In the APC high school, majority of the students come from neighboring villages. It is both a challenge and a joy for them to live in the dalēpaan with other young people wishing to pursue an education in Bendum. Many of our students contend with this and other challenges, and it is not always easy to persevere and overcome times when one is tried or feels a bit hopeless, but it is possible when they have a vision and see education not just for themselves but also for the culture as a whole and gaup (ancestral domain).
One of the Grade 10 graduates says, “Dito sa APC, natuto akong mag-aral na may malaking layunin” (here in APC, I was taught to have a big vision). She and other students see education as key to protecting and sustaining their gaup, not only for themselves but also for future generations, and they want to share with other indigenous youth the fruits and learnings of their APC education. A Grade 12 graduate says that indigenous youth need to be empowered to protect the gaup in their respective communities, carrying out specific roles and helping in formulating policies that seek a balance in how resources within the gaup are used.
Several of our students are overaged. They have left school in the past, took on jobs for a few years, and now feel a sense of wonder and gratitude that they are given a chance at a complete education. One graduate says that the gift of education is more valuable that material wealth, while another says that education has brought light to her life, and another says that education has given him a guide on how to be a human person and how to examine and discern those things that are not yet within understanding.
The cultural grounding that APC offers also helps students see the value of their cultural heritage. A Grade 12 graduate says it is important to listen to the elders and that the youth should always endeavor in their words, beliefs, and actions to embody what it means to be a Pulangiyēn, as one who strives to uphold peace in all relations and practices respect for Creation and care for others.
This year, APC presents ten Kinder graduates, twenty Grade 6 graduates, sixteen Grade 10 graduates, and six Grade 12 graduates. There is much cause for celebration as we qualify the first batch of Grade 12 students, marking a milestone for the school as we complete the full K-12 program and prepare students for further higher education. This is seen as an attainment of a dream long held by the community of Bendum, that local children and youth can undertake basic education all within the context of their culture and gaup.