For most of the young ones in the urban areas, education comes in handy. Reforms, opportunities, and a supportive network allow them to better themselves and explore their capacities to their utmost. A lot of options for their future are out there, a stone’s throw away.
Yet to the kids in S’bu Udi, Lake Sebu, it’s not always the case.
On a sunny morning on September 23rd, the Notre Dame of Marbel University crossed through the lake to attend the blessing ceremony of Bangka-aralan, the university’s boat project for the children of Sitio S’bu Udi, an islet in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
The students, parents, and teachers of the school welcomed the NDMU family, with President Bro. Wilfredo Lubrico, FMS, Champagnat Community College (CCC) Director Romeo Babar, IBED-Elementary and Junior High School Principal Allan Sumadic, Guidance and Scholarship Program Director Elaine Labiao, NDMU Supreme Student Government Vice-President Jayford Anorico, Non-teaching Personnel Office President and School Accountant Keneth Albert Anino, Publication Officer Kloyde Caday, and Community Extension Staff Edgar Pelarco.
The university’s joint project with the Indigenous Learning School Inc. (ILSI) aims to give solution to the problem of educational access of the students separated from the schools through the vast lake.
But according to Marmylone Learning Center (MLC) Principal Anita Castillon, the boat can be used not only as a vessel for students and teachers but also as a means of transportation during emergency and hospitalization purposes and a boat for weekly lake cleanup.
Schoolteacher and Lake Sebu resident Gemma Tuan offered a prayer and opened the blessing ceremony. As a proud T’boli, she is grateful to NDMU for helping to lift up their community.
Mrs. Tuan said she is more motivated to do home visitations with the new boat for her to teach literacy and thinking to children on the other side. She also encouraged the parents to help her take care and preserve the blessings for the benefit of their children.
She stressed how education changed the course of her life. In Mrs. Tuan’s younger years, she lived in Koronadal City away from her parents to pursue her studies. She earned a college diploma as a working student, assisting homeowners on their household chores.
Pastor Joemiel Ukom read Psalm 127:1-2, reflecting before the community the importance of offering everything to the Lord. After his talk, they lit candles and laid on of their hands to bless the new boat.
After the prayer, CCC Director Romeo Babar ensured the S’bu Udi community that NDMU’s heart is committed to the children, especially those living in the margins.
In fact, they started the collaboration with the community’s livelihood as the T’boli mothers’ beadwork, accessories, flutes, and bamboo crafts are consigned at CCC Office, with all the proceeds coming back to the creators.
Bro. Lubrico affirmed the initiative of S’bu Udi, saying that safeguarding the indigenous peoples’ rights is a substantial part of the mission-vision of NDMU. Aside from the donation, NDMU also offers scholarship grants and other privileges to the lumad. The student councils in the university are also active in implementing impactful civic engagements to IP communities.
The President lauded the community’s awareness and contribution to environmental protection too and pledged that the institution is willing to help in its capacity. NDMU’s help is done on a humanitarian basis, something that transcends distance and differences of religion, class, and social groups, according to Bro. Lubrico.
The matriarch of the community is Mrs. Anita Castillon. She talked about how the advocacy of NDMU and MLC are the same, with her strong partnership with NDMU since 2006 through the Indigenous Learning School of Lake Sebu.
According to her, the students will hopefully not be committing absences, and will not be in danger while crossing the lake, especially on rainy seasons.
She also spoke about her other cause, the environment, eager to unite the members of the community and plan for their ways on managing solid waste for Lake Sebu.
After the program, NDMU gave each child and parent some goods and rice.
While preparing for the food for lunch, the parents recognized how they were inspired by the kind gesture, and promised to strive hard for their children’s education, with the hope of crossing through poverty and hardships in life.
The tears in their eyes were not lying.