The Lumad communities covered under the Jesuit mission center in the Municipality of Cabanglasan in Bukidnon received assistance from the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) in the form of canned goods and other food stuffs, courtesy of the students of the National Service Training Program-Civic Welfare Training Service (NSTP-CWTS) who already completed the course requirements in March of 2014.

          The food stuffs, including about 900 canned goods, were packed and divided among five indigenous people’s (IPs) communities that inhabit the hills and mountain areas of Cabanglasan in northeastern part of the Bukidnon, namely the Matigsulit and Ummajamñen (those living near the Ummayan and Sulit rivers), Tapayañen, Tigwahanon and Pulangihon (those living along the serpentine areas of the Pulangi River). They were delivered at Binhi Te Peglaum Lumad Scholars Dormitory of the Kahungyaman Cultural Center for Peace and Development in the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Parish in Cabanglasan, a mission center administered by the Society of Jesus.  The provisions will be delivered to these far-flung communities where the families of the majority of the Lumad scholars lived. 

            Fr. David John delos Reyes, SJ, the executive secretary of the University Research Council (URC) headed the team that delivered these goods, assisted by Ms. Gina Villagonzalo, the new First Year Development Program (FYDP) coordinator and M. Isabel S. Actub of the Communications & Advocacy Program (CAP) of the Arrupe Office of Social Formation, and Gerard Tinampay a student-volunteer from the Campus Lay Ministers.

 Jesuit Nexus

          Just like the IP communities in Vendum (a little farther up Cabanglasan) under the care of Fr. Pedro Walpole, SJ, of the Institute of Environmental Science for Social Change, the Lumads in these areas in Cabanglasan got into contact with the early Jesuit missionaries many decades ago.  As a matter of fact, the Province of Bukidnon is considered a Jesuit mission territory from as early as the end of World War II.  It may well be remembered that the late Jesuit Francisco Claver served as the bishop of Malaybalay, Bukidnon in the period of the 60s, where he was noted to have left behind a distinct legacy of empowerment of the laity through the spirit of participation, dialogue and co-responsibility (cf. The Making of the Local Church).

 Education Opportunities for the Lumad

          In this particular community in Cabanglasan, the Jesuits established a formation center for Lumad children where they are being educated with respect to providing greater appreciation and preservation of their own indigenous culture, complimenting their academic, social, spiritual and ecclesial formation. As a matter of fact, the children were highly encouraged to speak their own dialect as they welcomed the ADDU team in a short program.  These children, whose families live in the hill communities in the wider expanse of Cabanglasan’s mountain range, reside in a dormitory which the Jesuits set up near the school.

 At present, the Binhi Te Peglaum Lumad Scholars Dormitory is home to around twenty-one (21) scholars (consisting of nine [9] boys and twelve [12] girls; fourteen [14] are in high school) and seven [7] in elementary) coming from the hill communities in Cabanglasan, including two (2) to three (3) helpers that oversee the upkeep of the compound.  These scholars are currently schooling in the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe High School (NSGHS), now called the Ferrucio Leone Memorial School (FLMS), named after the late Italian Jesuit missionary who established this mission center in the old Cabanglasan area close to over thirty (30) years ago.  It is a sprawling school with a population of around 400 students coming from both the center and the neighboring hill areas. The school is a walking distance from the dormitory. 

               Apart from their school concerns and responsibility in maintaining the cleanliness of the dormitory and the surrounding mission compound, these children are trained in livestock raising, farming, baking and other forms of income-generating projects (IGP) that assist in funding the maintenance of their formation program.  They are allowed to go home to their mountain villages once a month, which takes them around five (5) to seven (7) hours of walking, or even longer depending on the distance of these villages.  The nearest of these communities is Mandahican, a barangay located on the other side of the great Pulangi River.  It can only be reached by a narrow wooden hanging bridge where not only people traversed everyday but also scores of heavy motorcycles loaded with sacks of newly harvested corn.  These workhorses ferry these farm produce from the mountain to the other side of the river, where a heavy truck awaits to load them in and take them to the nearest mill in town or in the capital of Malaybalay.

A Walk through History

       According to the consummate raconteur, Fr. DJ, Cabanglasan was his former mission assignment a few years back.  He remembers very well how the compound, covering a few hectares of land in the poblacion, served the needs not only of the neighboring communities, but also of the Lumads who came down from the mountains and are currently in town seeking shelter due to conflict.

              He also recalls how the good old Jesuit from the metropolitan diocese of Milan, Fr. Leone, would actively lobby with the local government authorities for better infrastructure going up the interior of the municipality, and how such persistent pestering of this beloved Italian Jesuit eventually transformed the main road going into Cabanglasan from the junction off the Sayre Highway in Malaybalay.  This main road which covers around thirty-one (31) kilometers of solid pavement, except for some portions in a few areas, now enjoys some good fresh cement, wide enough for its shoulders to serve as an area where farmers could lay down their newly harvested grain to dry. The road also affords a privileged and generous view of the breathtaking vista surrounding the valley of Cabanglasan, with its irrigated pristine rice fields and cornfields straddling on both sides of the main road, and its green manicured rolling hills ready for the next planting season.  Fr. DJ maintained that Jesuit missionaries, such as the likes of Fr. Leone, exercised influence in the local government, especially in providing access to better social services and rural planning.

 In funding for the rehabilitation of the old high school of NSGHS, a school which now bears his name, Fr. Leone also used his connection with his old diocese of Milan, together with the contributions coming from his own family, in raising funds to provide for basic educational facilities.  At the moment, the school sits along a back country road which has not been cemented yet.  According to the staff, many of its facilities are in dire need of repair, especially arm chairs and tables.  Compared to public schools that have more funding from the local government, the equipment in the science laboratory of this Jesuit high school needs serious upgrading.

Assistance Needed

            Likewise, the formation center in old Cabanglasan, which includes a small church, is a bit of a rundown now, with many of its facilities needing much needed rehabilitation.  The center needs other material and financial resources to keep it running, especially in maintaining its scholarship program for the children of the Lumads.  The cost of the upkeep of the dormitory alone, including provisions of food for the IP scholars, is a challenge that has to be met by its current administrators on a daily basis.  The recent provisions that the ADDU team delivered will, therefore, not last long.  It is here then that the center relies heavily on donations in whatever form. 

 At present, Fr. Braulio Dahunan, SJ runs the formation center.  Other Jesuits assigned in Cabanglasan are Fr. Ulysses Cabayao, SJ, its parish priest, and Fr. Joemari Manzano, SJ, its assistant parish priest.  A volunteer from Iligan currently runs the high school of FLMS as its principal, assisted by two volunteers of the Jesuit Volunteer Philippines (JVP).

 Fr. DJ will do another trip to Cabanglasan before the end of May and therefore welcomes the generosity of donors.  Donations of food including rice, canned goods, salt, and dried fish are being planned.  For those interested to donate, kindly contact Fr. DJ or the staff of the URC at the Finster Basement.   (by M. Isabel S. Actub, Arrupe Communications & Advocacy)