In the meantime, 18 Aetas, Mangyans, and Dumagats will, for the first time in their lives, take an airplane on Sept. 11 to represent the country in the first Asian Tribal Olympics initiated by Filipinos, to be held in Ranau village in Sabah, Malaysia from Sept. 16 to 18.
“It is the first step towards our plan to hold the first international tribal Olympics five years from now, in 2015. Our plan is for that international event to be held at Clark,” Guy Hilbero, founder of the Mabalacat Tribal Association (MATA) and tourism chief of the municipality of Mabalacat in this province, told Punto Central Luzon.
In November last year, the country held its first national tribal sports competition in this freeport which is bordered by the Mt. PInatubo mountain ranges serving as ancestral domain of Aeta cultural folk.
The 18 tribal folk to represent the Philippines in the competitions in Malaysia were the winners in the national tribal Olympics here last year. The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Philippine Soft Tennis Association (PSTA) with the support of other groups sponsored the prestigious event.
The coming Asian Tribal Olympics was initiated also by the same group which plans to hold the Asian games yearly to pave the way for the international level competitions in 2015. It was arranged as a partnership project with Malaysian sports officials.
“The game categories are such that tribal folk from other countries would also be skilled in them, such as archery, spear throwing, and running,” Hilbero said.
He noted plans to invite representatives from major tribal groups worldwide, particularly those in the African continent, for the International Tribal Olympics.
The Philippine representatives to the Asian Tribal Olympics include Aetas Dumlao Naval, Jimmy and his brother Manalo Ablong who will participate in trival archery; Aetas Abel Nabal and Junior Ocampo and Mangyan Apollo Rinangyan in archery assault; Aetas Pilo Ablong and Ronnie Cabalit and Dumagat Ricardo Turgo in tree-top archery, and; Mangyans Reynaldo Panagsagan and Jerry Manalo, and Dumagat Marlon Luna in spear throwing.
For the 150-meter sprint games, the Filipino representatives are Mangyans Reynaldo Panagsagan and Abel Malinao and Aeta Jessie Rogando in the male category, and Dumagat Manilyn Ritlao, Mangyan Jonalyn Masangkay, and Aeta Helen Candule in the female category.
As most of them were born in their tribal villages, they did not have birth certificates so that special negotiations had to be made for their passports, Hilbero said.
The opening of the first Asian competitions in Sabah will formally opened by top Malaysian sports officials led by Johnson Koh, as well as PSTA president Jeff Antonio Tamayo Jr.
“September will be a historical event for the world’s tribal folk because of the holding of the first Asian tribal games to usher in an international Olympics for them,” Tamayo said.
Apart from Filipino tribal representatives, the games will also be participated in by sports folk from Malaysia and Indonesia. Representatives from Thailand and Brunei will also be there as observers, Hilbero said.
“Next year, we hope to hold the Asian games in Laos in our bid to have more official participation from more countries in Asia,” he added.
The venue for the tribal games is a four-hour ride from Kota Kinabalu where, upon their arrival at the airport there, the tribal sports representatives are slated to perform cultural dances at the opening ceremonies for the Southeast Asian Soft Tennis Federaton championships at the Likas Sports Complex in Kota Kinabalu.
Expenses for the country’s tribal folk are being shouldered by the groups of Tamayo and Hilbero.