By Jane Timbancaya-Urbanek

MANONG VICTORINO is one of the mildest, very dignified, very calm and serene human beings I have met in my life. This man inspires respect and admiration in whoever he meets. He is about 5 feet 7 inches tall, fair-skinned, of stocky body structure, and quite good-looking. If you see him in NCCC or at the lobby of the Legend Hotel, dressed up like the way he usually is, with his shirt usually tucked-in in his usually very well-pressed light colored slacks — you would never suspect that he is a tribal man, a Tagbanua.

He is the president of the Berong Aramaywan Tagbanua Association, Inc. (BATA) — the recipient of the royalty funds from the Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC). Recently, BNC turned over P15.4 million to the BATA, something that of course hit the papers, including the national dailies.

This is the first time that a mining company did it like the way BNC did: they kept the royalty in trust while waiting for the Tagbanua to organize and legitimize their association and then establish a bank account, and then turned over the money, including all the interests it has earned, to the Tagbanua Community through BATA.

BNC has earned the distinction of being very determined to ensure that the royalty would be protected and utilized wisely for projects which would raise the quality of their lives. Through its initiative, an Advisory Board for BATA was formed by representatives of the agencies and the lGUs involved which aims to ‘help’ the Tagbanuas with their development.

Of course, a lot of people who have anything to say about development in Palawan, some sitting on their fences, are looking on, skeptic, and wondering if this scheme would work.

I am very sad to observe that some of the people who claim to help the Tagbanua — are the very same people who seem to, at the same time, want to see them fail. Is this, again, crab mentality? Is it because at this point in time, they are probably the only that have money to spend on projects? While the rest of us have projects planned — but the money is not there!

Now BATA is subjected to all kinds of snide remarks from the very people who claim to defend them. I am appalled to hear some of the gossips, ranging from their finishing their royalty for their motorbikes and their hi-tech cellular phones! If people only know that until now, even after so much cajoling from me for them to get a cheap but functional cellphone, the BATA leaders do not even have one single cellphone and it is making it very hard for me (who is the secretary of the Advisory Board) to communicate with them about meetings!

I have an idea who started all these gossip which makes fun of the Tagbanuas of Berong and Aramaywan. May God help this person, I saw it coming. Until now I cannot believe that this person would do such a thing. The interesting thing is that without this person’s knowing, the Tagbanuas have long ago predicted this happening. How wise of them; how perceptive.

Well, when a group has about P15 million to do with it as they please — some resentment from all directions are bound to happen. And that P15 million is just income from 2007. We are not even counting the two shipments which have already been done this year. I pray that the BATA leaders will be guided by God to be able to brave all the challenges that lie ahead for them.

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