By Kathleen Zambas
Imagine you’re in a place with towering mountains covered with thick forest of lushes and greens. There’s crystal-clear sparkling river water, flowing along the bank. Children playing by the river, some hunting fish using bows and arrows, and people crossing a hanging bridge. That scenic, picture-perfect place would surely get you pondering about life and awaken the artist in you.
A clean river with clear spring water that the community enjoys along with green luscious mountains and forest. This is how Datu Herminio Mendoza of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe describes his birth land; Barangay Lumutan, a part of the municipality of Gen. Nakar in Quezon Province.
Malinis ang tubig;
May ilog at sapa.
Mayabong ang kahoy;
Dahon ay sariwa.
Pag ingatan natin nang hindi masira.
(from the poem “Ang Bayan ng Nakar” by Datu Mendoza, 2020)
Mendoza, also known as “Datu” in his pamayanan (tribe), is the head Kaksaan (Tribal leader) of the Dumagat-Remontado tribe of Gen. Nakar. Datu is part of the community Bantay Gubat group that helps protect the forest of Mt. Irid-Angelo where Haribon Foundation, in partnership with Birdlife International and with support from the European Union, is currently implementing the Forest Governance Project (FOGOP). The project aims to help strengthen the involvement of non-state actors like Datu’s Bantay Gubat group in forest protection.
Datu and his group underwent several training activities to help develop their skills and capability in protecting the forest. It also helps build deeper appreciation of the forest where they get their food and living.
Dito’y sinilang ang magulang namin.
Pati lolo’t lola dito na nalibing.
Sa bandang itaas may sapa at gulod;
Na palatandaan na aming sinunod.
Ayon sa Haribon lupa ay mahalin;
At ito ay ating muling pagyamanin.
Wag pabayaan iba ang umangkin;
Sa lupang ninuno na minana natin.
(Lyrics of an untitled song composed and sung by Datu Mendoza, 2020)
His passion towards his duty as a Bantay Gubat and his appreciation for his birth land is shown in Datu’s literary pieces. As a word artist by nature, Datu has always been kind to share his thoughts after training activities through self-composed poems and songs that also help uplift the spirit of his fellow Bantay Gubat members. As a natural leader, Datu knows how to keep his co-participants engaged and actively participates in all of the activities.
Ang sabi nga po ay maraming salamat at tayo’y nagkita.
Matagal nang araw na hinahanap ka.
Ang atay, puso ko’y laon nang nalanta;
Ito’y nanariwa ng tayo’y magsama.
(from the poem “Ang Bayan ng Infanta” by Datu Mendoza, 2018)
He takes every chance he gets to express his thoughts through his poems and songs—and listeners always end up smiling while giving him a round of applause.
Siya ang may gusto na sila ay maluklok;
Sa bayan ng Nakar sa atin maglingkod.
Dahil ang handog ko’y dito natatapos,
Hiling ko’y palakpak, kayo’y magkaroon.
(from the poem “Ang Bayan ng Nakar” by Datu Mendoza, 2019)