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DAVAO CITY, Philippines - On the last day of voter’s registration, members of the tribal community, dressed in the traditional Manobo garb, waited in line while holding their registration forms outside the local office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Davao City.
Sigayan Diyao, 56 years old and a resident of Barangay Tapak, Paquibato District, said with excitement in her eyes that this would be her first time to participate in the elections.
"I was not able to register and vote in the past elections because we had no access to it and we were so busy working in the farm. We were really more concerned in providing food for our family than using the money for transportation to register in the city," Diyao said in the local dialect.
To beat the deadline of registration on Wednesday, October 31, Barangay Tapak treasurer Grace Luntok said that more than 30 Lumad, the local collective term for the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, hiked for 3 hours to be able to ride a truck and then travelled for another two hours to the city.
"Better late than never. We have sacrificed a lot and worked hard to get enough resources for our transportation to go to the Comelec office in Davao," Tapak said.
For Diyao, being a registered voter means having a role in shaping the nation's future.
"If our village can vote, we now have a leverage in asking our leaders to act on our concerns," Diyao said.
She added that with more voters in their village they expect politicians to deliver gifts in the town during the Christmas season. "We are really poor. So with our bigger capacity to bring in votes, we are also hoping that these politicians would bring in gifts for us during Christmas," Diyao said.
However, she clarified that aside from the immediate assistance that politicians can provide them, it would be better if they also offer sustainable programs for the community.
"Access to quality education, health services, roads and peace are the primary needs of the indigenous people in Davao that must be addressed by both local and national politicians," Diyao said.
Despite their eagerness to participate in the May 2013 elections, members of the Manobo tribe said they are apprehensive since it would be their first time to try the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine.
"We are aware of the technology gap. There is no electricity in the different parts of Paquibato. We have not yet seen the machines and we are still clueless on how to use it," Diyao said.
But she said she is optimistic that the teachers assigned in their polling precincts will be able to assist them. - Rappler.com
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