Project Breaking Down Barriers: Meeting the Eskaya tribe in Duero, Bohol

Tara and I were thinking of skipping Bohol altogether, because of the seeming inexistence of any indigenous peoples community in the province.  Although we would want to visit Panglao beach and enjoy it for at least a day, doing just that in Bohol didn’t quite justify the trip to the province for us.  But, to be sure, Tara and I did a search on Google Images for “indigenous peoples” + “Bohol” and that’s when we saw the Eskaya scripts.  We looked at the pictures for a while and, almost at the same time, said “We gotta go here, man.”  And, so we did.

Finding the Eskayas was quite tricky.  In Tagbilaran, we took a bus going to Ubay, which is two towns from Duero, not knowing if we would actually find the tribe that we so wanted to meet and know more about.  In the almost three hours of travel, we enjoyed the beautiful whites, blues, and greens that we saw.  This is why I love travelling by land – I get to experience and witness the beauty that the places I pass by have to offer.

While on the bus, Tara and I asked a couple of passengers if they know how we could get to the Eskaya tribe in Duero.  They were kind of hesitant to point us to the right direction.  I didn’t know why.  I told Tara that the way they were being got to my space, such that I was then thinking if it would be too much of a risk pushing through with meeting this tribe.  In my mind, if the locals, who were supposed to be proud of this community or at least know of them, were scared of them, then maybe we’re pushing things too far this time.

We alighted in Duero and went up a shop to buy something that would cover Tara’s tattoo from the scorching heat of the sun.  It was getting more painful and itchier by the minute.

We found a store on the second floor, where Tara bought her red bandana.  We asked the guy who was there if he knew about the Eskaya tribe.  He was speaking in their dialect but when he mentioned the keyword, Taytay, we immediately asked him if there’s anyone he trusts who could bring us to the community.  He went down and found our manong habal-habal.

The guy we rode with has been a habal-habal driver for at least 8 years.  He also used to deliver bread to the community in the earlier years, which made it perfect for us.  The road was rough and there were times when I felt like we were in a different world, something I imagined myself to be in if I’d ever meet a fairy or a goddess.  It was overall a pleasant ride, except that our butts really hurt, especially Tara’s who was partly sitting on the metal part of the motorcycle.

We got to Taytay with no single scratch.  It’s a beautiful community with lush greens and on a mountain.  Our manong habal-habal went to their barangay hall, I think, to look for the maestra who could give us more information about the Eskaya tribe.

Eskaya ya Pilipayen

Maestra

The Eskaya tribe is a tribe of its own.  Their alphabet has 46 letters, 20 more letters than the English alphabet, and are basically derived from one’s body, body parts and body movements.  They hold classes in their traditional school, Eskaya ya Pilipayen, every Saturday and Sunday.  But, one great thing I learned during our conversation was that their traditions are incorporated in the Deped curriculum.  It was a pleasant surprise, mainly because it would be too much of a disappointment if their culture would be lost at one point or another.

Eskaya ya Pilipayen

46 Letters of Eskaya Alphabet

Eskaya heroes

Eskaya numbers

Body parts in Eskaya

Evolution in Eskaya

Eskaya tablet

Eskaya tablet

Eskaya tablet

Eskaya tablet

Eskaya tablet

We also saw their manifesto, printed in their script, expressing the agreement that they would forever preserve their culture and traditions.  That was, again, something that made me proud about this community.  It is my hope that all indigenous peoples tribes in the Philippines would also commit to preserving their traditions, culture, and art and pass them on to the next generations.

Manifesto page 1

Manifesto page 2

We only stayed there for a couple of hours.  But, in between our arrival and going back to the town proper, I got their warmth and hospitality.  We even got to visit the tribal leader’s house and met his wife and his sister, who was incidentally the maestra.  They gave us their own rendition of Lupang Hinirang, sang in Eskaya dialect.  It was really great having had the opportunity to experience the culture of this community, not known to many.

Maestra enjoying viewing their video

With the tribal leader's wife and sister



Liked what you read?  Share the love!  Follow See ya, Monica on social media to get updates on my recent travels, with tips and a lot of shares on what I got during my trips.  Plus, some barely edited photos to give you the most authentic feel of the place. (I do not know how to use Photoshop, and what I can only do are cropping, adjusting brightness and colors the way I remember it):

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Thank you! And, in whatever space you’re in now, I hope that you get something from reading my articles.

See ya,
Monica

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10 thoughts on “Project Breaking Down Barriers: Meeting the Eskaya tribe in Duero, Bohol

    1. Hi Ge Ann! I’m glad you liked the post. :) And, yes, it would be worth the trip going to Taytay (through Duero) when you guys visit Bohol. :)

  1. Hi. I would just like to ask, do you have any documentary or videos regarding Eksaya’s culture? We have decided to make Eksaya as our topic in our film documentary with the theme “Filipino Culture in the Advent of Globalization”. The said film documentary will focus on Eksaya’s changing customs and traditions brought by globalization. However, there are only few supporting videos and pictures in the internet.
    Thank you. :)

    1. Hi Kiezel! Apologies for the late response. Really good to know that you’ve decided to make Eskaya your topic for your film documentary. I think they’re one of our communities who have a lot to share and who need support in terms of making their traditions and culture known to more people.

      Unfortunately, though, I didn’t get to take any video during our visit. My camera didn’t have the capacity. :) But, if there’s any other way I can support you in your project, let me know. :)

  2. ito ba ung cnasabing tribe daw na ksamang gumawa sa tower of david?
    at may nag sasabi din na baka daw cla daw ung nawawalang ikaw 12 tribes ng israel? …

    due to their language and writings

    1. Hello Gbert :)

      To be honest, I haven’t heard of that story. Pero, I didn’t know of Eskaya tribe’s existence din naman until the latter part of 2012, when we saw their pics on the web. But, yes, I have heard of questions about where they really came from, like if they’re really indigenous to the Philippines. I was looking for other write-ups on them but I haven’t found anything really informative (so if you have other resources, kindly point me to the right direction!). And, we only had a coupla hours of interaction with them so we just really enjoyed the moment. :) Where did you learn of that story? Maganda ngang aralin ang Eskaya tribe. Baka pwedeng research topic. ;)

      Thanks for visiting my blog!

      Cheers,
      Monica

    1. Hi Bamps!

      It is quite far from the city. From Tagbilaran, it took us a couple of hours, I think. Then, we had to hire a habal-habal to get us to Taytay Village, where they are based. For that, if memory serves, it took us another hour or so. But, the view getting there is amazing. :)

      From what I heard, there are some who actually opt for homestay with them. I didn’t get to try this one though, so I am afraid I cannot give further information.

      I felt safe going there, to be honest. It is one of those places not frequented by tourists, though, so you need to make sure that you get a habal-habal driver who knows the place or have been there in the past. When we went, we were lucky to find someone who knew the place and who’ve been there several times (he delivered bread to the neighborhood). It wasn’t quite easy for us, though, because we didn’t know how to speak Bisaya. We just used keywords like “Taytay Village”, “Duero”, “Eskaya”. We were lucky that someone understood that we were looking for someone to bring us there and knew someone who is familiar with the place. :)

      I hope this helps! Are you planning to go there soon? Let me know how it goes. And, safe travels to you!

      Cheers,
      Monica

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