Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) history can be traced
back to more than 500 years, wherein
Bangsamoro was used to refer to people who were predominantly Muslim and indigenous people. While BARMM’s
culture is known to be bound together by their
conformity to the Islamic faith,
they also share the goal of pushing
back their long-standing challenge: conflict.
long-standing challenge of conflict has caused the region to fall into a state
of neglect, where the lack of
equitable access to food and proper sanitation has deprived residents of proper
health and nutrition. Batang Matatag,
a movement supported by Save the Children Philippines and Erceflora Kiddie attempts to address this by
improving the health and nutrition status of children starting with BARMM’s
Bajau community in Iligan City and
the municipality of Marantao, Lanao del Sur.
to Edwin Horca, Team Lead for BARMM of Save the Children Philippines, “BARMM
would always rank one of the highest in terms of poverty incidence, and it has
been for the longest time the most neglected region. That is why in this area
they have been struggling in terms of finding lasting peace, and most specially
really hitting the developmental milestones that is expected of any region.”
In the face of dispute, the region is home to
over 1.8 million Filipino children, and it fosters a unique and diverse
way of life, which can be enhanced
with the support of Batang Matatag.
Nomads of the Sea
The Bajau tribe from Mindanao were
also known as sea gypsies for inhabiting the coastlines and travelling by boat from one island
to another in search of fishing harvest. Despite their nomadic nature,
they’re still often displaced due to the ongoing conflict. Though still
a proud and hardworking tribe, they continue
to struggle finding their
place on land.
With 151 Bajau households living in Barangay
Tambacan, they continue to have issues accessing their basic needs due to a lack of income and livelihood opportunities and the impact
of natural and human- induced disasters.
we started to work with the Bajau community, we saw that they are struggling
even at the barangay level,”
said Horca. “Their
access to food is already
a challenge since
the parents are not always
lucky when trying to get jobs in the fish port, and since they also lack
skills, they wouldn’t be given opportunities to be employed,” he added.
People of the Lake
is a municipality in the province of Lanao del Sur and is one of the closest to
Lake Lanao. It is also home to the last remaining habitable Torogan, which is a traditional ancestral house built by the Maranao people
of Lanao for the nobility.
Marantao’s colorful history, the community remains impoverished. They continue
to struggle with clean water and
sanitation access. “When we checked their facilities, we noticed that they get their water directly
from Lake Lanao.
When asked if they get sick from the water,
they said they would experience diarrhea at first,
but now have already adapted
to it. "We actually told them they’re
putting the young ones
at risk,” Horca shared.
Their condition worsened when the pandemic hit the province.
the COVID-19 pandemic struck, they were further isolated and were not able to
access the government-provided
support to meet their day-to-day
needs,” he remarked.
Diamond in the rough
Despite the challenges the communities face,
they remain positive and motivated to rise above their plight and bring back the vibrance the region had with the right assistance and means, which is where
Batang Matatag comes in.
“Batang Matatag forms part of Save the
Children Philippines’ Life Changer for Children program. It aims to reach children and communities who
are most impacted by inequality and discrimination. It addresses issues confronted by children and their communities
and seek innovative and sustainable solutions through
a child-centered whole of
society approach,” Horca underscored.
Part of the movement’s co-design process is
to empower the communities to realize what change they want through the process called ‘visioning’. From there the
communities will be organized into committees who will
act as representatives for any
intervention planning that will occur.
“Batang Matatag is an advocate
for these communities. Aside from the technical assistance that we will be
providing, we also want to provide an avenue for the members to voice out their
concerns, share their insights, and
recommend solutions that will be beneficial to them in the long run,” said J
Ann Mirasol, from the makers
of Erceflora Kiddie.
Horca adds that Batang Matatag’s
goal is to make the communities realize that they can reach their
maximum potential mainly
through their own doing with only minimal
help from sponsors.
“We would like to create breakthroughs for
children, where all of them survive and thrive, learn, and are always protected. As we journey
with them, we must help them be empowered enough to create a community that is more inclusive and respectful of the rights
of children; and after we have promoted
and developed champions within the communities, then they themselves can
promote and advocate their own needs,”
Marantao and the Bajau community’s strong resolve to improve their lives shows
the region’s potential
for development and the residents’ determination to restore
their region and culture to its former
glory with the right champions.
Mirasol encourages the public to be one of
the right champions for these communities too, “To help Marantao and the Bajau community in Iligan City reach their
maximum potential, a portion of every Erceflora Kiddie
purchase will be donated to Batang
Matatag,” she concluded.