In today’s reality, no one has to die to become a hero.
To give selflessly to the community without counting the cost is a mark of a hero and if we look closely enough we see many of them in our midst. At the forefront are our Overseas Filipino Workers who toil abroad, facing difficulties and abuses so that they can give their family in the Philippines a better life. We also give tribute to teachers who work in remote areas far from home under exceptionally harsh conditions to bring education to the community that needs it most.
Yesterday’s speaker during the celebration of the National Heroes Day was Matigsalug Datu Rodolfo Mande, who has made it his life’s work to promote literacy in remote Matigsalug villages. Conferred the prestigious Datu Bago Award in 2019, Mande is considered one of the pioneering teachers of the Foundation of Learning for Indigenous Children (FLIC) of the Tribal Mission Foundation International.
He said tribal leaders who truly care are like night watchmen who shouldn’t sleep in monitoring young members who are in the city to pursue further studies at the same time not to lose their identity in the mainstream. “To lose identity is to lose destiny,” Datu Mande said.
As a working student in High School and College, he values hard work and believes that Lumad professionals should return to the community with the right skills and knowledge. He said they need Lumad students who will pursue education, social work and public administration – skills they so badly need to improve their situation. Today, they have more than 20 professionals, at least three of them getting the highest honors at a state university. “I am happy to know we can compete with the rest,” Mande said.
As indigenous peoples are so attuned to the environment, Mande said that “if the mountains fall, the cities will fall,” underlining the need to respect ancestral domain and indigenous culture, and; protect the environment especially at this time of severe weather changes.
As Kadayawan, a festival marking the bountiful harvest and the indigenous ways, draws to a close this month of August, it was only fitting that the city marked National Heroes Day highlighting the role of the indigenous communities in nation building.