Laki Iwan, a beloved Buid elder, was about 90 when he slipped on a patch of mud in his village several months ago, fell, hit his head, and died. His body was discovered several hours after the accident.
The man was suffused with a spirit of far-sighted generosity, to judge by an article last week in a news source from the Philippines. He donated the land for several schools for his community during his life, a legacy that other villagers acknowledged fondly.
He was a resident of the hamlet of Sitio Danlog, in Barangay Monteclaro of the town of San Jose, on Mindoro Island, and he was always known for his generous spirit. One of his 80-some grandchildren and great grandchildren recalled that “he would always give us bananas for food …” He evidently planted foods just so he could give them away to others. Another grandchild recalled his penchant for always keeping his word. His family says that he frequently exhorted them to study hard for the future of the people.
Founding schools was his special passion. When he realized that a high school he founded, referred to as Pamana Ka, was growing successfully, he decided it was important to have a document prepared that would ensure that his gift of his land for the school would not be rescinded by any of his heirs after his death. The administrator of the school, a nun, was impressed, since the idea had not occurred to her.
The high school recently graduated 10 students from the different Mangyan societies, including the Buid, of whom seven plan to go on to college. Three of those college-bound students plan to apply to the new indigenous peoples’ college, Pamulaan, founded by the University of Southeastern Philippines on its campus in Davao City.
Laki Iwan’s first gift was a patch of land for the village of Danlog itself. Then he gave land for a school, then, with the agreement of his children (his wife had died), he gave more land for schools. He enjoyed carrying produce from his fields, such as bananas and vegetables, into the schools.
The news article about the generous Mangyan farmer adds an interesting dimension to the scholarship of Thomas Gibson (1985), who wrote about sharing among the Buid. Gibson indicates that the Buid frequently practice sharing with their collective laboring parties. He writes that the “core symbol” of the Buid, their “ideal image of social behavior” (p.392), is a cooperative activity engaged in by companions.
Gibson goes on to explain that the most effective social relationships among the Buid are not based on kinship. Instead, relationships are founded on companionship, which implies that they are autonomous, voluntary, and easily ended. Their social and moral order, in fact, is based on the symbolism of companionship. Laki Iwan apparently took those traditional Buid values to a higher level, so he is gratefully remembered for his generous spirit.