Jenny Lynn Lee
APC teachers and students were happy to meet with officials of Department of Education-Malaybalay (DepEd-Malaybalay) including Division Superintendent Dr. Victoria Gazo, who visited APC in Bendum on 12 to 13 December. The visit was inspired by Dr. Gazo’s interest in forests and indigenous schools and a desire to learn from APC as the Malaybalay division also operates its own high school for indigenous students, the Luyungan Indigenous Peoples High School in Barangay Bangcud in Malaybalay City.
The DepEd-Malaybalay visitors included Private Schools Coordinator Mary Gladys Dublas, District 10 Supervisor Perlita Wales, and Luyungan High School Principal Leonila Plazos. Lunch was shared with the 13 visitors and a dugsu (a solemn and reverent dance) welcomed the guests. They then listened to APC youth share a real-life story of “Sa Bahandi ta Bendum” and explain the resources and relations in the gaup using the mural painted on a wall at Balay Laudato Si’.
This was followed by a dialogue with APC teachers, where the latter shared about their dreams for indigenous youth and communities and how gaup and culture are integrated in the curriculum. The guests then did a brief tour of the high school campus.
In the evening, they gathered with Pedro Walpole, APC Executive Director, and with Roberto “Bobby” Ansaldo, Chair of the APC Board of Trustees. Pedro shared more about what it means to live with the forest and engage with indigenous communities.
APC staff from the Forest, Farm, and Leadership in the Margins unit and students led the visitors on a forest regeneration walk the next day, where they learned about different tree species and how these are managed in the gaup.
For many of the guests, this was the highlight of the visit as they came to experience the gaup for themselves and learned about how the youth are caring for it. They then toured the grade school campus briefly and had a dialogue with Datu Nestor Menaling at the tulugan.
The guests also visited the Bamboo Fabrication Center where they learned about bamboo processing for sustainable construction, as well as the Eco-Agri Farm where Yanyan Yacapin and his Grade 7 students shared their knowledge and efforts in organic farming. The visit ended with the guests reflecting on their experience and what they were bringing with them as they went back to the city.
What really made a strong impression on the visitors were the peace and simplicity they found in the gaup and the difference in the lifestyle and value system, contrasting with that of the city. The visit served as a reminder and inspiration for them that it is possible to live more simply.
The conversations with students and Pedro helped clarify misconceptions about Bendum and students in the uplands. There also emerged a better understanding of relating with the culture and forests – that it is not simply about preserving the culture and protecting the forest, but is more about sustaining the relations in the gaup and learning to live with the forest that sustains us materially, culturally, and spiritually.