The Pala’wans, one of the indigenous ethnic groups in this province, would often be seen wandering the streets in the city begging for their “pamasko”. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most decided to stay in their homes to avoid contracting the pandemic virus.
Already vulnerable to many other diseases because of lack of access to healthcare services, the indigenous communities in Sitio Bayog in the village of Aribungos in the southern Palawan town of Brooke’s Point held a ritual for the “continuous protection against diseases” including the new COVID-19 strain, which was already reported in the neighboring country of Malaysia.
Held at the Sabsaban Falls which the indigenous people considered to be sacred, tribal chieftain Renila Dulay said they offered prayers to thank their gods and goddesses, requesting protection against the pandemic.
“Sagrado para sa amin ang Sabsaban Falls, para dinggin tayo ng mga diwata. Unang-una, pasasalamat ‘yong ginagawa namin sa ritual at hiniling din namin na protektahan tayo sa pandemic at sa iba pang mga sakit,” Dulay said.
Wearing traditional clothes called “patadyong”, the Pala’wans, known to be animists, offered food called mol-mol and lotlot to appease the good and bad spirits in assisting the tribe in both spiritual and material matters.
The Pala’wans, believed to be descendants of the Tabon cavemen, whose culture can be traced back up to 50,000 years, were one of the earliest people recognized to have inhabited Southeast Asia.
This, Dulay said, highlighted the importance of imparting the rituals and traditions to their younger generations, keeping the culture intact.
“Inaalagaan talaga namin ang kultura at tradisyon ng mga katutubo dito. Ganito kasi kami talaga kaya hanggang sa mga anak at apo ay buhay at makikita kung ano ang Pala’wan,” Dulay said.
In the past, the Pala’wans are hunters, forest-foragers, and cultivators who prefer to live in far-flung upland areas near the forest where they mostly acquire their everyday necessities.
Starting as early as October, the Palaw’ans would mostly be seen around Puerto Princesa City selling baskets, brooms, and other handcrafted products. Due to the influence of the new age, the sources of livelihood for the majority of the tribe have shifted to farming, hunting, honey collection, and rattan gathering as additional sources.
Otol Odi, the first Pala’wan elected as the local chief executive in the neighboring town of Rizal, this year has strengthened the livelihood assistance program to the indigenous people.
At least 50 locals in Rizal town were given farming inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides, amounting to P25,000 each, in an effort to improve their agriculture practices.