Water for Health, reads the sign painted on the water tank.
Some 105 families, Indigenous Peoples (IPs) of Simariki Island, Brgy talon-talon will now enjoy potable water right in their community. In the past, residents of Simariki had to cross the waters to Rio Hondo to buy safe drinking water.
The Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU) through its Center for Community Extension Services (CCES), in partnership with the Assisi Development Foundation, Inc. (ADFI) turned over a water system project and a two-classroom building on stilts to the Sama-Bangingi Community last January 25, 2017 in Simariki, Talon-Talon, this city.
As part of its peace program, AdZU has been extending assistance to residents of Simariki Island, helping rebuild the community which was severely affected by the 2013 siege through various projects on health, education, and livelihood.
The water project, which consists of a rain catchment system and ZCWD-linked water tanks, forms part of AdZU-CCES’ health program in the island.
A symbolic ceremony marked the turnover of the Water for Health Project, with the planting of bakawan seedlings to symbolize unity, solidarity and cooperation among stakeholders. CCES director Loreta Sta Teresa explained how the sea plant bakawan is intertwined with the lives of the Sama tribe, stating how they are strongly connected to the waters where the bakawan mangroves grow, and how strongly attached they are as a people to the seas which is their home and also their source of livelihood.
The classrooms, funded by the Ilawan Foundation, will school 40 kindergarten and grade 1 pupils of the island under the Indigenous Peoples Education (IPED) program of the Department of Education (DepEd). IPED is a culture-based education program designed to form students to become culture bearers who shall help promote their culture and lead their community in claiming, protecting and exercising their rights to self-determination.
In his message during the program, AdZU President Fr Karel San Juan, SJ, cited that the project highlighted the partnership and friendship forged among AdZU, its partner development agencies and the Indigenous People (IP) of Simariki. While the University has helped the community with various projects on health, education and livelihood, he said that there has also been an “exchange of gifts” between the University, its partners and the community. In return, Fr San Juan said that the University and its partners have received valuable life lessons learned from associating with members of the community.
Other highlights of the event were the “Pag-Dua’ Salamat,”a Sama Bangingi thanksgiving ritual led by Imam Amilhamja Sali and the reading of a public notice by the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP) pertaining to the delineation activities for the Ancestral Domain Claim of the island by the Sama Bangingi that will commence on February 8, 2017. Included here was the issuance of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title to the Sama Bangingi Tribe of Simariki Island.
Also present during the event was Fr Wilfredo Samson, SJ, AdZU Asst to the President for Formation, together with representatives from partner agencies: Assisi Development Foundation Inc (ADFI) and ILAWAN Foundation president Benjamin Abadiano; Rozanno Rufino, coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Education Office of the Department of Education (DepEd) – Zamboanga, Dr. Evelyn Villa and Engr. Eulalyn Fernandez, also of DepEd, Pio Fuentes of ADFI, Councilor Tungku Hanapi, Indigenous People Representative to the City Council; Talon-talon Brgy. Chair Casmir Candido, Tribal Chieftain Nasir Ismula and Amilhamja Ismael of the Simariki Island Sama-Bangingi Association (SISBA); and guests: Dr. Grace Rebollos and Espie Hupida from Zamboanga Basilan Integrated Development Association (ZABIDA), Bernardita Modino and day care workers from the City Social Welfare Development of Talon-Talon, MISERIOR, Subanons from Leha-Leha and Bajaus from Masepla and Buggoc; and teachers of Simariki Island School for IPs, adult learners, parents and pupils.
About the same time last year, the AdZU-CCES, with assistance from the Jesuit Mission in Germany, turned over 29 bancas to the same Sama-Bangingi community in Mariki, as part of its livelihood project for the community.