Ata-Manobos want salugpungan schools out

With thirst for education, members of Ata-Manobo communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte once welcomed schools known in their communities as “salugpungan”. But they soon found out that what they thought was a blessing, brought them a curse.

Now, they are shouting for such schools to be closed.

Spokesperson of Talaingod Tribal Council of Elders, Datu Lumansad Sibogan admitted having been part of putting up salugpungan schools some years back.

He was then thinking that having such schools especially in far-flung Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, would serve well for the young Ata Manobos who then had no schools to go to for education.

NPA influenced

In two interviews with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Sibogan expressed having good faith in salugpungan, an Ata Manobo term meaning unity. But he has relinquished such faith having found out that that such schools are influenced by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Sibogan claimed having witnessed armed men dropping by such schools and allegedly accommodated well by the salugpungan teachers. He knew them as NPA commanders because he was once a recruit of the NPAs.

Despite this behind the classroom reality, he noted students were learning. However, he feared about the mindset that such schools were developing among the young people.

He revealed having noted that students of salugpungan were taught how to dismantle firearms. He once had a chance to observe them doing such during the students’ night session.

“Ensaktong curriculum sa buntag , sa gabii lahi na pud. Pag-graduate sa bata kasamok ang naa sa ulo. (they’re taught the right curriculum in the day but differently at night. Upon graduating, they’d have chaotic mindset),” he said, sharing his thoughts in an interview before his group staged a protest action against twisted education and against arming children.

Absence of tribal consent

His group also raised protest over activities of NGOs with no tribal informed consent. Sibogan was citing the recently reported entry of NGO personalities in tribal communities of Talaingod allegedly on eight vans with on-board children identified as students of salugpugan schools.

Sibogan expressed concern over mothers who were looking for their children later found among those on board the vans held at a checkpoint of Talaingod Municipal Police Station (MPS).

He cautioned those NGO personalities “not to come back otherwise something will happen to them.”

Meanwhile, 20-year old Abenad Bago was gritting in bêtween his teeth at the protest rally line as he called out an NGO personality being held at Talaingod . Bago identified that personality among those running the Salugpungan schools.

Abuses on young IPs

Bago was furious about how he and other young Ata-Manobos were sent to join protest rallies against the government, how they were made to believe in twisted education and in false information.

Aside from these, Bago confided being sexually abused by a gay teacher of salugpungan.

“Sa among kultura pwede namo siya patyon kay nakalapas sa among tawhanong katungod. (In our culture, we could execute him for having violated our human rights.),” he said referring to both the NGO personality and the gay teacher.

On the other hand, 24-year old Manuel Salangani confessed of the same experience with Bago. He said he was made to join protest rallies as a grading requirement of his salugpungan teachers.

“Bisan asa mi dal-on. Ang importante basta makakuyog sa rally naa kuno gihapon mi grado ana. (We were taken wherever. What was supposed to be important was for us to still get grades for joining rallies.),” he told PIA XI.

Later, he found out that he had no grades, not even school records. He was not accepted by DepEd public school teachers for failing to present the necessary document required from transferees.

“Wala koy mahatag kay dili man sila mohatag nako. (I could not present the requirements because they’re not releasing),” he said referring to salugpungan teachers.

What even made him remorseful about his salugpungan days was the sexual abuse he experienced with his male teacher he later realized as “gay.”

“Kana nga eskwelahan dili na makatabang sa akoa. (That school is not helping me),” he said.

Datu Sibogan, Bago and Salangani were only few of some 300 Ata Manobos who joined yesterday’s activitiy that became a venue of expressing their disgust.

They called for self-governance. They wanted NGOs perpetuating twisted education to stay out of their place. They wanted their children to go through generally accepted system of education, armed with right knowledge, unarmed and not harmed. (Jeanevive Duron-Abangan/PIA-11)