PANADTALAN, Maramag, Bukidnon (MindaNews/08 September) – Her neighbors would say that she and her fellow Lumads have learned nothing at the Mindanao Tribal School except about indigenous peoples’ culture. But for Jeraldine Sumali, a 17-year old Manobo student, there are more things to be worried about than minding questions on the school’s capacity.
“I try to ignore it. We know why we are here and this is what we got,” Sumali said.
Her bigger worry: The school will soon be evicted from its location in this barangay, a hill overlooking the Pulangi River.
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) will place cables along its transmission towers, one of which is already standing in a corner previously occupied by the school’s other building.
It was built in 2006 and granted a permit by the Department of Education (DepEd) to operate as a private school in 2009.
Fifty of its students are children of settler families around Panadtalan, and 90 are from indigenous communities in southern Bukidnon, mostly Manobo, Matigsalug, and Talaandig.
Bae Alma Binayao, one of the school’s incorporators said, they are worried about the future of the school and the children who look up to it for their education.
She was among the 11 tribal leaders from Bukidnon’s seven tribes who put up the school.
Back then she remembered that many of their youth were accused of misbehaving in school. She said their behavior was only a reaction to the discrimination that they had experienced.
“We got tired of explaining and asking the non-Lumad not to discriminate. We decided that a school of our own would be good,” she added.
Datu Magdaleno “Mayda” Pandian, who now represents the indigenous peoples in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, led efforts to raise money for the registration with the with the Securities and Exchange Commission and with the DepEd as a private school for the Lumads.
Pandian is the school president.
Binayao recalled that they were even duped by one educator who volunteered to register the school on their behalf.
“That’s why it took us long to operate officially, but despite the difficulties, we managed to survive,” she added.
The school has transferred from one site to another.
In the present site, the students hold classes in the quarters of the old NIA management office. The hall was divided into four classrooms, all poorly lit and with broken or makeshift walls.
A portion of the hall was allotted as the faculty and administration room. Another portion is the quarters for students who come from other towns.
Mayda’s family meanwhile had to squeeze in a portion of the old building as his residence had given way to a transmission tower.
Risa Pioquento, acting head teacher, said they have produced three batches of high school graduates already.
But the school barely makes both ends meet, she said, as they collect only P700 per year from the students for administrative needs including production of test papers and printing of identification cards.
She said they stopped collecting the P100 monthly fee because the students could not afford it.
She added they don’t require projects that cost over P50 because they know it’s beyond the reach of the students.
Real Maligatong, 17, a fourth year Matigsalug student from Panganan, Kitaotao, Bukidnon said he could not afford to study in the public school back home because even if the tuition is free there are many fees they cannot afford.
Real, who dreams of becoming a Music Arts and Physical Education teacher, said he has to make good to prove that young Lumads like him can succeed too.
For the school, Real wished that it could be improved with the help of other people so it could accommodate more Lumad students.
“So others will change their outlook about the Lumads. The tribal school can stand, too,” he added.
Aside from the DepEd curriculum, the students learn how to speak and read Manobo and Talaandig. They also study customary laws and indigenous songs and dances, among other things about their culture.
Elizabeth Bon, registrar and deputy to the school president, said they have accepted donations of old books from friends.
“We have a lot to improve, we can use a lot of help,” she added.
Binayao admitted that they are in talks with the DepEd for the relocation of the school within the nine-hectare Panadtalan Elementary School. She said they are asking to use four hectares for their school building, tree plantation, garden, dormitory and other uses.
Bukidnon 3rd District Rep. Jose Ma. Zubiri III, who has been supporting the school, has vowed to give at least P2 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund if the school can find a lot, Binayao said.
But she said the DepEd was yet to approve their proposal to relocate to the Panadtalan Elementary School.
Dr. Ingrid Racoma, DepEd Bukidnon superintendent, said via telephone she agreed in principle to sign a memorandum of agreement with the school.
“But we need to discuss more on the size of the land we will allow them to use,” she stressed.
“I still hope we will have a better school. I want to be the first among our nine siblings to finish a degree,” Sumali meanwhile said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)