A 5-hour trek that turned 16

A reflection of an ‘Ila-ila Lumad’ Program participant

By Pau Villanueva


I had a rare opportunity in meeting the Matigsalug Lumad of Sitio Malungon, San Fernando, Bukidnon on July 17 together with the members of Save Our Schools Network and the facilitators of the ‘Ila-ila Lumad’ Program of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR). A five-hour trek that turned eleven, thirteen, and even sixteen hours for some did not stop our team into meeting these kind souls. Language has become a barrier for us to communicate, but the exchange of smiles should never be underestimated as a way of expressing warmth and welcome.

It was inspiring to get to know the volunteer teachers or RMP-NMR who, out of dedication and love for these Lumad children, left their homes and ventured the mountains despite the risk they had to go through as educators of truth and justice. One of them had just recently graduated high school, but has been teaching these children even before he had graduated.

Learning is a strong desire for these children. They have immeasurable hopes and dreams for themselves more than any of us have. Most of them expressed how they want to be like their teachers when they grow up. One of them said he wants to teach other Lumad children so that they could dream like him, and that there would be more teachers like them. These kids look up to their teachers as their inspiration, and poverty will not stop them from pursuing their passion.

This first encounter I had with the Lumad gave me a new perspective through the experiences of these people. As one of the advocates has said, "Kaya mo makarating ng ibang bansa, bakit hindi mo subukan abutin ang Pilipinas?”

We are connected as Filipinos and in one way or another, we must share in their plight and struggle.


Pau, left, with the Matigsalug children.


The Lumad children of the RMP-NMR Literacy and Numeracy School in Sitio Malungon.


In October 12, join our Lumad and other national minorities brothers and sisters as they camp out in UP Diliman to voice out their struggles and as they share their stories with us. Save Our Schools will also be having a photo exhibit and workshop in the Kampuhan exhibit area. Hope to see everyone there!


[Pau Villanueva, a visual communications and design student, joined the ‘Ila-ila Lumad’ Program on July 2016 with several other from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Want to join the Program? E-mail us at info@rmp-nmr.org]

*Photos owned by Pau Villanueva