BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Notes from Mindanao

TENUOS, Lake Sebu - My exhaustion from walking for almost half an hour disappeared with the crisp mountain breeze when I saw them. Their eyes glistened as they greeted us and their smiles stretched from ear to ear.

Donning their traditional black T’boli dresses which were adorned with colorful beads, and their hair in beautiful braids and pigtails, the little girls welcomed us with open arms.

We arrived in Sikat Tenuous, a school for indigenous children here in Barangay Takunel, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato after a long walk on an unpaved stretch of earth that is riddled with boulders in and in some parts, filled with the thickest mud.

From the school, one can see the famed and mythical Lake Sebu.

But more magical are the smiles, laughter, songs and dances of the T’boli children who greeted us when we arrived. 

On behalf of the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines, we  turned over school kits for the children, as part of our organization’s outreach activity. The kits contained notebooks, pencil, crayons, scissors and a small box of vitamins. It’s very little help for a gargantuan problem but the children appreciated it very much.

Theirs is a story of courage, hope and inspiration – the courage to make things happen; the hope to make these dreams last and the inspiration to go on with the daily grind of living even with very scarce resources and very little help from the government.

And this is what the government does not know: That despite its inability to help remote communities such as the village of Tenuos, the men, women and children here strive to maintain a school.

The perseverance of this community is unwavering, as reverberating as the songs of the Tboli children whose voices echoed in the depths of the mountain and in our hearts. 

Photos by Jes Aznar for the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines.