TRADITIONAL CURE. Leah, a teacher from Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated (MISFI) holding a turmeric plant, which is cultivated and used by the community as a remedy for common colds and other flu-like sickness.

TRADITIONAL CURE. Teacher Leah of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated (MISFI) Academy holds a turmeric plant, which is cultivated and used by the community as a remedy for common colds and other flu-like sickness. (Paulo C. Rizal/

By Jennica Diaz, MSU Intern

MAKILALA, North Cotabato — Being full-time teachers is not easy for them, but quitting the job was never their option.

Leah, 24, and her husband, Jomar, 26, are two of the six teachers of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated Academy which operates a boarding school for Lumads here.

She said they had to make some adjustments when she was pregnant and had to pay for a babysitter even if they can hardly afford it.

However, she said, “having a baby was never a hindrance for us to help and serve the community—Lumads.”

She handles four subjects a day which are MAPEH or Music, Arts Physical Education and Health, Values Education and Mathematics for grade 7 and 8.

Meanwhile, Jomar teaches the subjects of Araling Panlipunan and Agriculture.

Jomar was inspired to teach the Lumads seeing Leah’s passion for teaching.

“Actually, akong asawa adto nga time, katung mag-uyab pa mi, always ako nagabisita sa iyaha kay nagasakit man gud siya ug nagkadugay nagsugod nako og tabang-tabang sa pagluto sa mga bata ug uban pa (I was visiting her in school, especially during the time when she got sick, and I was helping in preparing food for the children),” he recounted.

He realized then that teaching was the best work that he could do to help the Lumads.

He added that he chose to teach Agriculture since he loves everything about farming.

From being a farmer since childhood, he said that he could better explain the things about it to his students. With his expertise, the school now has its own organic rice field that  provides for the needs of more than a 100 students.

As teachers sharing residence with the students, they carry the responsibility as substitute parents.

“Dili lang namu sila estudyante kun dili ginaila na namu sila nga among kaugalingong anak, [They are not just our students but we treat them as our own children],” the couple said.

According to them, the students here are not afraid to give critique on your performance as a teacher. They also have their assessments within the group every Sunday.

“So mao ni ang isa sa akong di malimtan, ug kung di paka andam ug mu-critique na sila sa imuha, dili jud ka mu-survive diri [This is one of the things that I cannot forget. If you are not ready to accept their criticisms, you will not survive here],” Jomar said.

All their food and supplies were given free to the students, generated from fund-raising efforts, soliciting from local government heads and donations from charity groups.

Students here also had their own daily tasks, including cooking, farming, feeding the animals and cleaning their dorms, and classrooms.

According to the couple, children learn not only about what is written in books, but they also learn how to do things on their own without being ordered by everyone.

“Ang among mga estudyante kay naghimog shed bisan wala mi nag-ingon nga magbuhat sila. Ilaha tu nga initiative so kana, grabe ang learning nila as a student na dili lang mulihok kay mao ray nahibal-an mo pero maningkamot jud kay mao raman na ang makatabang sa ilaha (Our students built the shed even if they were not told to build one. It was their initiative. They learn a lot as students that they will not just do a thing because that was what they were taught to do, but because that is what they need),” he said.

The two said that they never felt tired of working 24 hours a day, checking on their students and doing their lesson plans every night because they love what they’re doing.

“Mao ni ang tinuoray na pagserbisyo para sa mga bata [this is how we provide true service for the children],” he said.(

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