Shelter for “bakwit” lumads
ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visayas (The Freeman) - September 15, 2018 - 12:00am

Recently we have been visited by students who are lumads as they will stay for weeks in some schools after they have been displaced from their own places. This is so as they find shelter in Cebu as President Rodrigo Duterte intensifies the war in Mindanao.


On May 23, 2017, President Duterte declared Mindanao to be placed under a state of martial law. Hundreds of thousands of AFP troops swooped down on the small city of Marawi and turned it into dust and rubble. About half a million Marawi residents were displaced. Elsewhere in Mindanao, AFP troops terrorized lumad and peasant communities, seized civilians, wreaked havoc in hinterland villages, and terrorized lumad community schools.

Since then, thousands of lumads were forced to evacuate from their ancestral lands because of escalating cases of military encampment. Lumad schools have been burned and bombed, lumad leaders have been harassed and killed as martial law in Mindanao is being prolonged.

Last September 3, 2018, about 30 lumad bakwit (evacuate) students and teachers arrived in Cebu City for the 16-day Bakwit School in different universities in Cebu starting September 3. The Bakwit School is the alternative of lumad students to continue their disrupted education due to incessant attacks after President Duterte ordered the military forces to "get rid of rebels" by bombing lumad schools and communities. Such dejected state threatens their lives as well as paints a despondently bleak picture of their future.

In Cebu City, Bakwit School has been put up in the University of the Philippines Cebu, the University of San Jose-Recoletos, and the University of San Carlos. It is a 16-day stopover of a batch of students before joining the Bakwit School in Metro Manila where around 70 students have already started their classes.

Lumad is a collective term used since 1986 for a large number of indigenous peoples of the Mindanao island group in the southern Philippines whose population in Mindanao is about half the total population of all indigenous groups in the Philippines. Over the years the lumad have nurtured and protected their traditional ancestral lands, and their individual cultures. Lumad culture is rich and diverse, with a wide range of languages, chants, rituals, dances, and other traditions. It is just depressing that because of what they have gone through, their rich culture has been placed in peril.

While they were in UP Cebu, the students shared their stories of atrocities. But despite this, they still stand proudly as lumads. They embrace their culture, dance, and music. They have their own sense of freedom to express through movements. The beat of their music reverberates to all of us, their voices cry for respect, dignity, and the longing for peace.

If atrocities in their place will persist, there is no way lumads will find a secure and stable mode of learning. There must be a continuing effort for a lasting peace in the place.

The Bakwit School is a fleeting palliative solution to the continuing conflict in their place but it sends a strong signal to the government that education for these young students has appallingly been disturbed by what is going on. But when can they really achieve such elusive peace in their place?


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