A tribute to the 29-year-old Salugpungan head who died on Sept. 2.
By JOHN THIMOTY A. ROMERO
The marvel of volunteer work lies within the authenticity of its service. It occurs through the truest form of generosity one can witness. In coherence to Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, – his most famous work – the distinction of service lies within the sincerity of such, in which it occurs out of the pure sense of serving, alone. Not for the sake of anything in return, but of what extent can the service reach. Such is the nobility of teachers who volunteer to teach in the farthest of mountains, versing themselves in Lumad communities.
Here, Ronnie Garcia takes his reckoning to service with the most outstanding composure.
Graduating from University of Mindanao in Tagum City, Davao Del Norte, he utilized his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education well when he started the path to become a volunteer teacher of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in 2005, stationed in the Southern Mindanao Region countryside. Later on, he continued the endeavor as a volunteer teacher at Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (Salugpungan). In 2014, he became the basic education principal of Salugpungan, and then its executive director in 2016.
His merits in education prove to be even bigger than what was expected to that of a volunteer. He received his certificate in Educational Management last April 2015, and eventually became a candidate for Master of Education in Educational Management at the University of Southeastern Philippines, Davao City.
He was soaring in his profession, yet he chose the humble service of providing education to the Lumad communities.
His merit is also commensurate to his erudite discourse not only in terms of education, but also in the defense of the Lumad’s right to basic social services, self-determination, and their ancestral lands. He never lost grip on the current situation of the Lumad and the relevance of that to education. How can learning occur in areas turned into war zones? How can learning occur in the midst of government animosity towards schools that is principled to serve the Lumad? And how can learning occur in the midst of intense military operations and the intimidation brought about by that state?
Garcia contributed in beefing up the Lumad’s confidence to affirm their rights. He knew the situation well and was able to enlighten whatever hostile audience and leave them with a skeptic conscience.
Looking straight at the perils and dangers faced by the Lumad communities, the young teacher never blinked. The harsh trek was but trivial to Garcia. Many students and teachers bore witness to his unbreakable will, still able to give inspirational thoughts and words of encouragement to the communities trembling in fear.
Faced with the attacks on schools brought about by military barbarism and military operations, Garcia stood his ground. He did not falter even as he, himself, became a victim to these forms of harassment. He did not falter even as he was subjected to illegal surveillance. He did not falter even as his own family was subjected to the harassment meant for him.
He stood his ground. Because he knew that the Lumad was worth the sacrifice.
On September 2, he died of cardiac arrest.
Garcia died an inspiration to many, and the responsibility to give meaning to his death lies in those who are still alive. In this generation, Ronnie Garcia’s service will meet no end, for it will transfigure into more forms of noble service, more volunteers and more advocates united in the call for social justice, and to demolish the roots of poverty, landlessness, and foreign dominance.