Comota is a barangay in La Paz, Agusan del Sur. Located 30 kilometers from the poblacion of La Paz, it can only be reached by walking or riding a banca or a motorcycle. When I was assigned there as a classroom teacher at Comota Elementary School in August 1999, what immediately struck me was the poverty of its inhabitants, composed of some 700 Manobo villagers and a handful of Cebuano families.
Poverty was due to inadequate family incomes that were worsened by the peace and order problem. The area was also frequently visited by floods that destroyed many of the crops during the La Niña phenomenon. For a teacher to be assigned in that place was, indeed, a challenge!
I taught 14 students from the Grade Five level and 36 from Grade Six. After a month of teaching, I got fairly acquainted with them, their parents and the barangay officials. One time, I was invited to attend the session of the barangay council and had a talk with the barangay captain and some councilors. From them I learned that each household owned several hectares of land, each of which was not fully cultivated. Almost 90% was still timberland from where they got logs as their source of living. This supplemented whatever they got from fishing and hunting.