Biyaherong Noypi: Traveling while Helping

There is nothing more beautiful than people who go beyond the barriers of cultural differences to spread the good in life.

Last February 25, I joined an outreach program organized by group of travellers – Biyaherong Noypi. The chosen beneficiary was the St. Francis Learning Center Foundation, Inc. in Subic, Zambales. The foundation started in 1991, people back then were contented with what they had, they lived by hunting animals and planting fruits and vegetables but they didn’t know how to read and write.

One day, an aeta approached Sister Junetta and told a story. He was forced to put his thumbmark on a document while someone was pointing a gun on his head, the document was a deed of sale of land. After that day, the aetas had this urge to learn how to read and write so that this incident would not happen again, and that they can protect their territory and belongings.

This was one of their classrooms before.
This is their new building, constructed with the help of various donors.

The foundation decided to have a school exclusive for aetas so they would not feel discriminated in other schools. They were also following the K to 12 education program. Currently, they have 136 students and some of them are already graduating this summer.

They now have classrooms and facilities for better education.

The program started with a prayer and an opening remarks from BN founder. Some of the children also showcased their talents by singing.

There were games and everyone had fun. You can see the genuineness on their smiles, those priceless moments that inspires us to continue our advocacy – traveling while helping.

I had a chance to talk to some of the students to know more about their culture and what they do in school. John and Mary shared some of their unforgettable experiences as 10th grade students.

This is their native attire, Bahag for boys and Baheleng for girls.

They live in dormitories built around the school, boys were separated from girls. They were divided into three groups: small, medium and large, depending on their height and age. So distribution of tasks would be easier, such tasks would include washing the dishes, cooking, cleaning the yard, etc.

After the games, the children prepared a little presentation for us. They started it with the sound of a flute, means a moment of silence, followed by ‘Dororo’ or prayer.

Then here comes a parade of small group holding wet leaves, they call it ‘wisik wisik’, to give blessings.

Followed by the medium group with incense to drive away bad spirits, they call it ‘latiktik’.

After the ceremony, the children shared how the aetas live in the mountains. They demonstrated how to hunt, what they do during bonfire, what they do when someone is sick, and showed us some of their tribal dance and rituals.

They also invited us to dance with them. And to close the program, they offered a song of peace. Before leaving the foundation, we ate with the children and gave them some presents that they might use.

Having a short time spent with this group, I was inspired by the vision to empower aetas so they would live as equals with the rest of the community.

Photo credits: Roland Mads
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