Monday, September 21, 2009

footprints in Richel's life

A Dream Come True
By: Richel Daonlay

“When you wish upon a star it makes no different who you are. Anything your heart desire will come to you”. Every time I heard this song many question come up to my mind. Does it not really matter who we are? When poor is always the loser and the rich are always the winner. It sounds unfair, right? Even as a child I perceived that wishes, dreams, and aspirations belong only for a few rich individuals. But this perception suddenly changed when I know a place named Mahayag, once upon a time.
Last summer vacation five of us were assigned to conduct our summer Bridging 2009 at Mahayag, St.Peter, Malaybalay city. It is a paradise surrounded by mountains and rivers. A home of full blooded Talaandig, Higaonon, and Pulangihon Manobo tribes. People are still rooted and bounded to the own roots of their culture. A place portrays the simplicity of life where the spirit of “Bayanihan “was still a virtue and “handuga”(sharing) was still a living legacy.
Mahayag was also subjected to arm conflicts since it is situated close to the boundary of Agusan and Bukidnon. Amidst of threatening peace situation they never loss hope that one day their long life dream of having a community tribal school will come to realize. Parents cannot afford to support their children in school. However, it is their desire to educate the young ones, for it is their common experience that whenever they sold their products they were not being paid with due amount because they don’t even know how to read, write, and count.
Two years ago, Mahayag established Pigpamulahan Tribal School which offers primary education. This was also the joined efforts of Bukidnon Tribal Filipino Foundation Inc. (BTFFI) and other supporting group. At that time the community and BTFFI don’t have enough funds to establish a new school. Men in the community voluntarily gathered bamboos, timber, and nipa to build in their classroom. First teachers in the school are volunteers from nearby places. A month later, various encounter between soldiers and NPA happened in mountain ranges surrounding Mahayag. They were forced to evacuate to the Barangay proper. After that tremendous armed conflict, they started a new beginning. They strengthened their community leadership and peace building in protection to their life, land and culture as lumads. And there was entire silence and peace in Mahayag for the last two years.
But just the beginning of this year there was again uprising encounters between NPA and soldiers. During our summer bridging I’m handling incoming grade five pupils between 14 – 16 years old. We are now in two weeks of teaching when suddenly we heard sound of a canyon. All become panic. Women gathered their children inside home. People keep on running searching a place to hide. At that moment, I am speechless and I can’t move my feet. I was so shock because never in my life I had experience such. Few minutes after, group of soldier came and stayed there for almost a week. Some household are now packing their things for they don’t know what happen next.
We still continue our class, even though many were absent because they are now afraid of war. As a teacher, I calmed myself because I know my student needs me more at that moment. Fears are clear in their eyes. Instead of having my lesson that day, I let them draw something what is in their mind and hearts because, it is only then I’m giving them the chance to heal their fears and pain. Some of their drawings are soldiers, guns, other deadly weapons. On the second activity, I let them draw what are their dreams for themselves and community. Majority aspire for peace in their place. Then, let them burn their first drawing. And ask them to bring home the drawing of their dreams. I let them play afterwards, in spite of a fact that soldiers are roaming around the community. And I think that works after all, because children are still coming to school. I always motivate them to pray, think positive and never afraid of anything
My memorable experience in Mahayag molded me much to be an optimistic and a better peace builder. My experience in armed conflict might only be a tip compare to others. Just be ourselves and have peace that all start from within for us to be a channel of peace for others. Children are the most vulnerable in armed conflict areas let us work on together in achieving lasting peace that the young and incoming generation may develop that positive outlook in the world we are living with. We don’t need to be someone to become a peace builder. Dreams do come true also for the poor like us. Only we have to do is believe in the beauty of our own dreams and work for its fulfillment. Great changes all started in simple yet meaningful dreams.

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