A Fulfilled Promise: Lumads Graduate from School Harassed by Military

Although ALCADEV is a relatively young institution, its roots can be traced in the 1980s. The Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), one of the institutions that pushed for the creation of ALCADEV, has been providing functional literacy to indigenous children since the 1980s in Surigao del Sur. In 1997, TRIFPSS established 10 schools in 10 indigenous people’s communities in three municipalities of the province. TRIFPSS twice won first place in the National Literacy Award (NLA) that made Surigao del Sur famous for non-formal education. The effort of TRIFPSS has been fruitful until the time came for it to respond to the need of IP youth for higher level of learning. Along with Sildap Sidlakan Inc, TRIFPSS was instrumental in the establishment of ALCADEV in 2004. In 2006, TRIFPSS won fourth place when it forwarded ALCADEV as its output.

Alternative education as a concept is no longer new in the Philippines. Even in other parts of the world where access to education is difficult for the less privileged, its function and work cannot be disregarded. What is also unique with ALCADEV is its program that encourages its graduates to return to their communities to serve using the skills and knowledge they learned from the school. Students are trained to specialize in agriculture, community literacy and numeracy, community organizing and basic health care.

“This school is different from the usual schools we know in the Philippines because this school teaches students how to improve society” said Hans Schaap, country representative of New World, a Belgian NGO working in the Philippines.

“I cannot inspire you because you inspired me a lot instead,” ALCADEV Board of Directors chair Sr Helen S. Makiling, MSM, PhD.

“While walking the aisle going to my seat, I feel proud to show myself to the members and leaders of different indigenous communities to show them the fruit of our hardships now that I graduated. I’m sure I inspired them and I promise to impart the knowledge I learned from this school,” ALCADEV graduate Jether Campos who chose to specialize in agriculture said.

Like many who are trying to live up to the principles they are adhering to, the people behind ALCADEV unflinchingly served the communities’ needs without fear even in the face of threats and harassments.

Disruptions and Vilifications

A week before the graduation rites of TRIFPSS and ALCADEV, soldiers from 58th Infantry Battalion again conducted military operations in the area. Right after the recognition program, soldiers led by Lt. Jayson Marmol, arrived in the community of Mike, one kilometer from ALCADEV School stayed overnight in the community of Km 16, which is near the school grounds. This action was perceived by students and teachers as threatening especially after a series of events in the school year that has passed.

In July 2009, indigenous communities surrounding the school, together with the students and the teachers, were forced to evacuate because of the increased presence of the military in the area. Food supplies were also controlled. The 401st Brigade under then Colonel Danilo Fabian and Col Benjamin Pedralvez of 58th IB accused the school of training students to become communist guerillas. The military based their accusations with the alleged failure of ALCADEV to apply for accreditation from the Department of Education and the provincial council, belittling the alternative education system ALCADEV is espousing. But the communities which benefit from the service delivered by the school and its students belie these false accusations.

In February 8, 2010 ALCADEV staff members, while bringing in rice for the students, were told at the checkpoint to go to the 401st Brigade headquarters. They were then asked by the current brigade commander Col. Tolentino for permit to transport and checked if ALCADEV has done the processing for the school’s formalization. Despite the provision in the 1987 Constitution stipulating that “the state shall encourage non-formal, informal and indigenous learning systems… particularly those that respond to the community needs,” small schools like ALCADEV have difficulties in complying with the stringent requirements for accreditation. More than mere papers of formalization, the legitimacy of ALCADEV as a school can be seen in the students it has produced. These students have committed their service to Lumad communities.

Overwhelming Support

ALCADEV found allies in some local government officials who support the cause of the Lumads in Caraga and have observed the services provided by the school to the communities. Surigao del Sur provincial administrator Johnny T. Pimentel lauded ALCADEV’s efforts.

“I told Mr. Jalandoni Campos (chairman of MAPASU organization) during the evacuation that if I was not able to visit ALCADEV during last year’s graduation, I would have not known what ALCADEV is doing, and would have believed the military’s vilification of this school. I am thankful I was invited again today,” Pimentel said.

“During my talk in General Santos last year to a group of volunteer youth for health, I shared to them how ALCADEV manages health services to indigenous communities,” shared Dr. Herwin Villamor of Medical Mission Group said.

The Mindanao volunteer of Enfants du Mekong, a French NGO working in Southeast Asia, Marion Isoard expressed her happiness over the graduation of the students whom the NGO are supporting.

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