Early marriage still common among T’boli tribe noted

T’BOLI, South Cotabato (MindaNews/6 Oct) – With early marriage still prevalent among the tribal community here, the national government’s health caravan dubbed “Lakbay Buhay Kalusugan” (LBK) rolled out here Thursday in a bid to lessen such phenomenon as well as provide health care services.

Mayor Ernesto Manuel expressed hopes the municipality, with 70 percent of the population composed of indigenous people, mostly T’bolis, could rise from poverty with the attention such as this caravan from the national government.

“In our case, we have 10, 12 year old [T’boli] girls getting married already, and so they were forced to stop schooling,” Manuel said, lamenting this as a major reason for the poor plight of many of his tribal constituents.

“We would like to discourage early marriage [hopefully with this health caravan],” he added, thanking the organizers of the health caravan held at the Barangay Aflek gymnasium here.

In the traditional T’boli culture, marriages are prearranged by the parents and may be contracted at any age, even immediately after the child’s birth.

The mayor also stressed the need for a continuing family planning education among the tribal members to help them out of poverty.

South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. said the province “is blessed” for having been chosen as one of the destinations of the pilot year of the LBK health caravan of the Department of Health.

“Health provision, especially for the poorest of the poor, is a priority program of the provincial government,” said Pingoy, himself a professional doctor, noting the thousands of Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) cards they have distributed across the province.

The health caravan implored the importance of pre-natal check-up, safe pregnancy and delivery, birth spacing and hand washing amid a festive atmosphere here spliced with cultural performances from the natives.

Some 1,500 residents in the town have been expected to avail the services of the LBK caravan, organizers said.

Aligned with the Aquino administration’s health agenda of universal access to quality health care, LBK aims to bring quality health information, education and services to Filipino people especially in remote communities.

The LBK features a bus customized with consultation and examination clinics and a health promotion arena of interactive exhibits, health classes and wellness activities, storytelling sessions, cooking demos, games and raffles, dance contests and entertainment shows focused on safe motherhood, child nutrition and family health.

LBK carries the theme “Walang Iwanan sa Biyaheng Kalusugan.”

The LBK in South Cotabato was the eighth in a 10-leg destination that started in Capas, Tarlac last March.

Five destinations have been identified in Mindanao. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)