I drew a cat on my notebook and the kids yelled: MEYONG! MEYONG. Four kids looked eagerly at my terribly drawn eggplant. “Segutong!”
Last week Pasali members and I went up to Biao, a remote mountain village in Palimbang. That is the home of several villages of the indigenous people, the Manobo. We stayed overnight. I had to exercise the little Cebuano I knew, for that was the other language they spoke. Kids taught me Manobo through pictures I drew. Water was fetched from the spring by children and women, and sleeping arrangements was in the Chief’s wife’s wooden hut.
I brought Pasali members there (or rather they took me) for multiple reasons. First, I had heard so many good things but had never been up there. Second, the young ladies I teach writing to can learn how to organise and slowly integrated into Pasali. Third, we added some staff of Pasali’s Children’s Desk and the Farm Scheme unit and I could see how each unit organized events. Fourth, how do you teach a group of people to look at things in an analytical way?
I gave them a challenge. I wrote various subjects of village life on pieces of paper and let them pick a subject from a hat to write about and take pictures of. The best story and picture wins a prize. Our trip thus, became a documentation training. And whatever they document contributes to new plans and knowledge of the people.
And finally, apparently the Farm Unit had to monitor the upland rice and corn, the Children’s Desk Unit gave unannounced a medical clinic.
While the group paired off each with a camera and a subject and split into different directions, I went solo and taught a primary class how to make paper airplanes. The school was one small concrete building donated by Pasali and three wooden huts made the native way (with palm wood and rotan and without nails). I was just about to tell the kids it was an airplane when I realized, maybe they don’t know what an airplane is. Does that word even exist in their vocabulary? Maybe their parents heard from so and so what its about but they certainly did not have nice picture books to learn from. So I told them we were making birds. I wrote the Tagalog letters on the black board: ibon. The kids all earnestly wrote that down on their folded creations.
Outside on the dirt square we set them flying all at the same time. The sound of kids screaming with delight, has got to be the most wonderful sound in the world. They seemed to have never seen a paper airplane, eh, I mean, bird before.
Pasali first went up there in 2006, people hid in their houses. They could offer
their guests no food. Now kids swarm around you. Mothers and young women smile shyly. And young men fully armed bow their heads in respect. And they served their guests with their own harvest of native corn and stewed fresh vegetables for dinner.