Summoned by the sound of the budyong, an instrument made from animal horn, the community of around one hundred mainly Mangyan people and their guests took place around a marked area for the day’s big event at Tugdaan Mangyan. Center for Learning and Development.
It was the graduation ceremony for 28 high school students and 26 Mangyan adults who had completed a course in coffee production at the 200 hectare facility at the foot of Mount Halcon in the town of Naujan, in the eastern province of Mindoro.
âTogether, we proudly thank Kapwan Agalape’t for the many blessings he has given us throughout the year. said Ligayan Lintawagin, general coordinator of Tugdaan.
A group of elders called apalaki sang as they walked through an open space, carrying pieces of lighted charcoal to clean the place with smoke. They called upon the spirits for blessings in a ritual called tawtaw.
Symbolic offerings of water, fire, air and earth, as well as medals and certificates were offered to Kapwan Agalape’t (Almighty God).
Lintawagin said the celebration also marked Tugdaan’s 25th year of founding. Quotes were to be presented to those who had helped establish the school, its partners, volunteers and exceptional parents and alumni.
âTugdaan is an alangan term which means nursery to describe an education based on our culture, our needs, our realities and our aspirations,â she said.
The students come from the Mangyan sub-tribes of Hanunuo, Tadyawan, Iraya and Alangan, who settled in the towns of Mansalay, Victoria, Socorro, Baco, San Teodoro and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro.
In the four-year secondary program, they learn to preserve their culture, assert their rights and cultivate their land by following the subjects prescribed by the Ministry of Education.
Lintawagin said the school calendar follows the Mangyan cycle of planting and harvesting seasons. Classes begin during the agtugda (planting season) in June, which she described as “the beginning of planting new knowledge and passing on our traditional values ââand wisdom to our children.”
The cycle ends during the agani (harvest season) in March, when the Mangyan community celebrates the agpamago or thanksgiving ritual for a bountiful yield.
Agpamago, which takes place on graduation night, was also the time of the âhappy harvest of learningâ ?? school, Lintawagin said.
She said the graduates danced the taruk to the beat of gongs and pounded the ground with tree branches, mimicking what their elders did in kaingin (slash-and-burn) agriculture.
One of the graduates, Vilma Talibukas, was happy but sad to be leaving as the school had been her home for four years. She wore a red scarf to cover her upper body and a nito rattan skirt.
Girls like her usually get pregnant at a young age and drop out of school. âThe days of early marriage for girls like me are over. I would serve my community like we were trained to do, âTalibukas said.
Certificates and assorted seed varieties were given to the 26 adult Mangyans.
Tugdaan has a food processing center that produces calamansi concentrate, hibiscus nectar concentrate, guava and pineapple jellies and marmalades, herbs and pure honey. The center offers training to students and members of the community.
âWe source products from Mangyan Farms that are raw, fresh, all-natural and free of any fertilizers, pesticides or preservatives,â said Ailyn Lintawagin, Tugdaan’s sustainability program coordinator.
âSocial entrepreneurship like food production is unique to Tugdaan,â said Leonor Oralde-Quintayo, president of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples and keynote speaker at graduation ceremonies.
“We also celebrate because the community is able to support its vision and spirit of the center”? ? said Benjamin Abadiano, 2004 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emerging Leadership, who founded Tugdaan.
He said the center started as a non-formal school with topics like leadership, community organization, cooperative management, health and legal assistance.
âFor the past six years, Tugdaan has provided training to indigenous communities such as the Ati in Tarlac, Agta in Quirino, Ati in Boracay and those in Mindanao,â said Abadiano.
That’s the dream High School Prom Anchelle Lintawagin and other graduates echoed in their graduation theme song. It is a “world which respects who we are, which knows and sees our culture as a glimpse of our hearts”, ?? they sang.
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