In 1994, at the request of a delegation of Manobo chieftains, Fr. Michel Lenzen, OMI, founded the Pangipasan Community School. The school was built to meet the needs of the Manobo tribal children in Panigipasan, Lampayan, Matalam, Cotabato, Philippines as this was the ancestral territory of the Manobo tribe. The Cotabato sponsor site is comprised of nine tribal sitios or communities, all within 25 km of the sponsor site. In 2001 the school was accepted into the Chalice family under the direction of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and currently assist over 600 children.
Education is very expensive in this area; therefore it is the main focus of this site. Children are supplied with the items necessary for them to attend school - clothing, hygiene kits, nourishment, and when necessary medical treatments. It is the desire of site director Fr. Rizaldy T. Orola, and his brothers in Christ, that all children in their schools complete a basic elementary education. Their objective is to create self-reliant, well-informed, reasoning individuals. The Manobo children are permitted to wear their native attire to school every Monday, with school uniforms being required the rest of the week. They are not only taught the modern day curriculum, but the beauty and richness of their inheritance. In the process, the site staff gains a holistic understanding of man and his environment through the sharing of knowledge with the tribal people themselves. The consequence of educating the children is the change of attitude in the tribe. They now exhibit dignity and self esteem, standing for their rights and beliefs.
The children of this site belong to extremely destitute families that have experienced the conflict between the MILF and the Government forces. It is estimated that 85% of the native tribes, including people from the slum communities, are without any primary education, with most never having seen a classroom. The typical Manobo family consists of parents and four children. They live in a small 2.5 x 3 meter home. If the child must travel a great distance to attend school the family will build a hostel close to the school so they can remain together. Community elders supervise the hostels to ensure the safety of the children.
Children that attend school are provided with lunch. Before they are dismissed for the day they are given supplies meant for their supper and breakfast. The meals are provided to ensure a balanced diet and eliminate the occurrence of malnutrition. In return for the benefits offered to the families, the community provides their services to the school in the form of free labour for the institution or sponsor site. Each individual school has a certain day that parents volunteer their services. Mothers are given a rotation so each will have the opportunity to cook for their children and monitor them in school. The community service is called "Communal Work". All the field workers, teachers and community people work together for the site on specific projects. One of the agreed upon activities is the maintenance of the school vegetable garden. This is the main source of raw materials used for the school nutrition program and is tended by the parents and high school students. The workgroups have also undertaken a massive tree-planting project. Through these activities the students learn the value of education and hard work. The example the graduating students provide motivates the parents to register their children in school.
The Cotaboto sponsor site is an excellent example of a community coming together to tendÂ to the needs of their citizens as a whole. Each level shares their time, talents and experiences, teaching the next the value of working together so all may live a more productive life in dignity and solidarity.
2012 Director’s Report - Chalice Cotabato Project
Thank you very much for your continued support for the education of the least privileged of our tribal peoples of the highlands of Central Mindanao. The past school year and summer, June, 2011-June, 2012 passed as a mixture of blessings and challenges for the Cotabato Project site. Below is my account of this year’s journey that we have embarked with these children and with their families.
We have 22 persons working in this project site. This past April-June, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have sent our school principal, Ray Magollado, to France for an exposure with one of our OMI partners in mission. He went to organic-farming communities in the Brittany area to help us see what systems/techniques might be applicable for implementation in our local setting. He went on to become a recipient of financial help given for the purpose of acquiring laboratory equipment for our school from spontaneous, generous French farmers.
We have around 1000 sponsored pupils and students as of June. Out of these, 22 are in college, 95 are in high school and around 400 in elementary. The government is now implementing a “kindergarten—to—12” years of school program and so we have complied with it. Because of your support, we were able to build and finish a new school building for kindergarten pupils in December, 2011 and we are now using it. There are 45 children “officially” enrolled at our kindergarten school.
Traditionally, after our pupils finish elementary school, we send them to 2 public high schools near Pangipasan: Lampayan High School (7 km.) and Alimodian High School (12 km.). This year we decided to send all high school students to Alimodian where we have a dormitory and caretakers. The result is 95 students packed in our dorm building. We had to resolve the congestion problem and build a 12’x24’ kiosk / sleeping quarters for their use. This is an unforeseen but much needed expense.
We have been grateful recipients of the Chalice Gift Catalogue project. The past three campaign of the program saw us with the distribution of farm animals and implements to work on our lands. We have given a total of 27 carabaos (water buffalo) to sponsored Manobo children and their families. We have also produced and given out around 5,000 rubber tree seedlings and cellophane seedling bags. This is literally only the tip of the iceberg we are addressing but the idea behind this program is to help the Manobo farm their lots more efficiently so as to put food on the table, plant productive forest trees, and convince them in a practical way to refrain from mortgaging/selling their ancestral homeland to unscrupulous settlers who prey on their inability to read and write.
We have a health worker at our school. She takes care of the illnesses of our children and their families. Common problems are malnutrition and dengue fever. Tuberculosis among the adults is also another problem. Because we are so far away from the hospitals and clinics, we are heavily dependent on our motorcycles for the transportation of our patients for check-up, laboratory tests, etc,.
This school year, our Manobo mothers have been sewing all our school uniforms. This project is another outcome of the gift catalogue program—you provided funds to buy our manual sewing machines, we hired professional tailors/seamstress to teach them the basics and now our mothers do it on their own.
Beginning December of last year and ending in April of this year, our new Kindergarten building was the host to a series of meetings among the commanders of the rebel forces for a locally-organized action for reconciliation between the warring sides. This resulted in a formal signing of a peace treaty recognizing the traditional boundaries of the Manobo and the Maguindanaon peoples (Muslims) witnessed by the governor of the province, the Army Division responsible in the area, a representative from Congress, an NGO and myself. We are a major player in Manobo land whether we like it or not. The Manobo look up to us as partners that give them voice in this landscape of the Philippine body politic. This is also Chalice’ contribution for the betterment of our lives here.
Overall, we have a lot to thank the Lord for this year. We also have a lot to thank you, our sponsors, for giving us this privilege to help our most needy brethren in this part of the Philippines.
Once again, thank you very much. God bless you!
Fr. Rafael Tianero, OMI