It was December of last year when One Heart For Hope received a call from LTC. Baybayan 3rd SFB was asking for help for the indigenous people of Surigao when typhoon Vicky ravaged Surigao del Sur, the town of Lianga was not spared. In February, another powerful typhoon, Auring, brought floods and strong winds that left this town hopeless with no electricity. One Heart for Hope boldly decided to travel to Lianga to heed the call for help despite pandemic. Sixty units of Power 4 All d.light solar lanterns for the powerless community of Manobo tribes. Upon arrival in Lianga, One Heart for Hope was given a tremendous welcome and kind hospitality by the graceful Mayor Novelita Sarmen and the gentlemen of 3rd Special Forces Battalion headed by LTC Benedict Gernale.
They learned from this tribe that the problem was not only the destructive typhoon Lianga, but also the presence of rebel groups which the army is trying to contain. For many years now the IP’s in the mountain areas of Lianga are afraid to connect with the government since they were indoctrinated by the revolutionary group. This resulted in a lot of deaths of tribal leaders who tried to embrace the benefits given by the government. As recent as October 2020, a tribal leader Datu Jumar Bucales, was gunned down by the rebels. The most heartbreaking of all, the proper education that was supposedly meant for the children were replaced by schools who teach the young to rebel against the government. These schools are not accredited by the Department of Education; thus, their educational attainment was not recognized. This brought a lot of uncertainties with the tribe who only wish for their children to be educated.
The Manobos firmly believe that by educating their children, it will help the tribe rise from extreme poverty and finally eliminate the discrimination they are getting from lowlanders. The revolutionary schools are now replaced by proper school which was built with the help of the army and is now accredited by the DepEd. This is the Sitio Sumawao Elementary School of Living Traditions (Eskwelahan Sa Kalinaw ug Pag-tuon). Datu Jumar Bucales was killed in his effort to help build this new school. The influx of children enrollees is a testament that peace can be achieved and there is now harmony between government people and the people of Diatogon, Lianga.
In as much as we wanted to reach out to the families in the upper areas of Brgy. Diatogon to hand over the solar lanterns personally, I was advised by the army not to proceed because of the danger. The day of the distribution was actually the anniversary of the NPA. The people were advised to come down and get their solars. Reusable or washable face masks were also distributed.
One Heart For Hope would like to thank the heroes of 3rd Special Forces Battalion, LTC. Joey Baybayan, LTC. Benedict Gernale, CPT. Archimedes Aranas, and 1LT. Krisju Punzalan who selflessly assisted and helped the indigenous people of Diatogon. Kudos also to the Mayor of Lianga Novelita Sarmen (and her constituents) who made Noel's stay comfortable, to Datu Constancio Duhac, who introduced Noel to his people, and to the benevolent people of Lianga. Million thanks to all our donors of the solar lantern and face masks. You support during these trying times are very much appreciated.
More solar lamps are needed by the community. We are hoping to go back and give more.