Latest Stories


Educating ‘lumad’ the ‘lumad’ way


A SILDAP teacher holds classes in a chapel on a hill. GERMELINA LACORTE/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Reflecting on his upcoming graduation, a teenage Dibabawun student recalls going to class with an empty stomach as his most difficult time in school.

“I was really very hungry,” said Angelito Cotao, 16. “There was nothing to eat, and there was nothing I could do about it, that was my most difficult time.”

Too shy even to face his classmates, Cotao turned his back and hunched over his seat as he talked.

But what he said was quickly understood by his teacher and classmates in this Dibabawun community in the hinterland sitio of Calinogan in Barangay Casoon, one of the communities still recovering from Typhoon “Pablo.”

Even before Pablo, life in the village was already difficult. People mostly depended on farming to earn, the crops that they grow consisting mainly of coconut, banana and corn.

3-km walk

Their products are sold cheap in the market. The village is so remote that children, like Cotao, have to walk 3 kilometers to go to the nearest school in Sitio Anagasi to study.

“The road is so dangerous for children, since they have to cross rivers which usually swell during heavy rains,” said Perfecto Sagubay, 54, a parent. “Just imagine those 7-year-old children crossing the river,” he said.

Prodded by the Dibabawun elders, the nongovernment group Sildap set up a school here in 2006. Unlike the regular public school curriculum which often alienates indigenous peoples (IP) from their culture, Sildap offers the IP curriculum which integrates the life experiences of the “lumad,” including their struggle for self-determination and their ancestral lands, in the learning experiences of pupils.

Before Sildap opened its school in 2006, Cotao used to go to the public school in Sitio Anagasi, but dropped out after Grade 1. When the Sildap school opened, he enrolled again in Grade 2 and continued studying until Grade 5.

Heavy lift

Economic hardships, however, forced him to drop out of school in 2007 to work in a store in Monkayo town.

“Even at his age, he was already used to lifting sacks of rice,” said Angelina Ortiz, Sildap program coordinator.

When Cotao went back to school again, Pablo struck in December, its strong winds sweeping away  two classrooms and a newly constructed multipurpose building funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) within the Sildap lot set aside by the Dibabawun community in Calinogan.

Jemuel Digaynon, Sildap teacher, said it took them over a month before classes were held again after the devastation of Pablo.

“At first, we still allowed the children to draw, write and talk about the horrors they experienced,” Digaynon said. “We started our lessons there until they normalized.”

Chapel classes

In the absence of a classroom, Sildap is still holding Grades 1 and 2 classes in the small chapel perched on a hilltop and its Grades 5 and 6 classes in a structure they used to call their mini-museum because it houses the artifacts and musical instruments of the lumad.

But soon, Sildap will build a two-classroom Dibabawun structure, designed from memory by a Dibabawun craftsman, to serve as their new school building in Calinogan, said Allan Delideli, Sildap executive director.

The Calinogan community learning center is only one of the three schools currently run by Sildap, which has already turned over five of such IP schools to the Department of Education (DepEd).

Digaynon said, unlike the regular DepEd curriculum, the IP schools integrate the life experiences of the lumad by tapping community elders as resource speakers to allow the lumad pupils to learn their native crafts and indigenous instruments and even the indigenous peoples’ knowledge which has been passed on from one generation to another.

“Unlike regular public (school) education, the IP education will not alienate the lumad from their culture. Instead, it strives to open their eyes and appreciate their culture even more deeply to eventually pave the way for a return to their culture,” Delideli said.


Cotao is among the eight Dibabawun pupils, some of them already in their late teens, who finally graduated from the Sildap community learning center this month.

“Most of them used to drop out but eventually went back to school,” said Ortiz. Among the youngest, Arjun Sagubay, 12, said he loved history the most because it allowed him to know more about his people.

He said he learned about not only being Filipino but also being Dibabawun, one of the 18 indigenous groups in Mindanao.

Cotao said it was the support of his teachers, who eventually became his friends, that inspired him to work harder. He said this made his happiest memories in school.

Like his classmates, he also looks forward to move on to study at the barangay high school in Casoon, 8 kilometers away, the following year.

“Life would not be as hopeless if you go to school,” he said. “Because then, you won’t have difficulty finding work afterwards.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Education , Indigenous people , lumad , Mindanao

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  3. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  4. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  8. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  9. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima


  • 4 Etihad passengers not yet located
  • DAR to complete installation of Luisita land reform beneficiaries in May
  • Ex-COA chief and co-accused in Arroyo plunder case nabbed
  • Kris Aquino’s ex- close in security named new Air Force chief
  • The ‘link diagram’ that killed ex-Bataan police officer
  • Sports

  • NLEX holds off Jumbo Plastic for a playoff berth
  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Lifestyle

  • A haven for steak lovers
  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • 12th Philippine Food Expo set at the World Trade Center
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Tiff with HK over Luneta hostage fiasco finally over
  • DOLE sees more Filipinos hired by South Koreans
  • Filipinos second-shortest in Southeast Asia
  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Marketplace