Solidarity of Matigsalug People for the Development of the Ancestral Land

Here's a letter from the coordinator of Solidarity of Matigsalug People for the Development of the Ancestral Land. Inserted in between paragraphs are pictures of the community and its residents. Should you wish to help the organization in any way, please feel free to email or contact Mark Brazil at


Maepya ne aldew! (Good day!)

Educating the young people has been considered as one of the effective means to empower communities, thus I am writing to invite you in this campaign we are initiating. In a collaboration with SOLED KI, we are inviting you to join in an initiative that seeks to support indigenous school children from the Matigsalug Tribe in the outskirts of Davao-Bukidnon boundary, where we operate our satellite community schools.

Among the vulnerable groups, the indigenous children are the most marginalized thus intervention must be directed towards them. Among the Matugsalug children going to school doesn’t come easy as they have to walk seven (7) kilometers and even cross the dangerous Salug river. Such condition left them with lesser chances of surviving even primary education. As intervention, we have started to organize a support initiative to provide assistance for school supplies for the community schools, school uniform and eventually, come up with a school dormitory in the barangay center to house the students coming from the far-flung area. This initiative is still on a birthing process, thus we can also start little by little until we will be able to actualize the dormitory building.

Now since that that the school year is about to start by June 2012, I am reiterating my invitation to join us in this advocacy. Any amount, in goods or in kind will be most welcome and we will be organizing a
day sometime soon to turn-over our support to the targeted beneficiary communities.

To give you glimpse of the aspiration of the Matigsalug community, in one of the community meetings we facilitated, the members- especially the women- have reiterated the following details related to the education program:
  1. Students dormitory in the barangay center to house the students living in the far-flung areas.
  2. Classrooms for the existing community schools. We have established 3 community 
  3. schools within Brgy. Kalagangan (Simsimon, Anibong and Malengen). Malengen is the farthest, 6 hours away uphill, on foot.
  4. School supplies such as papers and notebooks, pencils, cartolina, cardboards 
  5. Educational materials like wooden letters and numbers, shapes etc.
  6. Books for Pre-schoolers and Adult Learners
  7. Sponsorship for the Student’s uniform (opting for traditional design)
  8. Fund for Teacher’s training, access to training partners, or interested groups interested to facilitate training activity to Lumad Parateachers.
  9. Special Project: Coming up with a book with traditional stories. Research and data gathering on the Matigsalug stories shall be conducted and commissioned, but with direct community participation.
  10. Organizing the Young Adult Alternative Education Program. Twenty out-of-school youth are gathered to conduct farming activity in the morning while non-formal education classes will be conducted in the afternoon. Datu Jimboy commits to facilitate the program. A 40-hectare land is already allocated for the program which shall be used as demonstration farm. The program seeks to provide venue for livelihood and education development for the Matigsalug youth. The site will be at Sitio Malunasay, 30 minutes away from Sitio Simsimon. 
  11. Establishment of Community Center that will house the community library, Ethnographic/Community Museum, Visitors Receiving and Ritual area, as well as the Peoples Organization’s Office.

Note: Lumber to be used in the construction of the classrooms and the community center shall be taken from a number of fallen trees due to swidden (kaingin) farming. This shall be related to the idea of Datu Jimboy to “give life to what has died” and serve as a testament and reminder to the community of the importance of valuing the environment.

Any assistance on any of the indentified need will be much appreciated. Your generosity is much appreciated and assurance is given that all your contributions will be directed to the rightful beneficiaries.

Mark Brazil

POHD Shares Pencils To Lumondao Kids

POHD shared 35 dozens of pencils to kids in Lomundao through Ms April Labagala and her friends. Below is the letter we got from her. Inserted in between paragraphs are photos taken during their gift-giving activity last June 1, 2012.

They will have another distribution on June 23. If you want to share your blessings, please contact Liyah Rivera through her Facebook account.


To all my friends,

I would like to share with you my experience when I visited three puroks in Lomundao. I visited the place to see for myself the situation of the children there. I didn’t know that my co-teacher brought with her all the school supplies that I gave her from my classroom. I wasn’t able to bring new ones. The road going to their place was terrible, it was my first to travel on a very rough road, good thing we had a Good Samaritan who really drove us to the area. When we arrived there, slowly the children started to gather in the gym. When they saw us, the children greeted us with their very warm smiles. I felt joy in my heart when I saw that they were so excited. We started with a prayer led by a parent. Her prayer was so touching. The people there were very thankful of our presence and the supplies that we brought for them.

I saw the clothes of the children as shown in our pictures, they certainly needed decent clothes to wear, shoes and even slippers. It broke my heart to see children who were deprived of school materials and even food. We prepared parlor games for them and they enthusiastically participated. I hope we made that day memorable for them. We, the teachers of the Kinder Class in Matina Central, are planning to go back on the 1st of June because we still need to give more to the children. We only gave what was available in my classroom and some of those school supplies were donated by friends. Teacher Maricel will be assigned there starting in June and it is also her hometown so she knows the place and the people who can also help us while we are there.

I hope by sharing you this story, it will also touch your heart. You can share some of your blessings to these less fortunate children. Together, we can do something for them. This can be our way of giving back all the blessings that we received from God. We will accept any form of donations. For cash donations, we can buy school materials and we will show all the receipts here in FB or you can give us used school bags, shoes, slippers, toiletries, food, school materials, educational toys, books, tumblers, school supplies. You will see where your donations go and the children who received them because we will be taking pictures during the distribution when we go back to the place on June 1. I will post the pictures here in Facebook.

We will start gathering all your donations anytime in May so that we will be able to prepare and pack them because we are targeting 400 children and hopefully each of them will be able to receive school bags. We have wholesale prices in school supplies so that we will be able to provide all the children.

Rest assured that your donations will all be given to the children. I hope that you will respond to this project.

God will surely return all the blessings that you will be sharing a hundredfold. Thank you so much and God bless us all.

April G. Labagala

POHD Supports Subang Tribu's Outreach Program

POHD will share the writing materials from Ireland to the Manobo kids of Brgy. Matigol, Arakan Valley, North Cotabato through the community outreach program of Subang Tribu. This group of mountaineers will visit the area on June 30 - July 1, 2012 to spread some hope and love. 

If you want to donate rice, canned goods, slippers or educational materials, please feel free to contact Kristian Jumawan or Ame Echavez through their Facebook account. 

Be a Volunteer!

Dulce, the president of Davao City Bloggers, shared this on Facebook after our 11th Big Day


When I was a kid, I'm excited every time a new school year is about to open. I get to have a new set of school supplies, a new pair of shoes, and carpool comfortably with my friends on our way to school.

This morning, together with Pens of Hope volunteers (Kit, Dan, Belle, Shugar and Rohel) and fellow Davao Bloggers officers (Mark and Anj) we did an outreach program at Barangay Panalum, Paquibato District. Despite the dust-filled, habal-habal rough ride under the scorching heat of the sun, we distributed materials to the Matigsalob indigenous kids. They do not have school supplies, a pair of shoes or slippers and everyday they have to walk many kilometers to get to school.

I realized how lucky I was growing up.

However, it was at this moment, I felt even luckier having to share these blessings to these less fortunate kids. Their eyes sparked with excitement and gladness as they cradled their new set of school supplies. It was that same excitement... that same eager feeling that I want to go to school as a child. Now I know, these kids are ready for the upcoming school year!

There are more children who need our help. Give hope. Inspire others. Share your blessings. Encourage learning. Be involved! Please contact Pens of Hope in Davao on how you too can help.

The Stuttering Storyteller: A First of Many Firsts

Here's how Anj felt when she shared a story with the kids during our 11th big day.


Have you ever had that feeling of wanting to do something, but having to stop yourself because you're not sure whether you truly are ready for it or not? You wanted to jump onto something but a certain wall, called "hesi-shame" (hesitation + shame), obstructs you to move forward?

When Ate Kikit texted me that I will be the one in-charge for the storytelling session for the Grade 1 pupils, I was torn between feelings of excitement and fear. Yes, I have taught children as young as 5 years old in Baliok Elementary school and has also taught grown-ups as old as 79 years old in ALS (Alternative Learning System) in Talomo NHS. But believe it or not, I've never read a storybook for another person, other than myself or ze brother.

Although I knew grabbing this opportunity is a one-shot deal that will drive me closer to realizing all my goals, I was still having second thoughts...

What if the kids won't love it? What book shall I read to them? How do I go about it? What if I end up making a complete fool of myself in front of these kids? What would they think of me. Gazillions of thoughts heaped on me that instead of getting all jumpy about it, I felt sleepy. Really. When too stressed or worried, my system automatically goes on reboot. haha!

And so, 2 days after, tentenenentenen.. the day finally arrived.

Armed with one of my childhood storybooks, that was as big and heavy as a Grolier encyclopedia, I was already at the meeting place 30 minutes earlier than the call time. Yes, believe me, in that state, I still wasn't excited. Jitters came on to me, when we were finally at the van and Ate Kikit again reminded me on what I was supposed to be doing.

Terror. Fear.

While on the road to Panabo, Ate Kikit reiterated that I will be handling 21 grade 1 pupils (weew. easy. 21 lang? HAHA!) She then handed me an English storybook with a Tagalog translation. Tt was titled as the Crow and the Eagle (Ang Uwak at Ang Agila) and told me that it will be up for me now to decide on what other activities I could add to kill time.

Being the pseudo-teacher that I was, I planned to play a game with the kids that involves animal sounds, nationalities, and role playing. What that is, it's up for you to figure out. ;)

21 kids. 21 kids. 21 Grade 1 pupils. I am going to tell a story to not only 10 children, but 21!

I was on a rush! Its like my adrenaline has gotten all haywire! Hope and excitement started to fill me up for this will be the day when I'd get to put into action one of my goals and even going beyond the limits I've set for myself.

So, imagine my surprise when after 2 hours of travel from Davao City Proper to the mountains of Brgy. Panalum, I will then be handed the unexpected news that due to lack of time because of our late arrival, there was a necessitated turn of events. We have to shorten the activities and just do the storytelling session-- to EVERYONE.

*runs back to civilization*

When at first I was just a worrywart, this time, I knew I was a goner. Add up to that, I was told that I have to narrate it in Bisaya. Oh geez. How come I had not listened well to my dad's constant Bisaya ramblings?

But then again, at the back of my never-ending, whirling brain, I was jumpy to get in front and tell a story. Why should I let all these negative thoughts get the best of me, when I'm going to do something good for others.

I am a volunteer and volunteers should never ever demand.

Armed with my Crow and Eagle storybook, a happy disposition, and a hearty smile spread out from ear to ear, I faced the entire Matigsalob community and asked them:

"So, kabalo ba mo unsa ng uwak?" Alright, the word "so" ruined it all! haha! I then proceeded on introducing the characters of the story by asking the kids on the sounds they produce.

Oh ha. That seriously was hitting 2 uwaks with one stone. ;)

I don't know whether the kids understood me, but I was well sure that I did try my best to express it in the vernacular. With a tied tongue and a scratchy throat, I was stuttering as I was storytelling. When I don't know what word it is I'm going to use, the natives and fellow volunteers were kind enough to translate it for me. (alright sabay sabay, say... AWWWWKWAAARD!)

Good thing Ate Kikit was beside me all along. My nervousness and shakiness was somewhat lessened, knowing that I have someone just beside me. hahaha! (Thanks, Ate Kikit!)

Storytelling Tip: If you already know the story, don't go by the book. Say it the way you wanted to. Without frills or what-not verbosity. Don't complicate the uncomplicated. ;)

During the post-processing, I was relieved that the kids were able to answer the questions given about the story. With that, my doubts on whether I have been understood was set aside, because the kids DID UNDERSTAND! Yihee!

They were able to narrate the story back and answer the questions without difficulty. Oh yeah!

I was like a proud momma who's all too eager to hug her kids whom she tutored, and finding out later that they perfected their exams. LOLS!

Ate Kikit then proceeded on discussing about the moral lesson of the story. The kids were all listening as she gave an example that will be easier for them to relate to. BTW, I loved her application of the moral lesson. So fitting and proper, really! (Incredible job you did there, Ate Kikit!)

After that, the kids were then grouped by grade levels and school supplies were distributed to each pupil. Smiles and words of gratitude were exchanged, and my heart was just brimming with joy. :)

After a long, long day, we were given by the natives some coconuts to drink and eat. It was just the perfect ending to a truly wonderful experience!

The 11th Big Day

For the 11th distribution last June 2, 2012, POHD went back to Brgy Panalum in Paquibato District, Davao City with more school supplies. To see the list we've gathered from our generous donors, please see this document. In case you missed the details of our first gift-giving in the community, kindly read this post

Here's a detailed blog post of Anj about our big day. She's an active Davao City blogger and it was her first time to join the distribution this June.


The day I am so excited about. Maybe it is because after years of dormancy in volunteerism, here is another chance for me to reunite with my first love. With a backpack carrying 2 extra shirts, a bottle of water, a shawl, my IPad, and my camera; I was all geared up and ready to meet the pupils of Panalum Elementary School, Paquibato District, Davao City.

Too excited and frantic to start the day, at around 7:00 AM, my mom already drove and accompanied me to the van terminal beside Gaisano Mall of Davao. Arriving there 30 minutes early, mom and I decided to first go to a nearby restaurant fronting San Pedro College to have our tummies filled up and to catch up a bit on our lives. I love how my mom and dad always push my brother and I to pursue our interests. Their encouragement, support, and trust, fuels us all the more to do good in all our undertakings. With tummies all filled up and a heart brimming with joy, at around 8:05 AM, Ate Dulce gave me a call prompting me to go to the terminal since the volunteers were already there.

The Volunteers

It was there that I first met the SICO members and volunteers whom we will be teaming up with for the distribution. There was Ate Kikit (the project head), together with her husband, Kuya Dan. Aside from the duo, there was Kuya Rohel who at Chinabank, Ate Mabel who works at BPI, and Ate Sugar who loves to talk about her daughter, Sweet. On meeting these 5 energetic individuals, Ate Dulce, Mark and I knew that we were in good hands.

Rohel, Kikit, Kuya Nestor, Shugar and Mabel

After an hour of travel, we reached Panabo and alighted in Jollibee for a quick breakfast and to meet the habal-habal drivers that will take us to the place.

The Journey: Abortion Roads, Mud and Dust

The eating and casual conversations, plus the biyahilo-ness was only the tip of the iceberg. More experiences and unforgettable events occurred along the road to Paquibato.

With plastics in hand, we have to regularly balance ourselves so as not to slip off the seat. When traversing bumpy roads there were those moments when our butts were swaying right to left like a pendulum. Since I was seating in the middle of the driver and Ate Dulce, there were moments when I thought I could already breathe easily, only to find myself squished in my seat again.

My kryptonite were the trucks that leave behind a heavy trail of dust, thereby giving free foundation for our faces and stiffening our hair like a broomstick! HAHA

With numb butts, sunburned skin, leg cramps, stiffened hair, and faces covered with dust; we went for a quick stopover near Panalum Elementary School to grab some bites before going off for a long trek to the mountain where the kids reside.

It was a long ride nonetheless, but I was happy for I got the chance to take a pic of a jeep that is fully loaded with people. Riding on the topload of a jeepney is actually a part of my bucket list and seeing it for myself fueled up my passion to do it also as soon as possible!

After the quick break we again made our way to the banana grove that will take us to the trail leading to the village where the Matigsalug tribe resides.

The Long Way Up

And so, the journey continues...

Aside from the roads, we also have to hike up a small mountain. It was just funny because although we did not require the habal-habal drivers to accompany us up there, they volunteered themselves so as to make our burden lighter.

Kuya Nando stuck in a rut, rather, mud

One such driver, unintentionally found his vehicle trapped in a heavy cake of mud and the other drivers have to push him out of it. Truly, no volunteer work could ever be successful without the cooperation of all individuals who are a part of it. Every person is integral in making sure that the activity ends successfully and wonderfully.

The kids welcoming us amongst the banana groves
Children in the clouds

The Giving of Gifts

Upon reaching the top, we were all breathless. Not just because we were tired, but because of the breathtaking view that welcomed us up there. The view from the top was just awesome! With the wind gently brushing your cheeks right down to the greenery of the surroundings, it is the perfect place to come to for recreation and relaxation.

Because we were a bit late in arrival, the kids were already hungry, thus we have to cut our activity short. Instead of grouping the kids via grade levels, we decided to just hold a storytelling session for all of them (adults included!). And guess who got to be the on-the-spot storyteller-slash-bisaya translator for it... I Did. Hahaha! (Anyways, more of that on my next post. :D)

After the storytelling we had the kids organized according to their grade level. We then proceeded to group the school supplies depending on the recipients. Each child received an envelope complete with writing and coloring materials.

For the preschool and kindergarten, we skipped the notebooks but included sketchbooks. For the grade 1 pupils, we skipped on giving the scissors. For the higher levels that include grades 4-6, backpacks were also given.

After the distribution, the kids were all smiles. Seeing their happy faces, we knew that all the hardwork we've put in for the activity was all worth it. We also reminded them on how to take care of these materials and conserve it, since we might be returning there on December.

Sunburn, cramps, and all are no match to the jovial mood everyone is in. As a way to express gratitude, the villagers broke coconuts for us, which we merrily drank and ate.

The entire activity was truly a success! Come December, we might again be back there again to give the kids Christmas gifts. So, if that comes up, be open and be available to join us as we again visit the Matigsalug pupils in Brgy. Panalum. :)


To Ate Liza, Ate Teresa, Mae, Aiden and AdDU Samahan for the cash gifts,
To Davao Bloggers Association for the notebooks
To Dulce, Mark, Anj, Shugar, Rohel, Belle, Dan and Kit for the time,