MISFI Academy teacher Ricky Balilid (Ivy Jean Tupas/davaotoday.com)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Some teachers in the country have to cross rivers and mountains just to be able to reach a community that has never seen a teacher or has not known education.

Among the few professionals who probably had dropped other job opportunities just to teach in far-flung communities is 28-year-old Ricky Balilid.

Balilid works as a teacher for Misfi Academy which has a campus in Sitio Muling in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong in Davao del Norte. He is also the vice chairperson of the Alliance of Community Educators in Mindanao, a network of volunteer teachers in Lumad schools.

He is a B’laan who grew up in Sultan Kudarat and dreamt of managing a hotel someday. He is the eldest of eight children of both farmers who did not finish their education.

“I’m also the first in our family to finish college,” Balilid shared in an interview on Thursday, October 5 inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound here.

But the opportunity of working in an office has been out of Balilid’s plans when he chose to study Home Economics at the Cotabato Foundation of College and Technology.

Balilid was a scholar of Italian missionary Fr. Peter Geremia who is based in the Diocese of Kidapawan in North Cotabato.

Geremia is a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) who has spent 36 years of service in Mindanao and is an advocate of Lumad’s rights, along with his fellow missionary, the late Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio.

Balilid took up a course in Home Economics with Education as his major. He said he never realized how important his course was until he became a teacher in 2012.

“When I was assigned in Sitio Muling, that’s when I decided that I will help the indigenous people (IP) by becoming a teacher,” he said.

Two-day walk

To reach the school, Balilid said they had to cross 42 rivers and walk for two days. He said he was only able to see his family once or twice a year in December.

“I first taught preschool and kindergarten. Back then, when we lack school supplies, we had to use clay rocks as chalk and banana leaves for papers,” he said.

At times he and his students would use wood charcoal to write on the leaves.

“It was a mess and the charcoal would smudge their faces then we will all have a bath in the river,” Balilid recounted.

Challenges

But it was not all fun and play, as volunteer teachers like him had to endure harassment from a militia group in the community and the military who tag their school as run by the New People’s Army.

In 2015, Balilid and the other teachers of Misfi Academy were not allowed to proceed to the village by the Alamara, a paramilitary tribal group.

Balilid recounted they were surrounded and were warned to be tied up “like carabaos” if they proceed.

Since then, the school has temporarily held classes inside the evacuation center in UCCP Haran where Balilid currently teaches.

Balilid said five teachers have left the school already because of the threats.

Read related story: Two months delayed: IP school holds moving-up ceremony one week before school year starts

He himself has thought of leaving the school when he misses his family.

However, he said whenever he sees the willingness of the IPs to learn, he realizes the need for him to continue teaching.

“When I hear them sing, and when I see some of them had to live here in the evacuation center just to learn, I know that they need more teachers like me,” he said.

He said they only ask respect from government officials to stop branding them as NPAs.

“We are only trying to fill the emptiness that the government cannot provide,” he said.

World Teachers’ Day

On Thursday, volunteer teachers like Balilid gathered at the Freedom Park in Roxas Avenue to celebrate World Teacher’s Day.

Balilid said they hope to show the public that no threat to education will make them stop teaching IP children, whom they say “need it the most.”

“Our schools are all recognized by the Department of Education, we are teachers and we love our students. That is one reason why we will continue to teach,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

  • Atilla D. Hun

    MISFI along with SALUGPUNGAN, ALCADEV, TRIFPSS, INC. (Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur) are CPP NPA NDF or CNN above ground institutions using “education for the lumad” as front and propaganda using the lumad lack of educational services as excuse.

    CNN has been doing education for the lumads since the 1980s but we cannot find a single professional as result of this initiative. What we find instead is 4 out of 3 NPA are lumad or 75 per cent of the NPA combatants are lumads and 100% of the villages that serve as NPA bases are lumads: Higaonon of Misamis Oriental; Agusan Manobo of Agusan Del Sur and Surigao Provinces; Mamanuwa of Surigao Del Norte; Mandaya of Davao Oriental; Mansaka of Comval Province; Bla-an of SOCSARGEN; Ata Manobo of Paquibato Davao City Districts and Davao Del Norte and Comval Province; Manobo Matigsalug of San Fernando, Bukidnon; Dibabawon of Davao Del Norte; Tinananon and Kulamanon Manobo of Arakan, Cotabato and Bukidnon; Dulangan Manobo and Lambangian Sultan Kudarat and part of Maguindanao Province; Tagabawa, K’lata/Jangan and Obo Manobo of North Cotabato, Davao Del Sur and Davao City Districts.

    Massive campaign on “Save Our School-SOS” is an anti-militarization propaganda. It is among the popular CNN campaign against the government capturing the attention of social media. Since 2015, the so-called UCCP-Haran Evacuation and Manilakbay or the bringing of lumads (wearing their traditional dresses to attract the amazed Manilans) to Manila. They were hosted by no less than the University of the Philippines at Diliman, Quezon City Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan. Their lumad leaders e,g, Norma Capuyan, Kerlan Fanagel, Dulping Ogan and others were sent to Europe and the US to drumming-upcampaign against the government and solicit funds. The fund solicited went to their handlers-CNN.

    Government agencies like DSWD and DepED are actively supporting the CPP NPA NDF “lumad education”—strengthening consolidating (lumad) combatants against the government.

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