an aside let me tell you how hard it was for me to get my head around the concept of their being "indigenous." By this I mean they look like me, and have a similar accent (when I'm not speaking English), isn't everyone in the Philippines more or less "indigenous?"

I don't mean that they don't have a unique history, language, and culture, but it just seemed to me that this was as much part of the problem, by labeling them "indigenous" isn't this just a way of making them "different" and thus making it easier to provide different standards from the community at large?

It just seems to me like another example of Filipinos pretending to be Spanish or American.

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Another aside:

An interesting thing I read out of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (that Pulitzer Prize winning book by J. Diamond) was that if by "indigenous" we mean the first people somewhere, then the common face of modern Filipinos (like this one looking at you in the pic, and my own) is actually the face of a conquering people.

The original inhabitants of these islands were what are called today the "Negritos." They are similar looking to Australian aboriginals and they used to inhabit this entire archepelago (actually their range went all the way across Indonesia and Malasia as well). About 3000 years ago my people came down from Taiwan and wiped out the majority of their population either from mass slaughter and/or disease.

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