I was quick to say ‘yes’ when my buddy Jay invited me to go with him in Baguio District here in Davao. He was on the hunt for the beneficiary school for their I Am Making A Difference (I Am M.A.D.) Camp. It was Thursday and I am in the middle of my day job. But I decided to sneak out from the office with him since I got bored scanning through my news feeds and our boss went out for a while.
It was a risk. But I also wanted to take a break. So I did not have a second thought.
Baguio District is a highland in Davao City. Bringing only a camera and not-so-enough money, we headed to the L300 Terminal in Bangkerohan. After about 30- to 45-minute ride, we reached Calinan. From there, we ride again in Habal-Habal (motorcycle) for another 30 minutes or so until we arrived at one of the tramline installed in Baguio District.
The tramline system was a project of the Department of Agriculture intended to assist farmers in transporting their agricultural product. These tramlines ease their delivery of produce from one side of the mountain to another because they no longer have to traverse long and steep trails. It is also a time-saving transport system for them.
We hopped in one of the three tramlines in the area, the one in Sitio Sumpitan, Brgy Tawan-Tawan, not to bring goods to the other side but to assess Jay’s prospect school for the MAD Camp.
At the end of the tramline welcomed the Paaralang Elementarya ng Macatabo (Macatabo Elementary School). It was around 4:00 in the afternoon and the class is over. But the children were still playing outside.
“Humana ang inyong klase? Ngano wa pa man mo nanguli? (Is your class over? Why haven’t you gone home?),” I asked one child.
“Wala pa man nagbagting si Sir (Sir hasn’t rung the bell yet.),” she jested.
The “Sir” she referred to was Sir Eugenio P. Lipumano, their School-in-charge who was at that time supervising his students. We told him our intents so he ushered us to his office to discuss Jay’s plans. He also introduced us to Mam Ruina C. Sumagaysay, a teacher, and the school’s guidance coordinator.
Jay explained that his group of youth volunteers is planning to have a 2-day camp out in their school along with the children. He said they will also be giving something to the pupils and their families.
The teachers’ countenance lit up. And they said ‘yes’ as quick as I did.
“It’s been a year since we were last visited here,” said Ms. Ruina. “There were those who send donations but they never came back. They usually do it once.”
She cited one politician, a Davao City councilor whose staff never returned after bringing goods for children.
“Wala na sila nibalik kay nahago sila og saka. Karon nga naa nay tramline, wala gihapon mu-dare kay mahadlok (They never returned because they don’t want to climb the mountain again. And even if there is tramline, they are afraid of the height.),” she said.
During Christmas, she shared that the teachers (there are only four of them) collect money from each other to be able to throw a party for the children. Aside from that, they go to downtown and diligently solicit for funds or goods for the party.
“If you ask these children to bring rice (for the Christmas party), they would give you corn or corn grits to cook. What will happen to some of us who are not used to eat corn?,” Ms. Ruina laughed.
Trying not to meddle with Jay’s purpose, I went out to take photos around.
The pupils, the Obu Manuvo and Tagabawa children of Baguio District were messing around. The boys played basketball while the girls, volleyball. Some of them were playing Luksong Baka at the inclined area of the school’s vicinity.
I was pointing the camera lens to them but they were shy. They just laugh and elude from me. I was convincing them it is harmless so I was able to capture some. I showed it to them so they would be happy too.
Ms. Ruina said it is only in school that they have time to play. Their houses are too far from the school and on weekends, they are usually found carry and peddle their farm produce, weave mats, pull weeds in their little corn fields, harvest or plant.
I thought to myself, they were too young to work that heavy, but what else can they do? It is the only thing they have to sustain their school and survive for every day.
We stayed for a little while and interacted with the kids before we left the place. On our way back to the city proper, I was contemplating on their situation. If it is hard for financial and educational support to reach a one-tramline-ride far school such as Macatabo Elementary School, how much more those schools situated farther from the end of that transportation system, those schools that require you to walk few steep kilometers more.
I did not regret going with Jay. The trip was worth the breakaway. I hope there will be more people who will support the Lumad children in the hinterland. They too, have the right to succeed in life. They too, deserve to live comfortably.
P.S. The subject in my photo is my buddy, Jay.
If you wish to help these children, you may course it through the I am M.A.D. (Making A Difference), Inc., a SEC registered youth-led organization that aims to spread the passion of creating value and impact to the school-community through giving hope and showing love to the children. They are also a 2015 Ten Accomplished Youth Organization (TAYO) awardee.
You can either sign up as a volunteer or send financial support so they can help more and more children.
Official accounts of I am M.A.D.:
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Click the logo to know more about I am M.A.D!