Life ebbs under the sun

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 April, 1998, 12:00am

Mundai Musu may be an illiterate peasant who does not know when she was born but of one thing she is sure - she has never seen a drought like the one plaguing Mindanao this year.

Stooped, lined and frail, Mrs Musu, possibly in her late 80s, is thought to be the eldest B'laan villager in the hamlet of San Jose in the burned and parched hills above General Santos.

'It seems there is no end to this sun. I only eat once a day now and then it is only thin rice soup. I don't know how I am going to survive,' she said.

'My grandchildren are up in the mountains. They are all I have.' Younger, stronger women keep a close eye on Mrs Musu, saying she has had no husband to look after her for years.

She spends her days sitting on the steps of a tiny thatched shack thinking back to her youth.

Like many B'laan tribespeople, she married when she was about 13 or 14 in a vast celebration.

'My family were given one horse, one cow and one caribou in the barter for my hand in marriage. They sold them for food and they ate very well for a long time,' she says, her eyes lighting up with a smile that reveals a row of black teeth.

'It is different now.'