Barangay Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato is located at the foot of Mt. Matutum and is predominantly inhabited by the Blaan tribe. Indigenous Peoples (IP) like Blaans are among the most marginalized sectors of the Philippine Society. Aside from the geographic isolation, IPs also encounter cultural isolation, particularly in the areas of health and development.
Landan’s distance from developed areas and Blaans’ unique and unusual tradition have pushed them to the margins where health and development services cannot reach them. Imagine a pregnant woman riding a habal-habal just to get to the nearest health station or a woman giving birth at home due to absence of emergency vehicle, distance of the birthing facility, and/or fear of discrimination.
These scenarios led to the initiation of HFI’s Steps to Wellness campaign last 2015 with the goal of building the first culturally-sensitive ALAGA KA Barangay Health Station in Landan with a Blaan-inspired architecture and manned by a Blaan health professional. Three years later, the first culturally-sensitive Blaan-inspired Birthing Home was made possible by the donors of the Steps to Wellness initiatives, and partnership Polomolok LGU, Landan BLGU, Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, and United Architects of the Philippines – SOCSKSARGEN.
The Landan Birthing Home Turnover Ceremonies was held on a full moon of 26 August 2018 at just about sunrise. The program started with a unity and healing welcome dance led by selected Blaan youth. Everybody joined finger to finger forming a circle while the dancers chanted. After the messages from the guests and the signing of deed of donation, the tribal priest started the Blaan traditional blessing with a chant. Everyone followed the spiritual leader around the perimeter of the facility as he whisked water from a bamboo pitcher around the building.
Before entering the birthing home, the guests were made to wash their hands from another bamboo pitcher. As each guest entered the facility, a tribal priestess performed a cleaning ritual using water and a combination of herbs. Then the tribal spiritual leaders went into the facility and blessed each room with water from the bamboo pitcher and the herbs. Blaan community dancing with the guests followed. The morning ended with a traditional Blaan breakfast and a Blaan feast later in the morning.
With the birth of the first culturally-sensitive barangay health station in the Philippines, the Landan Birthing Home, 7000 people in Landan have now access to primary health care.