THE month of June is here. It was one of the most exciting days as children in the past. The smell of new notebooks and pencils was exciting. It was also the time to have a new pair of clothes. Our parents need to hike to Lagawe to purchase all these basic school supplies with all their available savings since life before was only revolving around the agricultural cycle.
The old school in the village was located at the top of a ridge. For us located in the lower areas, we needed to hike for around 30 minutes to reach school. Along the way, we navigated through rice fields, rivers and wood lots. Most of the time, we arrived at school early. But sometimes, we were late arriving at school when we enjoyed picking and digging fruit trees and tubers. Nevertheless, our former teacher waits for all to arrive before starting her lectures.
At recess time, there were no candies and other processed snacks. We just maximized indigenous fruits and edible plants around the school as our snacks. Time was irrelevant, sometimes we forgot time and returned during the afternoon classes. We were usually dismissed earlier to give more time for our walking home.
Most of the time, the teacher provides pencils and papers especially by midyear when most of our supplies have already been used up. At one point, when there was no chalk to be used, our teacher used charcoal. It was difficult to read the letters. We needed to position ourselves against the light coming from the window in order to read the letters. It was funny.
One enjoyable moment before was lunch time. Aside from rice and vegetables and the occasional meat, the most “kaimasan” ulam was the tuyo (dried fish). We could only enjoy it if our parents bought from the market which is far from the village. Since lunch boxes were not popular before, banana leaves were maximized. Food was shared among friends and neighbors.
Going to school was supported by our parents and the community. In fact, schools and the cleaning and maintenance of schools were shouldered voluntarily by the community people. In their belief, finishing school will make life easier. “Mun-iskul kayu ta pumhod biyag yu. Adi kayu pay mamaptangan, mapipitok ya mauda-udana,” (Go to school to improve your lives. You will be not work under the sun, rain and even getting muddy.)
This constant reminder of our parents made us alienated from the land nurtured by our parents. We tended to see life in the village as inferior and backward. We developed the idea that working in the rice field will not bring progress.
Along with my friends and neighbors as one of the first graduates in the village, we agree now with our parents that education has opened up more opportunities for us. But with education, we also realized that the land has a lot to offer and life in the village is not backward. In fact, education and life in the village made us more rooted in our culture and ways of life. And this is a continuing conversation among us in the village on how to balance education, village life and the challenges of the 21st century.