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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Lumad schools: Bastion of unity in struggle

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DIVIDE AND CONQUER.
This strategy, despite being repeated over and over again, still proves to be effective for modern-day fascists, imperialists, and colonizers — including President Duterte.
Throughout Philippine history, the Filipino people bore witness to how internal conflicts generate disunity within the nation.
From commissioning local warriors to bribing former datus with political power, the Spaniards, Americans, and Japanese successfully took hold of the country by its neck. The oppressive foreigners exploited its resources, abused its people, and deprived it of freedom that remains a problem until today.
History now seems to be repeating itself albeit in a different form.
The only entity dividing the people this time is the Duterte regime — not a foreign invader but an institution supposed to protect the people from such.
DUTERTE PLAYBOOK: DIVIDE THE LUMAD, CONQUER THE LAND, SATISFY THE ELITE
Ironically, the Duterte regime, which is mandated to serve the interests of the masses, is clearly the primary divisive entity whose not-so-hidden motive is to satisfy only the interests of foreign companies and the local elite.
State negligence continues to crack the whip unto the Indigenous Peoples (IP) to independently compensate for the lack of education and healthcare in their areas, which must be provided by the government from the get-go.
The IPs are then inherently marginalized as a result of isolation in socio-economic and political affairs.
However, their suffering does not stop there as constant militarization, red-tagging, harassment, and other threats continue to be perpetrated by state forces and even by their own kin.
A glaring example is seen in local paramilitaries which are allegedly backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). According to the Lumad, these paramilitary groups are composed of members from their neighborhood who act as mercenaries and killers for the state.
The Lianga massacre back in September 1, 2015 is one of the many incidents of paramilitary killings that prove such allegations.
Paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani, a “government-backed military troop” according to Karapatan, massacred the Executive Director of ALCADEV Lumad School Emerito Samarca, IP group Maluhutayong Pakigbisog Alansa sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) leader Dionel Campos, and community leader Aurelio Sinzo in Surigao del Sur.
Killings and oppression similar to this carnage must be responded with great condemnation for bona fide IP leaders. However, for some of the Lumad-by-blood leaders, the Duterte regime has deprogrammed them into supporting its fraudulent counter-insurgency measures.
Instead of supporting independent efforts to respond to the scarcity of social services, they revert to red-tagging teachers, organizations, and community leaders to stifle dissent and defend the state.
LUMAD SCHOOLS: MASS-ORIENTED, NATIONALISTIC, SCIENTIFIC
Last August 14, 2020, a day after the premiere of Atom Araullo’s i-Witness documentary entitled “Ang Iskul Kong Bakwit,” “Datu” Rico H. Maca, a supposed Lumad representative, reverted to his hackneyed antics and accused the documentary for being biased towards left-leaning groups. Similar to the state’s black propaganda strategy, he accused the Bakwit school for teaching children to protest or rally for subversive causes.
However, for the Lumad youth, all they genuinely desire from their education is to have the expertise needed to further develop their ancestral domains. Lack of education remains a primary impetus given past incidents involving their elders being deceived in exchange for land.
Which is why, through schools built for and by the Lumad, they receive the knowledge and skills to be mass-oriented, nationalistic, and scientific students with goals of serving the people.
Mass-oriented means that education revolves around the goal of serving the masses. It gives prime importance to the interest of the people, the struggle of the masses, and the strength of communities.
Being nationalistic means upholding the sovereignty and independence of the nation. Nationalistic education then entails the understanding of the history of struggle.
Scientific pedagogy, on the other hand, stimulates the mind to be open and have an inclination towards the truth.
The Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) is one of the Lumad schools in ancestral domains that foster students to become contributors to their communities. It provides alternative education to Lumad children that are contextualized for the skills needed to develop their rightfully owned ancestral domains. ALCADEV’s subjects do not include left-wing propaganda but are known for providing quality instruction on agriculture, health, and livelihood education.
Similar to ALCADEV, Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) is another Lumad school established to respond to the needs of the people, but is being discredited by the state.
As a “school borne out of the Lumad’s unity to defend their ancestral land” according to Bulatlat, STTICLCI’s pedagogy is centered on aiding the children to earn the skills to cultivate their lands for the benefit of all.
Using the lessons garnered from its fruitful history of struggle against logging operations, the struggle remains alive as it is understood and studied in STTICLCI as part of their mass-oriented curriculum.
UNITY IN STRUGGLE
At the end of the day, cultivating students that are mass-oriented, nationalistic, and scientific is just a small piece of the puzzle for ALCADEV, STTICLCI, and other Lumad schools. Given the attempts of the state to divide their communities, these schools serve to organize the Lumad for a single purpose: to unify them in defending their lands and chart inclusive development.
For us living in the cities, the struggle of the Lumad implore us to offer our talents and skills in serving the IPs. Through living with them and knowing the root causes of their problems, we will be made aware that the IPs are not against development nor are they after opulence and wealth. Their main call has always been to respect their right to their lands and to take control of the future of their communities.
All of this could be achieved primarily through our support for the bastion of unity in struggle — the Lumad schools.

Illustration by Kate Gotis

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