Diana Mandarawon wakes up at 3 am, while the earth is still covered by darkness and mist. She wastes no time, her every move well calculated as she avoids not to wake-up her younger siblings with the grating of the floor made of slabs. She then goes to the kichen--just a few steps from the only bedroom--and grabs the sack of cassava and bananas.
This morning, just like the past days, the 12-year old daughter of an Ata-Manobo farmer, leaves for school with not a single cent. But Diana does not care if her lunch appears like an endless repetition of the previous meals she had taken in with her classmates and friends at school--viandless cassava or bananas.
Worrying about food or money is the least of her concern. Her problem is how to get to school on time, the reason why she had to wake up as early as 3 am for she can start walking at 4 am. Disregard the fact that she's going to school without notebook, paper, pencil, or books--the girl is consumed by her unquestionable determination to learn.
He cousin, Gina, does not also care if, just like the yesterday, she will be using the free spaces of her overly used notebook to write down today's lessons. Her classmates will not be lucky as she is, as most of them practice writing down their names and solving simple mathematical problems on leaves of bananas.
Diana's village, called Sitio Tambuko in Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, is about three hours away from Sitio Dulyan, where the community learning center called Salupungan Ta 'tanu Igkanugon is located. The learning center only caters to grade one pupils.
If Diana and Gina, and at least 55 others, want to finish elementary education, they have to travel about 20 kilometers to reach Barangay Sto. Niño. To do this, they have to pay P600 for motorcycle fair for each person.
Asked why she wants to be "educated," Diana said "aron dili mi malimbungan sa mga bisaya (so the bisaya can no longer cheat us)."
Such a desire of someone so young to actually learn of her bloody past. Such a dream of someone so young yet never oblivious of the cruel future that lies ahead. This struggle while the government nearly allowed the implementation of the questionable Cyber Education Program in public schools in the country.
Btw, her village, as most of the villages of Talaingod, was the site of the logging operations of the giant Alcantara and Sons (Alsons) many years ago. Alsons, of course, is the manufacturer of Ecowood Plywood.
Now, Diana and the children of Talaingod are reaping the abuse of their ancestral lands. They are trapped in a depressing and unspeakably disheartening condition of poverty and hunger while the "intruders" lie in the comfort of their own hotels.
And yes, the intruders? They sure can have better view of the destruction they left everytime they fly their planes over the skies of Talaingod.
Learn more about the problems of Diana here.
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