Tara and I were thinking of skipping Bohol altogether, because of the seeming inexistence of any indigenous peoples community in the province. Although we would want to visit Panglao beach and enjoy it for at least a day, doing just that in Bohol didn’t quite justify the trip to the province for us. But, to be sure, Tara and I did a search on Google Images for “indigenous peoples” + “Bohol” and that’s when we saw the Eskaya scripts. We looked at the pictures for a while and, almost at the same time, said “We gotta go here, man.” And, so we did.
Finding the Eskayas was quite tricky. In Tagbilaran, we took a bus going to Ubay, which is two towns from Duero, not knowing if we would actually find the tribe that we so wanted to meet and know more about. In the almost three hours of travel, we enjoyed the beautiful whites, blues, and greens that we saw. This is why I love travelling by land – I get to experience and witness the beauty that the places I pass by have to offer.
While on the bus, Tara and I asked a couple of passengers if they know how we could get to the Eskaya tribe in Duero. They were kind of hesitant to point us to the right direction. I didn’t know why. I told Tara that the way they were being got to my space, such that I was then thinking if it would be too much of a risk pushing through with meeting this tribe. In my mind, if the locals, who were supposed to be proud of this community or at least know of them, were scared of them, then maybe we’re pushing things too far this time.
We alighted in Duero and went up a shop to buy something that would cover Tara’s tattoo from the scorching heat of the sun. It was getting more painful and itchier by the minute.
We found a store on the second floor, where Tara bought her red bandana. We asked the guy who was there if he knew about the Eskaya tribe. He was speaking in their dialect but when he mentioned the keyword, Taytay, we immediately asked him if there’s anyone he trusts who could bring us to the community. He went down and found our manong habal-habal.
The guy we rode with has been a habal-habal driver for at least 8 years. He also used to deliver bread to the community in the earlier years, which made it perfect for us. The road was rough and there were times when I felt like we were in a different world, something I imagined myself to be in if I’d ever meet a fairy or a goddess. It was overall a pleasant ride, except that our butts really hurt, especially Tara’s who was partly sitting on the metal part of the motorcycle.
We got to Taytay with no single scratch. It’s a beautiful community with lush greens and on a mountain. Our manong habal-habal went to their barangay hall, I think, to look for the maestra who could give us more information about the Eskaya tribe.
The Eskaya tribe is a tribe of its own. Their alphabet has 46 letters, 20 more letters than the English alphabet, and are basically derived from one’s body, body parts and body movements. They hold classes in their traditional school, Eskaya ya Pilipayen, every Saturday and Sunday. But, one great thing I learned during our conversation was that their traditions are incorporated in the Deped curriculum. It was a pleasant surprise, mainly because it would be too much of a disappointment if their culture would be lost at one point or another.
We also saw their manifesto, printed in their script, expressing the agreement that they would forever preserve their culture and traditions. That was, again, something that made me proud about this community. It is my hope that all indigenous peoples tribes in the Philippines would also commit to preserving their traditions, culture, and art and pass them on to the next generations.
We only stayed there for a couple of hours. But, in between our arrival and going back to the town proper, I got their warmth and hospitality. We even got to visit the tribal leader’s house and met his wife and his sister, who was incidentally the maestra. They gave us their own rendition of Lupang Hinirang, sang in Eskaya dialect. It was really great having had the opportunity to experience the culture of this community, not known to many.
- Visiting indigenous peoples communities in the Philippines – The start of it all
- Project Breaking Down Barriers: Getting to Bohol
- Project Breaking Down Barriers: Meeting the Eskaya tribe in Duero, Bohol
- Project Breaking Down Barriers: The 10-minute Chocolate Hills experience
- Project Breaking Down Barriers: From Bohol to Cebu, to Leyte, to Samar
- Visiting indigenous peoples communities – how we did it
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