This marks the start of the graduation ceremony at the Tugdaan Mangyan Center in Mindoro Island.
Around 30 students are graduating this year.
They include Vilma Talibuka from the Mangyan tribe.
“We’re very happy here. Unlike in other schools, we’re treated equally here. Our teachers are like our friends. Life is simple here. We can wear our native attire and speak our language.”
The school is located in 2 hectares of land donated by the community at the foot of Mount Halcon.
It has a vegetable garden and the classrooms are outside... under the blue sky....
Benjamin Abadiano is one of the founders.
”Even if they don’t have students anymore studying in Tugdaan, the parents continue to provide support in different ways. Their children are already in college, yet, they still have time in helping the farm of Tugdaan. They try to help Tugdaan by providing free labor. And also the participation of the students before. Many of them are already teaching in Tugdaan, and at the same time, they’re also part of the administration. Tugdaan is 100 percent managed by the Mangyans already.”
Tugdaan is a special school for the Mangyans.
This is where young people are taught about their ancient culture and their modern rights.
And after 25 years, the school has grown big.
It now has an early development program for children before they go on to state-run primary education.
Tugdaan education was awarded by the Department of Education for its curriculum, which stresses the importance of the tribe’s culture.
Ramon Taywan is one of the first 12 students who went to the Tugdaan school. His children also study at Tugdaan.
He is now president of the Parents-Teachers Association.
“We help the school when needed. We’ve come a long way. We started almost from nothing. ”
The school also manages the Mangyan Living Heritage Center.
It has a food processing center where local products are processed and sold around the country and exported abroad.
Ailyn Lintawagin is the coordinator.
“We buy the Mangyan’s products at the right price unlike the lowlanders. These are free from chemicals from the ancestral land which is our life.”
Parents are actively involved in school activities.
Enrique Tupaz’s six children are all graduates from Tugdaan.
He’s now training the students in coffee production.
“We take an active role in the school because this is our school. We help clean the grounds, to plant it. Our hope is that our young people will continue fighting for our ancestral lands. And we continue to dream about a college.”
80-year-old Sister Vitricia Pascasio has helped the school from the beginning.
She says she’s proud of what they’ve achieved.
“Today’s celebration is a celebration of the determination of those people to see their right to the land, and their life, and to see that their culture is respected, that they can preserve it for future generations, to live lives that people can respect and to live lives of service not only to their tribe but to other people as well.”