Dagdag Dunong Reading Center ~ Baco, Philippines
Over the past few years we have worked with non-profit, all volunteer Dagdag Dunong Reading Center to construct a reading and literacy center to serve indigenous and impoverished Mangyan children residing in Baco, Mindoro, Philippines. Despite setbacks from typhoons and the pandemic, construction continued and we are now thrilled to share with you the completion of the reading center which opened with much fanfare on September 8th.
The reading center is designed to be typhoon and flood proof, and provides a safe, welcoming place for indigenous children to improve their reading and writing skills. These children and their families are for the most part desperately poor and deprived by the government of basic human rights, discriminated against for being members of indigenous tribes of Mangyan people who have lived on Mindoro since before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines.
The children’s smiles hide the oppression they experience from having their basic human rights violated and from discrimination, according to Ms. Ana. They have no potable water and no electricity. Their family lands are being confiscated from their parents by mining companies eager to profit and who have the backing of the government. Because of the existing mines and 100 applications for new mines pending, the habitats of the Mangyan people are at risk of being destroyed. This risk is intensified by the armed conflict on Mindoro between government armed forces and armed local groups resisting the mining.
This is Dagdag Dunong Reading Center’s second location, the first location established in 2006 in Manila. The reading centers are the brainchild of Ms. Ana Maria Bacudio, a medical technician in Manila by day and a devoted storyteller in the evenings and on weekends. With her volunteer team, the centers come alive with literacy and other educational activities for poor, disadvantaged children, many who reside on the streets. The reading centers not only nourish the children's minds with books, but also their bodies by providing healthy meals each day. The children also have access to running water and toilets. Ms. Ana received Mayor Alfredo Lin’s Plaque of Recognition for rendering exemplary service in the field of education, and in 2012 the Dagdag Dunong Center was nominated for the prestigious IBBY- Asahi Reading Promotion Award.
As part of the literacy program at the new Dagdag Dunong Reading Center, Ms. Ana is planning to teach the Mangyan children to read and write in their native language as well as in Tagalog and English. The Mangyan tribes write in a system that is based on the original Philippine phonetic system in Baybayin, which was discarded when the Spaniards arrived on the island.
The Mangyans offer a rich artistic and linguistic heritage, which must not be allowed to end. The National Museum declared the Mangyan tribes’ systems of writing a “National Cultural Treasure” in 1997, and in 1999 UNESCO inscribed Mangyan scripts in the “Memory of the World” registry, and yet, little is known about them.
Our first project with Ms. Ana was funding the Jeepney of Hope mobile library!
The Jeepney of Hope is a sturdy 4-wheel drive jeep that brings books, literacy materials, and offers free storytime sessions to children in remote areas on the island of Mindoro. When WaterBridge Outreach donated copies of Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown to the Dagdag Dunong Reading Center in Manila as part of our books and water outreach program, the story of a burro who brings books to hard to reach villages, convinced Ms. Ana that she could do something similar in the Philippines. The result was the Jeepney of Hope loaded with books in Tagalog and English. With the construction of the reading center now complete the Jeepney of Hope has a new home: a dry, secure garage on the lower level of the building.