Albay Agta tribe adapts to extreme weather via indigenous ways

March 27, 2015 2:21 am 

By Rhaydz B. Barcia

TIWI, Albay, March 26 (PNA) — Lydia Ariate, 53, mother of four children and a resident of Sitio May Harige, an upland tribal sub-village of Barangay Misibis in this town, dwells in a house locally called by indigenous people as "kurob."

Made from indigenous materials, kurob is a tribal home built before the onset of weather disturbance to ensure the safety of the family even during disastrous typhoons like the deadly super typhoon "Reming" in 2006 that killed 1,500 people.

For the Agta-Tabangnon tribe in Albay, to which Ariate belongs, the effective and best ways to acclimatize themselves to the extreme weather events brought about by climate change are to plant camote (sweet potato) and to dwell in kurob for survival in times of bad weather.

Kurob is a unique type of house built by the Agtas using coconut or nipa leaves for walls and scissor-type wooden reinforcement to the roof structure.

It is a small, enclosed structure, a one-room enclosement that serves as living and sleeping room, kitchen and dining room with a wood flooring slightly elevated above the ground and several posts put in the ground with a scissor-type frame.

This tribal house can withstand the howling winds during typhoons that ravage the country every year, according to Erlinda Cereno, 47, tribal chieftain of Tabgon.

A unique feature of this house is the absence of iron nails for the entire framework as the indigenous people use rattan and "bakbak" (dried bark of the abaca) to tie the posts, walls, roofing and the frame of the house itself.

The Agtas use their special skill in tying the rattan and bakbak to ensure the resiliency of the kurob house.

To keep the structure safe and steady even with the howling winds, sturdy hard wood formed like scissors is placed on top.

“Nipa huts were our original houses but in times of bad weather, we build individual or community kurob in the mountain for our survival. Kurob house is a proven structure since time immemorial, according to our ancestors, which was confirmed effective during 'Reming' wherein only kurob withstood the deadly typhoon while almost all houses in the lowland were flattened to the ground,” Cereno said.

Felix Condeno, 55, Agta-Tabangnon Federation Tribal chieftain in Tiwi town, said even long before scientists, local officials and disaster responders adapted to the adverse impact of climate change, the tribal communities here had already instituted their adaptive capability as taught by their ancestors.

“We read science through natural signs and prepare for our survival long before the bad weather disturbance, like typhoon, wallops the country. All my life, kurob is our shelter and camote is our staple food as this is the ‘all-weather crop’,” Condeno claimed.

He said they plant camote a few months before the onset of bad weather events as this is the only root crop that could survive all types of weather.

During typhoons and dry seasons, the chieftain added, sweet potato could survive among all crops, aside from the fact that it continuously generates income for several months during a hostile weather.

Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), locally known as "kamote,” is considered as one of the important food crops in the country, specifically in the Bicol Region, wherein from being a lowly and poor man’s crop, it is now emerging as a competitive staple food — next to rice.

Camote is Albay’s second staple food as well as a good source of income for local farmers here.

Sweet potato is considered as a vegetable and a staple food — especially during lean months and typhoon seasons — with twice fiber content and higher source of potassium.

The short-growing period of the crop, its high nutritive value, its adaptability in marginal and harsh environments, its low input requirements, and its suitability in many cropping systems give sweet potato a well-defined advantage over many crops in this province that is considered as a one-stop-shop or laboratory of natural calamities.

The Agta Tabangnon tribe of Bicol is normally nomadic.

In Albay province, specifically in Tiwi town, there are four tribal communities living in the upland villages of Mayong, Misibis, Tabgon and Joroan.

The Agtas are found in the Bicol Peninsula, living in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes.

They live in far-flung barangays, slopes of Mt. Asog and Mt. Isarog as well as hinterlands throughout the provinces of the Bicol Region.

Their adaptive capacity for the changing climate is based on home-grown and proven effective employment of indigenous practices.

But with the harsh and bleak climate condition due to global warming, Condeno admitted that the weather pattern is completely dismal and threatening to their children’s survival.(PNA)



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