NPA Rebels Shatter a Mangyan Community Leader's Dreams
BULALACAO, Oriental Mindoro- For a Mangyan tribesman in this island province, being a catalyst for social change is the right response to the problems of his community.
Since 1998, Areston Maming, 38, had been working for various NGO's which came to help his tribe in Upper Yunot, Nasucob village here.
Receiving token amount as compensation for his community works, Maming had gained valuable experiences in a wide array of community affairs such as environmental protection, education and tribal affairs.
Poverty has deprived him of a college education but his love for his community made him mobilize around issues that matter to his people who belong to the most advanced Mangyan sub-tribe, the Hanunoo.
According to ancient Chinese historical accounts, Mangyans are the sole inhabitants of Mindoro island.
The influx of dwellers from other islands had driven the tribes further inland and towards mountainous areas, with the intent of preserving their culturual identity and freedom.
Maming's tribe had succeeded in insulating themselves from outside influences for centuries.
Having the lush forests and mountainous terrains as natural barriers, the community thrived and was able to preserve its unique culture.
However, the tribe is said to be the 'most advanced' among the Mangyans. They can identify over 1,600 species of plants that can be found in the forests.
As a young man, Maming had realized that isolation from the mainstream society has deprived them of advanced learning that they need to adapt to the modern times.
Having no financial capacity to finance his college education, Maming decided to take vocational studies in 1991 to enhance his knowledge about agriculture.
He did not only gather relevant skills and knowledge in school, he also realized the need to help the children in getting a formal education.
Learning about the Bayanihan projects initiated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Maming immediately took the initiative.
He promptly agreed to volunteer as a community organizer that will coordinate all the efforts of the members of the tribe, serving pro bono as the coordinator for ABS-CBN's Sagip Kapamilya Foundation, a partner NGO of the soldiers.
Through his efforts, a school building was constructed by the soldiers and local villagers starting in 2011.
When he saw that the Army engineers had a hard time in manually carrying construction materials and equipment towards the village, he presented a practical solution.
Using their bare hands, he led all able-bodied men in his village to construct the 4-kilometer access road, working side by side with the soldiers.
Through the help of the local government and other partners, the school completed and was equipped with computers, chairs and toilets. The children were also provided with new school bags and other supplies.
Working with the Department of Energy, he was instrumental in bringing electricity towards the village, bringing with it tele-novelas, cartoons and other TV entertainment programs for the first time.
To open up the minds of the young people in his village to the outside world, he facilitated the free Lakbay-Aral for students and parents that allowed them to see big cities in Batangas and Metro Manila.
Threat to the communists
Uknown to Maming, his gradual rise as a community organizer and advocate for community development had angered the hard-core communist leaders who wanted to rule the countryside.
His activities are seen as detrimental to the drive of the communists to keep the people illiterate and poor. The rebels could not influence the people if they are socially aware and capable of solving their own problems.
His latest effort was to facilitate a livelihood seminar for the tribal folks, aimed to establish an income-generating endeavors to alleviate poverty.
To point out their eagerness to take him out, at least 10 NPA rebels swooped down his village 8:00pm on July 20.
Introducing themselves as 'NPA fighters, they inquired about Maming's house.
His wife Nelia could not forget the faces of the rebels whose evil stares made her shiver uncontrollably in fear.
When he was found inside his home, he was hogtied and dragged outside by the heavily-armed men, leaving his 4 dumbfounded children sobbing in silence.
Gunshots broke the silence of the night, ending his dreams and aspirations for his beloved community.
The next morning, his lifeless body was found in the bush near a creekline.
Maming died a hero in his tribe.
For loving his community, he paid the ultimate sacrifice in the hands of the communists. He has left an lifetime legacy in his community which he had served unselfishly in his lifetime.
He will never be forgotten.