Chieftain Martin Gupo recalls the damages caused by the typhoon Odette inside the Batak museum.

The Batak indigenous peoples (IP) community in Tagnaya in the outskirt barangay of Concepcion is still enduring hardships two months after typhoon Odette wreaked havoc on their livelihood and homes.

They sought temporary shelter in the Batak Visitor Center along the highway in Tarabanan following the typhoon, but even its structures, such as the museum and pavilion, were devastated.

According to Martin Gupo, chieftain of the Batak IPs in Tagnaya, in addition to their dwellings being demolished, they are also concerned about the destruction of their costumes and cultural item collections at the center’s museum. The facility is part of a city tour package that Gupo concedes may be difficult to put together until local tourism picks up again.

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The Batak museum now serves as the temporary shelter for families evacuated from their houses after the typhoon

“Ang sitwasyon ngayon [mahirap], huminto, unang-una dahil sa pandemic kaya walang turista na pumupunta. Kapag na-open kasi at nakabalik ang mga turista rito, saka kami makakapaghanda ng costume—ngayon wala pa kaming idea kung kailan,” he said.

The Batak people used to perform for visitors and tourists at the center, earning roughly P6,000 per performance. They also receive other sorts of assistance there, such as food, health care, and guidance in preserving their culture and customs.

When the pandemic came, and Odette hit their community in Tagnaya, Gupo admitted they feel like losing hope.

He expressed their sorrow for all of their losses, including the Namwan trees felled by Odette, whose bark is used to make the male performers’ costumes during traditional rituals.

Some of the Batak members residing within the area of Batak Center

“Iyong kinukunahan namin ng bahag, balat ng kahoy, iyon ay naapektuhan ng Odette–iyong mga costume, pagdating ni Odette, iyon ay nawala, naanod ng baha. Iyong pinagkukunan namin ng costume ng lalaki ay yari sa balat ng kahoy. Iyon ay naubos din at ngayon ay wala kami mapagkukunan,” Gupo said.

Gupo recounted that Batak cultural preservation began improving in 2007, following its incorporation as a city tourism activity in 2005. Various private firms and organizations assisted the Batak population in preserving their culture and enhancing their livelihood by presenting their heritage through performances and handicrafts in the Batak Center.

Tourists’ absence impacted not only their income but also the Batak Visitor Center’s upkeep. It resulted in damage to their tribal hall, making it more vulnerable to flooding and landslides.

There are 60 Batak households in Tagnaya, 21 of which chose to live within the Batak Visitor Center after Odette. The museum showcasing the group’s cultural objects is now a shelter for other families.

The current situation of the Batak Center after the flooding and landslide.

“Walang natira (na costume), sa museum may mga na-damage tulad ng sa panghuli ng isda at saka panghuli namin ng manok na wild. Iyong nilalagyan ng ninuno namin ng honey, ngayon kasi may container na, noon wala. Ang nilalagyan nila ay yari sa kawayan, tinangay lahat. At saka ‘yong mga basket na ginagawa, handicraft na sana ay meron kaming tindahan. Kaya lang pagdating ng Odette, nawala ‘yon,” he said.

The Batak IPs are also dependent on almaciga trees, but after Odette, Gupo is uncertain about the condition of the trees on the mountain.

“Hindi pa rin namin napuntahan kung anong kalagayan ng almaciga namin na naubos matumba. Hindi pa namin napuntahan ‘yong area ng almaciga,” he said.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.