Last March 16, a group of high school Pathways participants conducted an outreach program for Lumad* kids named “Alalay Outreach Program” at the College of Home Economics – University of the Philippines Diliman Campus. This outreach program aimed to support the Lumads’ basic needs and check on their psychosocial well-being as they protest to assert their ancestral land rights against the encroachment of miners and the paramilitary**.
The Lumads are one of the largest and most underprivileged indigenous people in Mindanao. Their native land is targeted by many foreign mining companies due to its rich minerals resource. During those times, the Lumads do not have an effective educational system, leaving them vulnerable to unfavorable deals regarding land ownership. Businessmen took advantage of their illiteracy to bind them in contracts they do not understand. To address this, Lumad leaders and church officials established Lumad schools across Mindanao to provide quality education for their community. It is through this initiative that kids learned to defend their land and their rights. In response, businessmen and paramilitary groups combined forces to shut down these schools. Their efforts include using their schools as a military camps, bombing and burning their schools, and accusing educators as members of radical leftist groups such as the New People’s Army (NPA). This led to human right violations in which everyone involved in Lumad schools are being arrested and imprisoned without due process. Now, some Lumad kids travelled to Metro Manila to voice out their rights and share their stories in hopes of achieving the justice they deserve.
The Lumads’ stories of struggle were heard by many advocates and activists who responded in solidarity for their fellow countrymen. One such response is the Alalay outreach program led by Elgene Bermudez, Aaron John Duque, and Willy Santos of Pathways. Together with other youth volunteers, the program became possible. After distributing donations to Lumad kids, volunteers from the Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services conducted reflection sessions to help the children cope with their hardships. This was done to remedy and equip them to address the stress brought by their struggles.
Despite the challenges faced by the organizing team, their passion to serve motivated them to help those in need. This principle holds true to every work intended for different groups or communities. Love cannot stand on its ideals alone; it must be emulated in concrete ways. It is through service that a person is driven to act for the betterment of oneself and of others. These two together put a strong foundation towards a positive transformative difference. Love and service are at the core of being a human being.
The Alalay Program serves as a reminder for us to love and serve in everything we do. It reminds us of our responsibility to cultivate each other’s potential. It can be done in many ways: being an advocate, volunteering for charity works, and organizing social movements. As long as love and service remains ignited from within, nothing is impossible.
The organizing team would like to recognize the support of various groups to make this outreach a success: Pathways to Higher Education, Gerry Roxas Foundation, Hands on Manila, JJC Makati Youth, and Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services. They are also thankful of the donors from different schools and foundations. Their generosity helped support the continued fight of the Lumad people.
*They are a prominent indigenous ethnic group living in Mindanao, Philippines
**These are organized armed groups in Mindanao who maintain local peace and order in the region