Muling, Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte with MISFI
Imagine going on a cross-country motorcycle ride for 6 hours. You kick off by loading the bike on a bamboo raft across a river then drive along mountain trails through forests, knee-deep mud, slippery stones, overhanging branches, cliffs, rain and sun. Oh, and put side carriages on the motorbikes a.k.a. skylab. You may or may not ride on the carriages. By the time you reach Muling, expect all muscles and joints to be stiff and aching and thanking the heavens for giving you the best driver in the world because somehow he has kept the motorcycle upright for those 6 hours.
Yes, one of the highlights of the Moving-up Ceremonies of the MISFI Community Learning Center in Muling would be that unforgettable ride. The humiliating part would be that the locals who came with us but decided to walk along the river arrived ahead of us. The last time the staff walked, it took them twice as long.
The Muling population is a hundred percent Manobo. The school is the only one for miles around. It started with a preschool and now has up to Grade 2. This would be its 3rd Moving Up Ceremonies. A remarkable young teacher, Maam Dindin, who was once Fr. Pops’ scholar in Cotabato, has kept the school and the community together. When she arrived here in 2010, she planned to stay only for a year, just enough to get some experience. But she stayed for another year and has committed to stay for next school year when Grade 3 opens. She says she takes it one year at a time.
A volunteer-teacher, it is the community who supports her: they made a house for her, assures her rice supply and transportation every vacation time, and ensures her safety. The community fondly remembers that first day of class two years ago when she stood in front of the assembly wearing her teacher’s uniform. They say it felt like a dream but it was indeed real: they now have a school. She says that she is lumad (she’s a Manobo from Kidapawan, Cotabato) but she grew up in the city and she never knew what being lumad was like until she came to Muling to teach.
The Moving-up Ceremony would be formal but simple. Being a teenager in Grade 2 was the norm although there were smaller children. The teens kept the small ones quiet and the small ones kept the teens responsible. The Datu’s graduation message was directed at both the students and the parents: don’t marry until you finish school.
The Medical Mission which has become tradition for every Moving-up Ceremony was held afterwards and served 190 patients.
Article by: Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio Foundation, Inc.