Teacher of the Tribe: Teacher Diday

September 06, 2018 Travel

We know that the indigenous peoples of the Philippines remain among the most vulnerable, disadvantaged, and excluded sectors of society. The situation of the Dumagats in Sta. Ines, Tanay, and Rizal are no different. For hundreds of years, they have been struggling, and they are now looking at education to help alleviate their plight.

At the forefront of this movement is Lodema dela Cruz Doroteo, or Teacher Diday as she is known to her community. Teacher Diday is the first person from her Dumagat tribe to finish college. More than just the community’s pride, she is their beacon of hope.



I have been fortunate enough to meet Teacher Diday. I visited her in her community to interview her, as well as some members of her tribe.

It was a difficult itinerary to arrange. First, there was not much information online about her particular Dumagat Community. Second, Teacher Diday, as she lives in the mountains with her community, can only be reached the few times she visits the lowlands. However, the good news is that we were able to contact her and, with her help, were able to rent a monster jeep capable of traversing the rough roads and raging rivers we had to cross to reach her community.

We met her and her family in the town center. From there, it took us more than five hours to reach her community. Teacher Diday told us that during the rainy season, they have no choice but to walk the entire way. We were just thankful, when we visited, that the weather was good. However, we were also aware of the dark clouds hovering above us.



  
It was close to lunchtime when we arrived at the community. Teacher Diday led us to the community center which doubles as her classroom.  

It was she who established Paadelan E Denomagat-Paaralan. This is the first school of its kind in the area. It caters for, and is sensitive to, the needs of Dumagat students. When she finished her degree in education, Teacher Diday returned to her community to establish the school.


She did that for several reasons. First, the nearest school to their community was so far away it was difficult, especially for the younger students, to attend classes regularly.  Second, they were vulnerable to bullying.  

She told me “Kesa makipag-away kami, dito na lang kami.” (Instead of fighting bullies, we will just stay here).

Teacher Diday is no stranger to bullying having experienced, first-hand, this kind of oppressive behavior, not just from classmates, but also from teachers.
  
Discrimination was the reason Teacher Diday hesitated before leaving her community to attend college. Coming from a tight-knit community, decisions of that nature had to be approved by the village elders.  

At first, they did not want Teacher Diday to leave the community, but they realized they had to let her go because it would be a good thing for their village.

“Kung habang buhay ganito ang gagawin namin, tatakbo kami ng tatakbo, iiwas kami ng iiwas, paano kami maiintindihan ng ibang tao.” (If we keep on running away, people will never understand us).

So, she left, pursued a degree in education and, as promised, returned to her community.  

It was a difficult start for Teacher Diday though. Supplies were scarce. They had to use charcoal, stones, and bamboo as writing materials.  



Teacher Diday persevered. She turned to social media to gather attention and assistance. She posted on Facebook and was eventually able to secure sponsors. It eventually led to the broadcast of a feature on her life on CNN Philippines - which paved the way for more aid for the school.  

One of the things the school has focused on, under Teacher Diday’s lead, is cultural preservation. Students come to class wearing traditional costumes. She also makes sure essential parts of their cultures are taught and are included in the modules they study.
  
It is not just the kids that benefit from Teacher Diday’s presence in the community. Everyone is included in Teacher Diday’s leadership.As the isolation of the tribe has traditionally deprived them of a basic education, Teacher Diday also allocates time to teach the adults in the community.  



With the basic knowledge they are acquiring, the mothers and fathers in the community are now better equipped to start selling their produce in the lowlands.  

Our interviews went on way past lunchtime. Before we left, though, Teacher Diday served us a simple meal of dried fish and rice. Considering the resources available to her and the community, it was nothing less than a feast, and I sincerely appreciated the gesture.  

The rains arrived midway through our return journey, but we all got back safely, and with new found inspiration. Thanks to Teacher Diday!



This is a series of stories about teachers who are devoting their lives, not just to teaching, but to uplift the lives of our indigenous brothers and sisters. I recently travelled around the country interviewing teachers who are finalists for the annual awards of Diwa Learning Systems and Bato Balani Foundation. The awards are called ‘The Many Faces of the Teachers’. Five of the twelve teachers are educating tribal members. I am doing this series because my heart is close to the country’s indigenous peoples. The other seven teachers, if I may add, are just as inspiring. You can read about them too in the local papers.


Other Good Travels

0 comments