Quantcast
Latest Stories

Wanted: Benevolent hearts for Agta scholars of Sierra Madre

By

THE LATEST batch of graduates from the “Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta,” an alternative learning school for young Agta tribesmen in the Sierra Madre. COURTESY OF TRIBAL CENTER FOR DEVELOPMENT

Adopt a college scholar among the youths of the Agta in the Sierra Madre mountains and help secure the future of the whole indigenous people.

“We appeal to the generosity of lowlanders, government officials and nongovernment organizations to help us in providing college education for our youth. In doing so, we are assured of a bright future for our tribe,” Agta governor Ramcy Astoveza said in an interview recently.

Fourteen Agta youths are currently enrolled in a university in Infanta, Quezon.

Their expenses are being shouldered by the church-based Tribal Center for Development (TCD), which has received funding from foreign organizations.

“Some benevolent residents of Infanta and neighboring towns also extend assistance to our college scholars,” said Astoveza, who is also the TCD director.

A scholar needs at least P26,000 every semester for tuition, food, lodging and miscellaneous expenses.

Astoveza said the tribe elders had found it heartwarming that most young tribesmen want to pursue their studies, but the TCD cannot provide for all of their needs due to the high cost of college education. The Agta people depend on farming, fishing in mountain rivers and gathering rattan, and other mountain resources for a living.

The Agta leader said the indigenous people’s quest for knowledge through the orthodox educational system “is imperative” in these modern times so they could survive and protect their own culture and civilization.

Privilege

One of the Agta students sees his scholarship as a “blessing.”

“For an Agta youth, being a college student is a rare privilege and a golden opportunity,” said Vergel Eneria, a TCD college scholar who is now on his third year in an agriculture course at Southern Luzon State University-Infanta campus.

He recalled how he struggled to reach college after receiving early education from the Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta (SPA) and completing his secondary education in two years of informal school. He said he had to divide his time between school and farm work to help his family.

“Life in the mountain is an endless struggle for survival for the indigenous people,” Eneria said over the phone.

He remembered his first day in college as one intimidating experience.

“I was nervous in my new environment with all strange faces around me. But I was determined to have a college degree. I eventually overcame all the initial hurdles. Soon, I found new friends and learned to adopt to campus life,” Eneria said.

To help sustain his college education, Eneria works as a student assistant. He has been given living quarters inside the campus in exchange for feeding the pigs and attending to other tasks.

Every weekend, Eneria hikes his way back to his community in the Sierra Madre mountains in the neighboring town of General Nakar to share his newfound agricultural know-how to fellow tribesmen.

“Most often, I act as weekend instructor to SPA students. I’m happy to share to them the latest techniques on how to improve the harvest of our traditional crops and other things, which I find beneficial to our community,” he said.

After graduation, Eneria said he would work full-time as tribal agriculturist to help improve the farming practices of the Agta.

“I will also devote time to help protect and rehabilitate Sierra Madre. The mountain is our home. It is my solemn duty to protect her,” he said.

Ten of the 14 Agta scholars are women. The scholars are taking up nursing, education and agriculture courses.

The SPA, an alternative school of learning for young tribesmen, was established by the TCD and the Catholic Prelature of Infanta in 1987 in the mountain village of Catablingan in General Nakar.

It aims to help the youths acquire basic education to help them face the future.

The three-classroom building of the SPA was constructed from funds provided by the TCD and the church, with labor contributed by the tribesmen bayanihan (cooperative) style.

But just like most Filipino children in public schools, young Agtas returned this month to their school, which lacks books and other basic learning tools, and equipment.

“We have these same old problems every school opening. This is the bitter reality facing mountain schoolchildren,” Astoveza said.

Catablingan is half-a-day hike from the town proper and could be reached by an occasional tricycle. A bumpy half-hour uphill ride costs P350 for six passengers.

At least 70 Agta children are enrolled for the current school year.

The education of a young Agta is tough and uphill battle, Astoveza said

He narrated how most of the high school youths had been offering their services to lowlanders in exchange for free education and sleeping quarters.

“We call it pakinabangan (mutual help),” said the tribal governor.

Astoveza said the school was still awaiting recognition from the Department of Education (DepEd) so it could receive governing funding.

The school has one Agta teacher, who also serves as principal. The teacher is assisted by four natives. Two of them are college graduates who serve as “facilitators,” while the other two are SPA graduates who have been trained to teach.

SPA graduates who want to continue their studies in the lowland must take and pass accreditation tests.

Last year, SPA principal Wilma Quierrez said that after several of their graduates passed the accreditation and equivalency tests several years ago, the mountain school was able to receive teaching modules from the DepEd through its Alternative Learning System.

The curriculum was designed for multigrade teaching. The class was divided into levels of competency and learning skills, Quierrez explained.

Quierrez is one of TCD’s former college scholars.

In 2011, the total population of the SPA reached 204, of whom 108 were in the main school in Catablingan and the rest in four “community learning centers” (CLCs) found in tribal villages.

Astoveza described CLC as a “convenient place anywhere” where the teacher and the students meet and study under a shady tree or a makeshift hut. “As long as they are all convenient,” he said.


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


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: Agta , Indigenous people , News , Regions , Sierra Madre




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
Advertisement
  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. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  5. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  6. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  7. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  10. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  1. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  2. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  3. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  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. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
Advertisement

News

  • Name names, Lacson told
  • Smooth Edsa ride up in 2 years, but…
  • Obama: US will defend Japan vs China
  • Santiago accuses Lacson of fronting for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Ukraine FM: We are ready to fight Russia
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • Marinduque: Visiting the ‘palm of the ocean’
  • First at Vatican in 60 years
  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Denims that keep you cool–literally
  • Entertainment

  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • OMB exec’s assurance: We work 24/7
  • Business

  • Nielsen sees car buying boom in the Philippines
  • How author of best-seller exposed ‘one percent’ economic elite
  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Gaming stocks gain, PSEi eases on profit-taking
  • Cebu Pacific flew 3.74M passengers as of March
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • 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
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
  • HK victims to get P115M; traders raised money
  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Career diplomat is new PH consul general in Los Angeles
  • US4GG: Aquino should ask Obama for TPS approval, drone technology
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement