By SARAH RAYMUNDO
The Lumad from different parts of Mindanao are still at the UP International Center (IC). Most of them are students from various Lumad schools. They take refuge here at the University after experiencing the horrifying impact of Martial Law in Mindanao.
Lumad communities were once hopeful about the prospect of building Lumad schools. From the late 90s to this day, these schools have been the center of community life. This is why the Lumad are determined to defend these schools at all costs.
These schools are places where numeracy and literacy are taught not only to children but also to their parents. This is mindfully done to minimize possible gaps that new learning might entail. Lumad schools are also focused on the preservation and development of indigenous knowledge and culture. Here, students learn scientific farming. They are trained to cull knowledge from their family’s experience in planting, hunting, and raising animals and use these as baseline for further study toward more advanced farming methods.
I have not met a Lumad child who does not want to farm when he or she grows up. The same child is almost always planning on becoming a teacher to his/her fellow Lumad. So I have understood that farming is something that they all want to do alongside the profession of teaching. I fully understand the attraction of the teaching profession to a child. My own teachers enthralled me. And the few times I was disappointed by them, I would secretly note and learn from their mistakes so I won’t repeat them when my time comes.
And so it came and the classroom would be my home. Yet this space would extend to Lumad communities where I have met Lumad volunteer teachers. At some point on dusky mountains where slopes were steep and the terrain was slippery, my life even depended on them. It was a time when I began to learn that their life as teachers is more complicated than I thought.
They love to teach and they are devoted. But like me, they, too, are frustrated with themselves. They confided they do not feel good enough, especially when they put themselves in comparison with teachers coming from top universities. The complication lies in their very touching ability to make me feel like “there is no outsider here” yet my very presence or perhaps what I represent to them is a reminder of all that they lack in faculty development programs, facilities, and other enabling conditions.
While it is very tempting, I refuse to romanticize the Lumad teachers and students I have met. They are determined to overcome all uncertainties and fears. But teaching in a community that has been the perennial target of state forces is harrowing. As a teacher, one is singled out, harassed, and targeted by the army. So even if one is ready and willing to teach, one must also prepare to be treated as a criminal.
Every Lumad child and teacher will make sure that you understand how he or she live in nervous and precarious conditions. I believe their sense of lack, insecurity, and at times bad feelings about themselves come from this sense of reality. Concrete conditions support this sense of reality. And how can this sense of reality be denied with the president’s recent public announcement of his intention to have all Lumad schools bombed because he believes that these spaces are training grounds for subversion?
Yesterday, in a late afternoon visit at IC, two Lumad boys welcomed us in the entrance. I asked them “Unsa ato ang gipakigbisugan? Ug nganu, ug giunsa? (What are we fighting for? Why and how?”). The two boys looked at each other and giggled. I asked my friend to have them guess whether I’m Bisaya. “Dili” or “no she’s not” was their correct answer.
We were being silly and chummy that we started talking in a foreign language, Spanish. The boys took interest and quickly learned their buenos dias and buenos tardes. But one of them became more proactive and demanded for something that really struck me like a thunderbolt. Unsa ang dugang kadasig? (What is dugang kadasig). “¡Mas poder!” And we started repeating this to each other.
How thoughtfully determined are these children for them to want to express dugang kadasig in every possible way! Marx’s favorite maxim, “Nothing human is alien to me” is more meaningful to me now because of this encounter. Soon if not today, I’ll go back to IC and look for my new Lumad friends who will be happy to say “¡Todo poder al pueblo! (All power to the people!). It will be my modest tribute to the peasants who, with daring and determination, compose organs of political power in the countryside.
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Center for International Studies (UP-CIS Diliman) and a member of the National Executive Board of the All U.P. Academic Employees Union. She is the current National Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the External Vice Chair of the Philippine Anti-Imperialist Studies (PAIS). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.