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FEU Tamaraws reach out to Occidental Mindoro’s Mangyans

The Philippine Expedition, a joint project of the Far Eastern University through its Save the Tamaraw Project and the London-based Scientific Exploration Society (SES) was successfully conducted recently in time for its Annual Tamaraw Count. The project was held in cooperation with the Mindoro Occidental Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office. The expedition was participated by FEU faculty, staff and students, DENR staff, and the SES volunteers and delegates from other countries. FEU embraced this project not only because the tamaraw is one of the world’s endangered species, but also because the tamaraw holds a significant place in the life and brand of the university.

The Save the Tamaraw Project above all, primarily aims to find ways to protect and save the tamaraw from extinction. To keep track of the animals, participants conduct an annual count of the tamaraws. This year’s count yielded a total of 239 tamaraws, 24 short of last year’s 263. This may be due to disturbances created by a big group of participants, hence, not all tamaraws were seen and counted. The tamaraws were grouped into three, namely: adult, where 54 bulls (males) and 78 cows (females) were counted, juvenile, where there are 12 males, 19 females and 18 undetermined sexes, and, yearlings, which yielded six males, eight females and 44 with undetermined sexes. This is the second year that FEU participated in the program, and the university hopes to extend its partnership with SES in this project.

Another aspect of the Save the Tamaraw Project is studying the vegetation in the Mindoro mountains where the Mangyans live, to help develop a program for the introduction of species, which will further improve their vegetation. FEU faculty, staff and students, and other delegates from DENR and SES studied the ethnobotany – the plant town – in the areas used by the Mangyans in Mindoro. The participants studied the usage, method of collection, the parts utilized, the processing and the application of the plants in the area. Juliet Sarabia, an FEU faculty member who was part of the project, said that FEU’s goal was to be able “to develop a program for the conservation of the ethnobotany of the species and the improvement of the vegetation.”

On the sideline, a dental mission was conducted by Dr. Mark Lynch, a British orthodontist and one of the SES volunteers, at the Mangyan communities at Bato Singit and the Ambulong. At least 15 Mangyans underwent tooth extraction, after which, toothbrushes and toothpaste were distributed to the children. Through FEU’s Biology faculty, Mangyans were taught proper oral hygiene. Rice, biscuits, canned goods and salt, a primary commodity were given to the Mangyans, courtesy of the FEU family.

Recognizing the significance of the Mangyan culture, their vegetation and the tamaraws, FEU saw the potential for conducting an ecological study in the area as part of the Ecology course the university offers. During the project, FEU also wanted to bring NSTP students and other members of FEU to the Mangyan community.

The Save the Tamaraw Project was a very enriching experience for FEU teachers, researchers, students and staff. The first time Sarabia saw the Mangyans, she immediately thought of what she could do to help them, to improve their way of living and to maintain their culture. “When I saw them in their natural habitat, my eagerness to help them intensified because I saw that they really needed our support,” Sarabia recounted her experience. But the learning was not limited to the unique culture, vegetation and the tamaraws, rather, the delegates learned to appreciate and be thankful for what they have especially in the face of those who have so little. While in the mountains with the Mangyan community, Sarabia recalled, “You become very close to nature. You see that there is a gift that needs to be maintained, improved and taken cared of.”

The Save the Tamaraw Project is FEU’s way of contributing to the Philippine community – preserving culture, saving tamaraws from extinction, and helping improve the vegetation in the mountains all in one project. Ms. Sarabia hopes that “this will just be the beginning and that there will be more studies in this type of ecological activity to help not only in stopping the extinction of animals but more importantly, to help indigenous people, not just in that area but in the entire country.” FEU acknowledges the importance of understanding and addressing the needs of fellow Filipinos, that is why it has embraced the Save the Tamaraw Project.

AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS FOR MANGYAN TRIBES

Australian Embassy Second Secretary Alexis Keedle (centre) presents the Php250,000 grant to the Rotary Club of the United Nations Manila District 3810 to support their Mangyan Tribes Sustainable Developments Projects during the handover ceremonies at the Australian Embassy. The grant, which is part of the Australian Government’s Direct Aid Program (DAP), will be used for the construction of a two-classroom school building for literacy empowerment programs, as well as skills training for livelihood opportunities to benefit the Buhid Mangyan Tribe in Occidental Mindoro. Receiving the grant are (from left) Rotary Club President Nielsen Donato and Ms Wilma Redler, IPP and Director of Community Services.

The DAP is designed to support projects which directly contribute to the welfare and income-generating capacity of the poor or disadvantaged groups in Philippine society. It assists small development or humanitarian initiatives where other support is either not available, inadequate or inappropriate to meet essential needs. For more information on DAP, please contact 7578262.