Text by Aivy Rose N. Villarba , Photos by Karl Sandino Lozano

Community leaders and stakeholders held a ground breaking ceremony for the Tboli Sbú Senior High School (TSSHS) at Barangay Lemdalag, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato last May 16.

Among the notable people present were Rozanno Rufino, DepEd Indigenous People’s Education Director, Crispen Soliven, DepEd South Cotabato Division Schools District Superintendent, Eufemia Faller, Project Manager of Special Projects – IP Education of Ateneo de Davao University, members of the Municipal Tribal Council, and the Barangay and Municipal Local Government Units.

Faller said what made the Nungkul Yóm Gónóen Mdà Tboli Sbú ground breaking ceremony unique was the ritual done along with it.

Karl Sandino Lozano, assistant to the Project Manager of Special Projects – IP Education of the Ateneo, further explained in an interview, the Tbolis call the ritual demsu.

He said the ritual began at daybreak because the belief is that when they do something, they have to start before the sun rises.

“They have set up an altar with a tambara on the side. There was also a hen and a rooster. They strike the soil around the altar with the parts of the kawayan which will be used in the construction of the classrooms. So, they had another way of ground breaking,” Lozano narrated.

Lozano said Datu Benito Blonto, former municipal tribal chieftain, led the ritual along with other male elders. During the ceremony there was also a sharing from the different stakeholders.

“Before we become fully whole, we are from somewhere, we are a part of something. Yes, we are from Mindanao, from Region 12, from a municipality, from a province, from a community and from a tribe. One of the important roles of education is to let the people realize they are part of something, to let the Filipinos know they are a part of a nation that values its culture,” Rufino said.

Rufino also emphasized that the TSSHS is one of the essential instruments that shows what its like to be a Filipino, to value cultural preservation.

There were also cultural and dance presentations from the students and a pledge of commitment from the people in the community.

“Part of the ritual is for everyone to share with the cooked chicken…the ritual ended with a breakfast,” Faller said in an interview.

With the help of the donations from stakeholders, the TSSHS will start to operate with makeshift classrooms made out of bamboos and designed like a traditional Tboli Gnó or house. The construction began last May 24 and is expected to be finished before the class starts on June.

Some members of the Ateneo de Davao University will be assisting on the construction of the make shift classrooms under DepEd’s Brigada Eskwela.

TSSHS is the first indigenous and culture-based Senior High School in the Philippines.


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