ESPERANZA, Agusan del Sur—Members of an Indigenous People (IP) community, belonging to the Higaonon tribe, have bonded together to fulfill a long-time dream to have a school of their own for their children.

Through the "bayanihan" spirit, tribe members constructed two new school buildings after two months of voluntary work. The new schools consisted of one two-classroom and another three-classroom buildings designed with a Higaonon culture concept are now ready for use by some 216 elementary pupils and 75 secondary grade 7 and 8 students.

Built under the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-Cidss) program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the new P3.9 million classroom buildings were inaugurated by Esperanza Mayor Leonida Manpatilan and local officials on Wednesday, September 20.

Categorized by the Department of Education as "lumad" (native) public school, five of the 11 teachers who belong to the different indigenous tribes of this province will teach the school children using the Higanonon medium of instruction in all subjects in the elementary and secondary level.

The opening of the three-classroom building is also a welcome relief to the grade 7 and 8 students as they no longer have to trek some seven to nine kilometers of rugged roads and mountain trails to go to school in distant neighboring villages.

Kinamaybay is an isolated community inhabited by 90 percent Higaonons and can be only reached by "habal-habal" motorcycles and 4-wheel drive vehicles. Its interior roads can be only accessed using the national highway connecting La Nieves town in Agusan del Norte.

COMMITMENT

The village was once a fashpoint of armed fighting between New Peoples Army rebels and Army soldiers in 2010.

Samuel Ampahan, chair of Barangay sub-project management committee, said they had to confront their plight by committing to uplift their economic condition through the education of their children.

Through the village's concerted effort, community members have drawn government attention through various Kalahi-Cidss projects funded by the World Bank in the past years.

Visiting DSWD officials were impressed with the way residents cooperate, as everybody would start gathering inside their multipurpose hall as soon as they hear the clang of the distant bell.

Aside from the new school building, the residents were recipients of previous Kalahi-Cidss sub projects including village road, day care center, rice and corn mill, solar dryer and concrete pathway which were realized because of the residents active participation as stakeholders during the implementation stages of the projects.

During her visit, Mayor Manpatilan also inaugurated the P680,00 300-meter road leading to the new secondary school building and the turn-over of P2.5 million farm tractor.

TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY

“This is a 4-in-1 projects here that will bring total make-over of the community,” the mayor said, as she lauded the Kalahi-Cidss program as a holistic approach that had given residents a proud sense of ownership.

Sampahan, the village leader, said the community's commitment to transparency and accountability was the key to their success.

He recalled many of those who volunteered to become part of the project monitoring team did not have formal education at school, but managed to learn skills from the trainings that taught them the intricacies on standards and regulations of the projects.

Some of the residents admitted the training and workshops and their exposure on canvassing the materials outside their village helped them better persons to socialize in the outside world—a transformation from the traditional traits of a Higaonon who are usually meek and shy.

Ampahan, a pastor of a Christian church in the village, has been a Kalahi-Cidss volunteer leader for 11 years, was a finalist in the program’s national awards this year.

Village chief Rolando Pinahan said the projects that the community received served as an instrument to develop their ancestral domain.” We never thought the projects would come here,” Pianhan said adding in local vernacular that “ walay man mi kurso kon grado pero ang among pagka kursunada maoy nagpatuman niining tanan ( We did not have courses on education but our strong will and determination made these all happen.)”

FIRST IN CARAGA

The lumad public school would be the first in Caraga with complete package using the indigenous teaching curriculum under the K-12 educational program.

Virginia Talidro, Supervisor of Department of Education District I of Esperanza, said the lumad teachers have undergone trainings during summer for them to internalize the K12 program, the indigenization and contextualization of the curriculum. “These will be integrated across learning areas of the school children,” she said.

Leo Madrina, Teacher-In-Charge of Hinamaybay Elementary School, said two English and Science volunteer teachers who are lumads are now teaching the grade 7 and grade 8 students who will be transferring to the new three-classroom school buildings.

Already, the lumad teachers have been tasked to work on the orthography of Higaonon dialect and the materials will be given to the tribal leaders for validation. (PNA/Chris V. Panganiban)