by Arrupe scholastics
Native flora and fauna thrive in Bendum, Bukidnon in southern Philippines where Ecojesuit Coordinator Fr Pedro Walpole SJ directs the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC), a Jesuit institute for the integrated and holistic education of indigenous children and youth living along the Pantaron Mountain Range. APC highlights integral ecology. Along the lines of the Universal Apostolic Preferences, the school collaborates with the indigenous peoples, especially the youth, not only in protecting their environment but also in learning to live in a balanced way.
The tiny village of Bendum is located in the Pantaron Mountain Range, one of the last remaining primary forest blocks in Mindanao. (Photo: James Mugwe Ng’ang’a SJ)
Fr Pedro Walpole SJ arrived in Bendum in 1992. The simple interactions he had with the residents would be the start of nearly three decades of continuing engagement and dialogue with the indigenous community. (Photo: James Mugwe Ng’ang’a SJ)
The Grade School campus of Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center. The school curriculum integrates the community’s knowledge system and way of life to sustain and develop among the children and youth respect for and pride in their cultural heritage. Apu Palamguwan is the mythical ancestor of the indigenous Pulangiyen people. He desired for his people to be educated so they could write down their story and learn how to protect their land. (Photo: James Mugwe Ng’ang’a SJ)
Industrial loggers once felled Bendum’s forests. Today, the youth are engaged in forest regeneration, with a dream to grow a canopy forest by 2050. (Photo: James Mugwe Ng’ang’a SJ)
The forest walk provides the community and visitors to Bendum an opportunity to appreciate the native species of wildlife in Bendum. Indigenous youth are planting pillar species to regenerate their forests. (Photo: James Mugwe Ng’ang’a SJ)
Fruits of a local species of fig that can be found in the forests of Bendum. The fruits are eaten by birds.
Balay Laudato si’ where APC holds many of its workshops and immersion activities is powered by solar energy. (Photo: James Mugwe Ng’ang’a SJ)
APC grows its own organic vegetables, such as this eggplant. Their vegetable gardens help to feed the more than 400 students and teachers at APC.
The school employs vermicomposting, using earthworms to turn organic wastes into high quality compost to be used as fertiliser for their organic farm.
Citronella, a tall tropical grass related to the lemongrass, can be found in APC’s surroundings. The plant’s oil is a natural insect and animal repellent.
The school also plants marigold to repel insects from their garden without the aid of chemical pesticides.
Jackfruit is a common fruit tree in Bendum. (Photo: James Mugwe Ng’ang’a SJ)
Locally known as Atay-atay, the plant is abundant in Bendum and known for its medicinal uses.
High school students of APC with Jesuit scholastics from Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Vietnam during an immersion experience in Bendum in January.
This story was originally published in the Jesuit Conference Asia Pacific website.