APC youth in a dialogue with JCAP Spirituality Workshop participants around the dugo*.
It was a typical Wednesday afternoon in the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC), 7 August, albeit with an air of nervousness and anticipation for the approaching first quarterfinal exams. But as the classes went on and the chatter of students could be heard from a distance, different paths from around Asia Pacific converged in Bendum as APC gulang (high school) students engaged with participants of the JCAP-RwC Spirituality for Action Workshop to listen to their stories and share their own.
The students shared a meaningful conversation with the participants who were teachers, members of the Jesuit social apostolate, seminarians, and development workers in different non-governmental organizations from the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, Myanmar, South Korea, and Portugal. Although coming from different contexts and cultures, they met around the dugo*, gathered as one community in an amul-amul (dialogue), a cultural practice valued by the Pulangiyen as a way of learning from one another.
The dalepaan became a central focus in the conversation. Students shared how they consider it as their home in Bendum. Eljoy Linggay, Grade 9, from Nabawang, a village two hours away from APC, said that one of the challenges that hinder many indigenous youth from studying is the distance they have to travel everyday to go to school. In the dalepaan, students like Eljoy learn to live together, work as team, divide daily tasks, resolve conflict, and look out for one another while they are in APC.
It is also here that they develop a deeper sense of community that teaches them to aspire not only for themselves but also for their culture.
“I want to be a forester so I can help sustain our gaupnot just here in Bendum, but in the whole Upper Pulangi. I want to give back to my community when I finish my studies. I want to share my culture and encourage other indigenous youth to value their culture as well,” said Grade 11 student Gino Suldahan, noting that “selfish dreams” are useless.
The same sentiment was reflected in a journal entry shared by Grade 8 student Meravel Sawan-ay. “My vision for my tribe is that they will stand up against injustice. Nowadays, Lumad (indigenous) ancestral lands are being taken away because other people take advantage of their illiteracy. I want to become a teacher so I can educate the youth and teach them to fight this injustice in the future,” she said.
The youth told the older group about their core subject Natural Resource Management and how they learn about organic farming, forest and water management, and assisted natural regeneration – skills that bring them closer to the land and their culture.
The dialogue also helped widen the perspectives of the students as they heard the workshop participants’ stories on accompanying marginalized communities, caring for the environment, and journeying with the youth in different contexts around the world.
Teriza Mir from Sydney, Australia, the youngest in the JCAP group, said the experience was enriching to her as someone who works with the youth through the Two Wolves Abroad and as a youth herself.
“What really drove it home to me was seeing this poster in a dalepaan saying that the gaup of Bendum is place of peace. It was signed by Father Pedro (APC Director), Datu Nestor (the community leader), and Jason, the Pulangiyen youth leader. Seeing how this culture values its youth, to have the youth leader sign this really important declaration alongside adults and to include them in the conversation…that they acknowledge how the youth can make a difference, really made an impact to me,” she said.
“This experience has given me a great sense of peace and perspective that I really hope I can bring back and don’t lose when I get back to the big city,” she added.
The Spirituality for Action Workshop held 5-9 August in Balay Laudato Si’ with the theme “Listening, Discerning, and Accompanying” aimed to provide moments of energy and insight for the participants in working with communities and the youth. (WATCH: JCAP Spirituality for Action Workshop video)
*Dugo in Pulangiyen culture is a sunken part of the floor where the community is gathered for dialogue, conflict resolution, rituals and celebrations.