I wish to post here every other day but my work schedule this week had prohibited me from doing so, especially since I had to present about Physical Anthropology, a very broad topic, in front of 80 students for just two hours. Imagine my exasperation and we had a black out just as I was almost done with my presentation. That was one day ago.
We did have an enjoyable and, I admit, anthropologically satisfying itinerary. We visited a place called New Israel here in Mindanao (if you’re wondering where Mindanao is, google Philippine map — it’s the southernmost body of islands) well-known for being a sanctuary of macaques.
It was almost an hour trip by L300 van from our university. After that, we rode what is called a habal habal. A habal habal is a motorcycle with extension placed at the end. It’s the mode of transportation in many villages here in the Philippines and it usually carries a total of five passenger — the driver, three passengers lined up at the back of the driver, and one passenger in front of the driver right where the gas tank is.
An ordinary day in the Philippines (Image via PhilBoxing Forum)
What’s really interesting about the place is that a group of macaques are living exactly at the village where the people live. They don’t seem to be scared or have any qualms with the human species. In fact, they were playing with us when we got there. They let us feed them (but never pet them). One even tried to groom one of the students, much to the student’s fear and chagrin. The macaques here seem to be harmonious with the villagers. They’ve established the place as their territory and fight for it against other “tribes” of macaques living near the river and the mountain. The people, in their part, believe that the macaques are the reincarnation of the already deceased people.
The village community itself is also an interesting subject. Things seem to be well-organized around their religion. They call themselves the Moncadista. A morphed type of Christianity, with Rizal and Moncado as holy members of heaven along with God and Christ. The tourist manager explains that in the phrase Alpha and Omega, “Alpha” is God, “and” is Rizal, and “Omega” is Moncado. Moncado is a Filipino considered to be a charismatic leader.
The religion, as I observed, is at the heart of the structure of the community. Their leader is called the Supreme Being. The family of founders of the religion in the area is called “the holy family”. Their houses have the insignia of the religion, as well as the head of the family and the members.
I would leave it to the reader to decide if their brand of Christianity is a cult or not. One anthropologist has labelled them a cult. Whatever they are, they refuse to be called as such.
We toured around the village and a local showed us the crypt of the holy family. He also took us to the trail for the 12 stations of the cross. The view at the end of the trail is amazing. I wish I could build a house there. You could see the view of the landscape below and the mountains beyond that. The air is cold and beautiful plants grow in the area. It was just breathtaking.
Afterwards, I stuttered to present lectures on Intro to Physical Anthro, Evolution and Human Evolution. I wonder if they got the points of my lecture. I hope they did. Sometimes I just feel stupid so I don’t know if I get the information across to my audience.
Note: Photos of the trip will be posted tomorrow.