CHILDREN’S SUMMIT. Around 500 children from all over Mindanao gather for the three-day Mindanao Children’s Festival at the Grand Men Seng Hotel in Davao City. During the second day of the festival on Tuesday, Nov. 22, a children’s summit was held to tackle various children’s issues. (Maria Patricia C. Borromeo/davaotoday.com)
DAVAO CITY, Philippines— When he was 14 years old, Bryan Muluhinday, a Manobo, was arrested by soldiers after they accused him of being a New People’s Army rebel.
“They took me and detained me for a week. They poked a ballpen at my face. It hurt so much,” he recounted the ordeal.
Soldiers took him again on January 8 last year, this time along with three other children.
Three months later, he and his family left their their village in Kapalong, Davao del Norte to evacuate after soldiers swooped to their village and scoured for NPA rebels.
Now 19, Muluhinday perseveres to study as a sixth grade student of the nongovernmental Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) Academy.
Education is not easily accessible to Lumad students, this Muluhinday shared during a Mindanao children’s summit held at the Grand Men Seng Hotel here, Tuesday.
“Maayo na lang naay Misfi sa amoa (It was a good thing Misfi put up a school in our village),” he told Davao Today in an interview.
School under attack
Last year, teachers of MISFI Academy reported disruption of their pre-school and elementary classes in the villages of Lunoluno, Tawongatok, Ngan, Maguimon, Banwalay, Mansalinaw, and Muling, all in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong.
MISFI schools in Kapalong were built through a funding of the European Union under the latter’s disaster aid project in 2007.
As of now, Muluhinday and his family are still staying at the evacuation at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound as they still fear to go back to their homes in Kapalong.
Joining the summit gave Muluhinday hope that they will be able to return to their community as more people would help them voice out their call.
“The children here didn’t know about our situation as Lumad students but when I shared my experience they sympathized with us and said that our situation is pitiful. They asked why the military men have to do such actions,” he said.
He also wished that they will be able to attend in the next children summit to broaden their knowledge and exercise their right to express their situation in their ancestral land.
Balilid said the children’s summit is a great avenue to express the situation of Lumad students in far-flung areas.
He said that the issue of Lumad students fits the four main issues of the children summit which include survival, participation, protection and development.
During the summit, Balilid said Lumad students expand their knowledge, especially on their rights in school.
The summit is part of the three-day Mindanao Children’s Festival organized by the local government and various children’s organizations. (davaotoday.com)