Back to basics

During a session on community driven development (CDD), the lady speaker from the academe recounted the time she and her colleagues, working on a community based research, got stranded on the banks of the mighty Chico River in Kalinga. They had trekked through villages to get to the River, but by the time they arrived the waters had swelled banning any crossing. They were resigned to spend the night camped on the river bank (how, without any camping equipment, was the next problem) if not for their guides, natives from the place, who calmly told them they could actually make a crossing. The guides hied off and returned with trunks of banana trees which to the amazement of the researchers were cut and tied to what looked like a raft. It then became clear to the researchers that they were going to make the crossing on that raft. And then the group were told to strip down, to leave only their underwear. The researchers were stunned but this was abated when their guides explained that the raft, which is of very light material, would turn over from the additional weight of their clothing. Somebody from the group thought to ask, but what happens to our clothes? what will we use when we’re on the other side? The guides produced a couple of used empty cans of Exora, local brand of cooking oil, similar to those used by Baguio Oil. Apparently, their clothes were going inside the cans and floated alongside the raft.

At the time, cinemas in Metro Manila were showing the movie, Hubad na Bayani (A Stripped Hero), and Dr. Michael Tan, who was with the group, said, honestly, people, I’ve never wanted nor have ever dreamt to be a hero especially a naked one! As they were stripping down, he mused aloud, I hope I haven’t put on my ratty boxers this morning. Loud laughter erupted throughout the session hall.  I nearly spilt my coffee on the pristine white table cloth.

The rural particularly the hinterlands is like the metropolitan city to the first timer, but unlike the city where if one can read and understand one will not get lost, there are no signboards in the hinterlands that will direct or inform first timers. There is only the vastness that is nature, which natives have learned to read, understand, and therefore, know. This is the sort of knowledge they have that educated city folks don’t have which, according to the lady speaker, and illustrated by her story, is taken for granted, dismissed as inferior, and treated as cultural artefact (we’ve named it- Indigenous Knowledge or IK).

Somebody from the audience said, “they (natives) have lots more common sense which we in educated circles seem to have lost”.

Indeed. And for me the stripping was symbolic of the need, at critical times, to go back to what’s basic e.g. trust, simplicity, humility, honesty in order to “get across” a problem or issue. CDD is fundamentally this.

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