Carlito Dumulot, Promising Literacy Learner

“Isang malayang umaga sa iyo,” was Carlito Dumulot’s cheerful reply when I greeted him during the First General Assembly of Non-Government Organizations at SEAMEO INNOTECH, Quezon City. He belongs to LAKAS-Indigenous People’s Group. Carlito, short and stocky with thick black curly hair and small nose, is one of Zambales’s most respected tribesmen. “Bakit malaya?” I asked him. “Malaya na ako sa tanikala ng hirap, panlalait, at kamangmangan,” he says breaking into a smile.

It was a warm and sunny morning of November 28 when Carlito was relishing his present situation. “Ibang-iba na ang buhay ko ngayon.

“Noon, pag bumababa ako sa bundok upang magbenta ng mais at ube sa Olongapo market, hindi ko alam kung paano manukli dahil hindi rin ako marunong magbilang. Ang mga bumibili noon ang nagdidikta kung magkano ang presyo ng mga paninda ko at tinatanggap ko na lang kung magkano ang kanilang inaabot. Luging-lugi ako noon dahil bukod sa pagod ko, namamasahe pa ako sa bus tapos lolokohin pa ako ng mga mamimili. Ngayon, marunong na akong mag-plus, mag-minus, at mag-divide. Hindi na ako maloloko pa,” Carlito adds smiling.

Early on, Carlito knew they were being pushed around by the lowlanders. He remembers how his community members would be brought to the voting precincts during election and were told to sign the filled ballots with their thumbmarks. After that, it was anybody’s guess.

Illiteracy stood in the way of the Aetas’ better understanding of their traditions and rights. When land grabbers took their ancestral lands from them, they were left helpless and hopeless. They were denied access and information on their need to argue their cases.

“Sabi nila, hindi raw amin yung lupa, wala raw kaukulang papeles kaya pinaalis kami… noon kasi hindi pa namin alam ang tungkol sa titulo, certificates, at iba pa… 
I could not imagine why this man was so worked up about his newfound knowledge. But he was so earnest, his piercing black eyes so intense. According to Carlito, he saw other villages and communities receive infrastructure – water, roads and bridges – yet the people remained poor. “There was so little upward mobility even after all that spending because “they did not educate the people,” Carlito says.

Locked in the cycle of grinding poverty and illiteracy, the Aetas could only curse and shrug their shoulders at bureaucratic waste and abuse. Not anymore. 
When literacy workers went to Olongapo, Carlito grabbed the opportunity to learn. Then when he found out that he had leadership skills, he decided to begin a more active role in the projects organized by his local community. Almost immediately, his life took a new direction. “Natutunan kong gamitin ang aking mga talento para sa aking kapwa at pati na rin sa aking kapakanan,” Carlito says.

Today, his bright smile bears testimony to what he can do. Aside from reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, he has received training in farm techniques, forest conservation, sanitation and health, social skills, political literacy, and food processing. His family has moved from the tree house into a sturdy one. “Without literacy,” he says, “we’d still be living differently.”

The Aetas can now access knowledge and information available to the majority. They now read books, magazines, and tabloids. Through mass media, they can now profit from the scientific and technological skills needed to increase wellness and health.

To step from the bright sun and palm trees of Olongapo into the white halls of SEAMEO INNOTECH is to enter another world. Carlito with his new skills and present environment is now indeed, in another world. Congratulations, Carlito! (MPC)

Source: educNEWSVol 1 No. 3, November 2007

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