Pedro Walpole SJ
During the academic year 2021–2022, K-12 culture-based education at the APC schools continued through modular approaches, and teachers tasked to deploy a new mode of learning adapted quickly. The Dalēpaan continued for the youth who wanted to stay in Bendum and study for Grades 10 to 12. The Forest, Farm, and Leadership in the Margins (FFLM) unit continued to work with interested and willing local youth while ensuring all the safety and health precautions.
Life in the community was moving slowly as the year began. The rains of the early months continued during the summer, first preventing an easy drying of corn and rice during the minor harvest of April-May and then allowing only a poor preparation of the land for the second crop. With most farmers in the surrounding area tied to the tabon “all is covered” lending system of the traders for animal feed, the farmers would now have to absorb the losses. Along with the impacts of COVID-19 in terms of restricted mobility and multiple uncertainties, these combined events heightened people’s exposure to shortages of different kinds, and ultimately, fewer meals in a day.
The school year ended during the last days of March without a graduation event, but our six graduates certainly deserved a celebration. The graduates who stayed in the Dalēpaan for months studying their modules anticipated a great sense of change in their lives and also in the lives of the communities around them due to a drop in the severity of COVID-19 cases.
Jovielyn, as she left Grade 12, shared: “I hope that peace and people will unite, especially in taking care of water, land resources, and the environment as a whole. Even if the school year is about to end, I will continue caring for the environment.”
Ate Lalang, one of the teachers, also shared her hopes: “My hope as the 2022 school year ends is for peace and unity to continue in Bendum. I fervently hope that all students and youth will continue their studies despite the many trials in their lives. I hope that that joy and hope will always be in their minds. Let’s unite and work together for continuity of life and service in Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC).”
As with self-entertainment and group cooking, one has to do a lot by oneself if anything is going to happen; the opportunity has to be seen in the void, and suddenly the darkness breaks open. Similarly, with peace, the uncertainties of barrio life and find inner joy have to be taken. This is what “the poor” and the humble teach us all.
The world does not give us that joy, that peace. These are experienced by simply accepting the reality of daily life, struggles and all, yet finding an occasion to be joyful. This attitude brings a deeper meaning and acceptance of the challenges and moving along where one can tomorrow. The importance of being able to do this as some form of community, for however long, is to change the world from below. And this perhaps has been the simple path through COVID-19.
The road grading by the Malaybalay City government is always deeply appreciated. However, the road could not withstand the rains and the corn trucks traversing it after two months. Our own APC vehicle was rendered useless for deliveries. During this time, APC’s continued presence and operations strengthened the Pulangiyen community in Bendum during the pandemic as its services continued.
What this crisis affirmed is that there is great value in sustaining APC with a renewed cultural and scientific vision and commitment. To move forward, the current process of overseeing and managing the various activities and relations with the community, local government, regional government agencies, the military, and the Jesuit Bukidnon Mission District, need to grow. The cultural and social complications, the shifting context of Bendum (landscape and people), and therefore, its social analysis and administration of its operations have broadened over the years and need to change.
The year is rolling on. There are new initiatives at every corner. We are already starting face-to-face classes in Bendum for our academic new year and not shifting to the schedule of public schools. We must keep time with the seasons, planting, and harvest where the youth are still involved.