The Dumagats also place value on education. In Sitio Nayon where we met and talked with Tatay Lope together with the other elders, there is already an elementary school. Meanwhile, high school students walk about half an hour along the rocky and muddy road and also cross 4 rivers (with no bridges) just to reach Sta. Ines High School. Studying is not easy for the students of Sitio Nayon especially in places like Sitio Kinabuan where only one teacher handles all the students in the entire school.
In spite of their design to study and learn, there is also the constant challenge of finding food on a daily basis. Some children cannot continue their studies because their parents have to bring them to the farm to help plant crops. Since education is not really free, they still have needs to spend money on if they want their children to finish schooling. But which one should they prioritize – their basic need of food or their children’s school expenses?
According to a teacher that we have talked to in Sitio Nayon, the children need to wake up as early as 3 o’clock in the morning so they could still prepare food to bring to school. It is because making fire to be used for cooking takes time. Once they have prepared food and themselves for school, they now start walking to reach school before 7 o’clock.
Like the other students that move to other places to study, the college students of Sitio Nayon also have many challenges. They need a boarding house, money for food expenses and school requirements. Since Filipinos are family-oriented, it is also a challenge to be away from their community even though they think that city life is better than in the mountains.
What does an indigenous Filipino have to learn so that the foreign- or Western-oriented education becomes relevant to him? Can any degree teach what they need to know on how to use natural resources in their community? One teacher asked us – do they really become educated people or are they just made aware of these things?
It is true that there is so much to learn and experience, but what use are these if they cannot use it to enrich their own family, culture and tradition? How assuring is it that what they will learn in the city will bring about a realistic progress for them and not the destruction of their rich culture like the use of natural resources in the jungle or the mountains?
Which aspect of our culture do you think we can impart to them while we are educating them? We know that when the Americans introduced their education system to us, we became “Americanized.” Do we want to pass these western culture and traditions to them or is it better if we are the ones who learn from them to know about our past? Would it be better if we will uneducate ourselves so that we can learn to accept which one is really important – the so-called progress or the riches from the mountains and the indigenous community?