Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Mangyan Educational System (Crossing Mountains and Fingers)

It started with a noble legislation from an equally noble public figure slowly getting prominence not only among those who belong to indigenous cultural communities of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro but even in the town’s lowland areas. The Indigenous People’s Open High School Education System started when Hon. Ruben P. Dangupon, a true-blooded Mangyan Alangan and IP/ICC representative to the local legislative board or the Sangguniang Bayan (SB), tackled the need for a “Mangyan-friendly” high school education for the people in Sitio Kulasisi of Brgy. Batong Buhay and Malatungtong in Brgy. Burgos. These schools are going to open the moment the AY 2012-2013 starts this June and all the preparation are now on the way. It is going to be the first ever Mangyan high school in the whole country initiated by the first ever Mangyan legislator in the Philippines.

In his privilege speech sometime last April, Dagupon emphasized the need for such educational project and program not only for the Alangans but for Tao-buids as well. He even consulted people from Department of Education (DepEd) in the locality through the facilitation of key people from the office of Hon. Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano specifically his Senior Executive Secretary Bong B. Marquez and with all modesty, this representation as the LGU’s indigenous peoples’ affairs in-charge. Our local chief executive supports the project 101% .

By the way, barely just four months in office, Dangupon have already sponsored more or less six resolutions forwarded to concerned national agencies and government officials. Those legislations consist of the immediate awarding of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) of the two IP sub-tribes of Sablayan, the appeal to stop the application of JCET Mining, the proposed socialized housing in specific IP areas, among others. In fact, our IP/ICC representative has already surpassed some of his colleagues in terms of quantity and quality of legislations sponsored in their august body. They are ahead of him in experience and in tenure (And to protect their identity (?), I would not mention their names here!).

Another distinguished and noble gentleman whom worthy to recognize for this endeavor is Mr. Arnaldo G. Ventura, Principal IV of the Sablayan National Comprehensive High School or SABNAHIS including his teachers who are willing to teach, live, immerse and learn from the Mangyans. Mr. Ventura lobbied exhaustively in the past two weeks to the DepEd division office in Mamburao. The two learning centers are extension campuses of the SABNAHIS. The multi-awarded educator, like Mayor Ed Gadiano, is 101% supportive of the project.

Last May 17 and 18, we employees from different offices of LGU-Sablayan headed by Fernando B. Dalangin and Alfredo R. Ventura, our environment and natural resources and administrative officers respectively, along with other partner agencies like DepEd conducted a community consultation cum ocular inspection and data gathering, went up to said far-flung highland communities. Mr. Ventura discussed thoroughly to the community dwellers the DepEds Open High School policy and other details. He said that this academic program is tailor-made for the Mangyans. No amount is to be collected to the enrollees or students, their curriculum will be different from those taking regular studies in other schools, the books and other education materials including uniforms will be provided free of charge by the department and support groups. Ventura further stressed that the curriculum is more heavy on customary learning and culturally based economic and entrepreneurship and would not concentrate that much on subjects that has little to do with their way of life and goals. All of the residents, regardless of age and sex, who have finished their elementary studies are also allowed. Of course, they will also be dwelling on reading, writing and arithmetic. This education system is also open to counterparts from the municipal government and the IP leaders themselves. All systems go for this project.

Crossing by foot the stiff hills, makeshift bridges and creeks going to Malatungtong, we have heard the tribal leaders and elders belonging to Fakasadian Manga-nguyang Tao-buid Daga Incorporated of FAMATODI, stating that the IP High School is a welcome development in terms of basic education for the Mangyans. FAMATODI chair Peping Poyngon and sitio leader Temio Tikwanade promised to sustain the project through things agreed upon by the tribes.

Since the 1920’s in the whole Mindoro, the Mangyan education system remained inadequate due to various socio-political reasons. Major policies have not been truly adapted to the Mangyan culture and aspirations and racism played important role for this crisis. Our IP sisters and brothers suffer exploitation from influenced political leaders and business elites, then and in the recent past. The system became completely futile, if I may reiterate, because it was not according to the way the Mangyans want it to be and not adapted to their needs. Educational systems must be dynamic and ultimately serve even the most vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society like the Alangan and Tao-buids of Sablayan.

Let us keep our fingers crossed like how we crossed the hanging bridge in Burgos under the extreme heat of the sun that day…

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