By Philippine News Agency
BURAUEN, Leyte –- The upland Kagbana village here is synonymous to isolation, but there are untold stories of patience and perseverance that are worth telling.
Residents have been pleading for an access road that will connect them to the nearest muddy road in San Vicente village.
Evalyn Gamad, 17, who is pregnant, never missed a pre-natal checkup despite hours of hiking and wading in rivers and streams.
“We need to have road to ensure our safety when we have to go to the town center, especially for a pregnant woman like me,” Gamad said.
During emergencies, a patient who is unable to walk is being carried by a group of men using a hammock until reaching a road accessible to motorcycles that would take them to a hospital.
The ordeal is at worst during rainy days due to the surge of water at Marabong River. During flooding, residents get stranded and wait until the next day until the water subsides.
Elma Managbanag, 48, a member of Mamanwa tribe living in Kagbana, shares why they chose to live in the remote village.
“Nobody owns the land here. We may cultivate it without people telling us to asked permission from the owners unlike in the lowland,” she said.
For Elma, living in Kagbana is a paradise away from busy life. They are at peace and people in the community warmly welcomed them.
Tribe members survive from hunting in the forest and planting root crops. Corn is their staple food.
Teachers assigned to the village also shares the same ordeal. During rainy days, instead of trekking from San Vicente village in MacArthur town, teachers need to hike from Mahagnao village to Kagbana for three hours.
For more than a year now, this is the weekly routine of Charlie Avila, a Grades 3 and 4 teacher.
Before he became a regular teacher in Kagbana, he was assigned there as volunteer teacher for Alternative Learning System educating illiterate residents, including members of Mamanwa tribe.
In his more than a year’s stay in the village as a teacher, he noticed that most of his students have difficulty in comprehension.
“There are pupils in Grades 3 and 4 who still can’t write or read and write due to malnutrition. People in the village only eat what is available in their place – corn and root crops because of difficulty going to commercial centers,” the teacher observed.
Despite the hardships in reaching the village, Kindergarten and Grade 1 teacher Jomar Orias feels the fulfilment of sharing knowledge to learners.
“We are fulfilling our duty here not only as teachers but also as heroes of our students who share them the knowledge we have,” Orias said.
Before, education was not a priority for Kagbana’s residents, recalled teacher Mary Jane Amat, but after earning a degree in teacher education and passed the licensure examination, her achievement brings hope to the village.
Amat is the first college graduate in their village. She’s currently a volunteer teacher for alternative learning while waiting for a regular teaching post.
“Learners here draw inspiration from me. They are more motivated to go to school after I finished college,” said Mary Jane. Villagers heavily depend on abaca and coconut farming that were badly affected by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
The settlement, located in the mountain range of central Leyte is about 40 kilometers away from the town center. It can be reached through an hour single motorcycle ride, traversing bumpy roads and three hours hike, crossing four mountains and three rivers.
The village is home to 500 dwellers with 60 households, including the five families of Mamanwa tribe.