Lumad ‘bakwit’ school faces risk of virus infection, food shortage amid lockdown

A lumad student makes an alternative mask out of layered table tissues. (Photo courtesy of Save Our Schools Network)
“The food and other resources [are] a challenge in this time of enhanced community quarantine since we couldn’t leave the premises, and so do other individuals or groups who have been visiting us.”


Life and learning goes on in the makeshift evacuation schools, also called “bakwit schools,” of the indigenous children and their supporters in Metro Manila, as northern Philippines is placed under an enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.

However, in this 30-day lockdown in Luzon, the Lumad students who hailed from the southern island of the country feared that they might contract the dreaded disease. Their schools in Mindanao have been ordered closed on baseless allegations that these were run by communist guerrillas.

According to Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, the organization which aids these children in completing their studies while in evacuation, the month-long lockdown would restrict the inflow of resources they need.

“That is why we are taking this issue seriously. A slight complacency is absolutely unacceptable” SOS Network Spokesperson Rius Valle said in a statement.

The group, which teaches some 100 Lumad children, is still settled in the University of the Philippines – Diliman in Quezon City, one of the cities where the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the country is recorded.

Inside the Lumad bakwit school in UP Diliman. (Photo courtesy of Save Our Schools Network)

Currently, there is a no-visitor policy in the bakwit school as imposed by the university’s officials.

Volunteer teacher Jeany Rose Hayahay expressed her concern on the uncertainty of the COVID-19 response situation since “the government is lacking on mass testing” for the coronavirus disease.

“The spread of the virus here in the Philippines is not [at] its peak yet and the government is lacking on mass testing. So this is not yet the worst. That is what I’m afraid of,” Hayahay said.

“We might see things getting worse,” Valle stressed. “Everyone is anxious because of [these] government announcements that only instill fear and confusion. People need tests. People need to work. But [the government‘s] response to these [is] to threaten everyone. This will affect health response and worsen shortage of food and services.”

A Lumad student takes the blood pressure of a fellow student. (Photo courtesy of Save Our Schools Network)

One Lumad student named “Katkat” also expressed her concern, not only for their plight but also for the situation of homeless people amid the spread of the disease from sars-cov-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), which was discovered in China last December.

“We’ve been here in Manila long enough to see how many were homeless. We think we are the same; displaced and deprived of a home. We are thankful that we have UP, but what will happen to them?” the 16-year-old student exclaimed in Filipino.

She shared that they still go about their activities in the bakwit school during the first week of the Luzon-wide quarantine, such as film viewings, cultural works and educational discussions. “We are learning about health, imperialism and the Philippine’s past and present situation,” she narrated.

Due to lack of available disposable face masks, some of the children resorted to the use of sheets of table tissues to cover their mouth and nose, as a safety precaution.

According to the World Health Organization, the use of a mask alone is not effective enough to protect people from the human-to-human transmission of the disease. Its usage must be done along with other preventive measures, such as hand hygiene.

Furthermore, SOS noted their struggle of sourcing food during this time, as they, along with the Lumad children and their parents, have been dependent on support from various groups for the past three years.

“The food and other resources [are] a challenge in this time of enhanced community quarantine since we couldn’t leave the premises, and so do other individuals or groups who have been visiting us,” Valle said.

“Right now we are seeing different individuals and groups, some [whom] we never met before [have] offered to help, from donating food and other supplies to offering transportation, equipment and volunteer work – all in an effort to help Lumad children get through with this,” Valle said.

The Philippines recorded 25 fatalities among the 380 reported cases of COVID-19 infections, while 15 patients have recovered, as of March 22.(

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