Community leaders and stakeholders held a groundbreaking ritual for the Tboli Sbú Senior High School (TSSHS) at Barangay Lemdalag, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato last May 16. It was called the Nungkul Yóm Gónóen Mdà Tboli Sbú.

Datu Benito Blonto, former municipal tribal chieftain, led the ritual along with other Tboli elders. The Tboli demsu (ritual) began at daybreak.


“They set up an altar with a tambara on the side. They struck the soil around the altar with the bamboo poles that would be used in the construction of the classrooms,” Karl Sandino Lozano narrated. Lozano is with the Ateneo de Davao University’s Special Projects – Indigenous People’s Education.Among those present for the formal ceremony were Rozanno Rufino, DepEd Indigenous People’s Education Director; Crispen Soliven, DepEd South Cotabato Division Schools District Superintendent. Also on hand for the event were members of the Municipal Tribal Council, and officials from the Barangay and Municipal Local Government Units.

DepEd Director Rufino lauded the role of the TSSHS in cultural preservation, in showing what it is to be a Filipino.

“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,” Rufino said.

“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 concluded.

Cultural and dance presentations by students and a pledge of commitment from the people in the community were part of the ceremony.

“The ritual ended with a celebration breakfast,” said Eufemia Faller. Faller is the Manager of Special Projects – IP Education of the Ateneo de Davao. She led the Ateneo contigent, which included college teachers. Ateneo is the partner of Department of Education (DepEd) in the establishment of the TSSHS.

Being the first indigenous and culture-based Senior High School in the Philippines, the first classrooms are designed along the lines of a traditional Tboli gnó (house).

Members of the Ateneo community are helping build these classrooms under DepEd’s Brigada Eskwela. Construction began last May 24 and is expected to finish before June 13, the first day of classes.

By: Aivy Rose N. Villarba
Photos by: Karl Sandino Lozano

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