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Dorina and the Dumagats

Amid the muck and heat that this “summer of COVID-19” has sunk us into, some stories emerge to lift us out of the gloom. Here is one such story shared by documentarist Ditsi Carolino which I’m reprinting here with her permission:

I have a story to tell.

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It begins with Dorina, in the time of COVID-19. A lockdown was declared and no one could go anywhere. She stayed home for a few days, anxious about checkpoints and no jeepneys or trains running. But Dorina had six children to feed. So she walked. And walked some more for three hours til she reached the riverbanks. Still tired from walking, she would wade into the river to pick kangkong (swamp cabbage) for four hours, then hawk them in nearby villages. Then she would take the long trek back home.

Home is on the slopes of Cogeo where she lives with her husband, long-injured from construction work, and her six children, the youngest just a year old with asthma. Dorina tells us, “Hindi po talaga pwedeng hindi ako lumabas sa lockdown. Papa’no kakain ang mga anak ko? Ang mga bata, pag nagutom ’yan,

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iiyak talaga. (I just cannot stay home during the lockdown. How will my children eat? When children go hungry, they will just cry.)”

So every day, she would cross the checkpoints, plead with soldiers to let her through, and walk six hours to pick and sell kangkong. Except for that one fateful day, when she was able to ride VP Leni’s (Robredo) shuttle for frontliners because there were still some seats left.

There, Aison (Carolino’s husband) met her. He saw her looking very tired, firewood and kangkong in tow, so he talked to her. So moved was he by her story, that that weekend, we visited her house bringing rice and canned goods. We met Dorina’s sick husband and young children. But also her mother and sisters and their families, who are all in the same dire straits. Our relief pack was not enough. For every Dorina we meet, there are hundreds more like her, who live far in the interiors and fringes, who are not in any DSWD list.

Meantime, a mountaineer friend told Aison about a tribe community of Dumagats from Daraitan who couldn’t sell their camote, cassava, gabi, and ginger because the market in Antipolo was closed due to the lockdown. Could he help?

Aison says yes. With some financial help from a classmate who wanted to do his share in relief efforts, Aison buys all the Dumagats’ harvest. “All talaga, babe? As in ALL?!!” Sagot niya (he replies), “Eh pa’no naman namin sabihan ang mga Dumagat na ibalik ’yung kinarga nila mula pa sa bundok? (But how do we tell the Dumagat to take back their load that they brought down from the mountains?)”

Okay. Now what to do with 528 kilos of gabi, 232 kilos of cassava, 423 kilos of luya, 293 kilos of camote, 253 kilos of niyog, and 96 kilos of guyabano?!

Enter Facebook and Dorina. An FB shout-out brings in orders from supportive friends. Dorina and her sister pack the veggies, her son and brother-in-law load and unload the cargo, a friend lends a van from a farmers’ network, and Aison drives all over Manila.

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In one week, all the camote, langka, guyabano are sold out. Yay! But we are left with hundreds of kilos of luya, niyog, and gabi.

Still, Dorina and her family are happy to go home with one week’s wages. And since she has sold vegetables all her life, she pleads, “Sana ituloy-tuloy na natin ’to. (Let’s continue this)” And so, on a wing and a prayer, we take a leap of faith with Dorina.

We hook up with one of the strongest online veggie sellers, The “Murang Gulay Shop,” to launch our social enterprise, “Veggie for Good.”

We need your orders in advance so we don’t end up wondering what to do with hundreds of kilos of luya (ginger) ever again.

Help us to spread good by buying your weekly supply of fresh fruits and veggies from us. Go to our FB page Veggies for Good and order online. We deliver.

It’s the only way we know to support the Dumagat farmers of Daraitan and hardworking nanays like Dorina. Sustainably. Mabuhay sila!

[email protected]

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TAGS: At Large, Ditsi Carolino, Dorina, Dumagats, Rina Jimenez-David
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