Bukidnon teachers finish culture-sensitivity training; a first in RP, NCCA says

MUSUAN, Maramag, Bukidnon (MindaNews/15 May) – Ninety-five public school teachers across the province yesterday ended what organizers said was a groundbreaking initiative in Philippine education with simple graduation rites at the Central Mindanao University here.

Dressed in white, pink and green T-shirts, the teachers felt proud to be graduates of CMU’s first ever formal training on culture-sensitivity, which is intended to promote tolerance and understanding among the country’s diverse cultures.

Dr. Vellorimo Suminguit, an anthropologist who teaches at CMU said the training is a prerequisite to the course Master of Arts in Cultural Studies which the school will offer starting June 2010. He added the training is worth nine units in the course.

NCCA Commissioner Elmar Ingles (left in black) and graduates of the culture-sensitivity training in Central Mindanao University enjoy the performance of the Talahari, an all-Manobo band from barangay Panadtalan, Maramag, Bukidnon. MindaNews photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno
Commissioner Elmar Ingles of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), who graced the affair, said no other school in the Philippines is offering the course. He noted, however, that major universities in Australia and the West are already into it.

“Sa UP (University of the Philippines) limang taon na silang nagpapatayan tungkol dito pero wala pa ring nangyayari,” (In UP they have been fighting over it for five years and still nothing had happened) he lamented.

The NCCA funded the training.

Ingles said the commission will continue to support initiatives in promoting culture-sensitivity down to the grassroots level. He also voiced optimism the incoming administration would prioritize education, as many of them [in the camp of presidential frontrunner Sen. Benigno Aquino III] “worked with us.”

Dr. Maria Luisa Soliven, CMU vice president for academic affairs, said that promoting culture-sensitivity might help in addressing the prevalence of poverty in Mindanao. She said extreme poverty in Mindanao could also be caused by insensitivity to the rights of others.

Apparently agreeing with Soliven, Ingles said “there can no real development if we don’t promote our culture and other aspects of our national heritage,” adding, “marrying social sciences into the arts of creative expression…is for the benefit of the youth.”
“We need to bracket the colonial in our education system to know what was there before the colonial process began,” he said.

Ingles also advised against using the term “tribe”.
“It colonizes both the tribe and the one calling it tribe,” he explained.

“Know what’s culturally offensive and politically correct because the garbage we tell our children is the same garbage they will pass on” he added.

Datu Mayda, a Manobo chieftain in Maramag said he was not angry over criticisms against their culture, in particular their practice of giving respect to the spirits that guard the elements of nature like water, air and earth. He explained that while they believe in spirits, they share the Christians’ belief that there is only one Supreme Being (Magbabaya).

“This is the teaching that we propagate in our school of living traditions,” he said.

Manobo is one of the seven ethno-linguistic groups in Bukidnon. The others are Bukidnon, Higaonon, Matigsalug, Talaandig, Tigwahanon and Umayamnon.
(H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)