Hope for kids on red land

RED. Poetry depicts red as a raging emotion that signifies burst feeling of love and passion. It is a symbol of destruction and war and for some reason an element of betrayal and disobedience.
But on one of the mountaintops of southern Philippines, particularly at Sitio Contract, Barangay Salumay, Marilog, Davao City, no traces of destruction could be found on its red-colored land – only a symbol of blood and life. Hope, indeed, swells among the Tribe of Matigsalug, particularly among its children.

“Pagdaku naku gusto ko mahimong, teacher o sundalo (When I grow up, I want to be a teacher or a soldier),” four-year-old Dodong, one of the 20 beneficiaries of the day care center at Sitio Contract this school year, said.
In one ordinary day, when the sun beams its splendor, the small sitio remains undeniably cold. It is an ancestral land owned by the Matigsalug tribe since time immemorial but is deprived of sufficient water supply and electricity.
“Aron mabuhi, nagatanum mi ug mais, kamote, balanghoy ug karlang. Sa sulod ka lima ka bulan among harveson.

Kung maayo ang harvest, ang among income muabot ug P1500. Kana nga income, mao na among ipangkonsumo ug among gamiton sa pangtuyok sa sunod namong pagtanum (In order to live, we mainly plant corn crops, sweet potatoes, cassava and yam. We harvest the crops within five months. If the harvest is good, we will earn around $34. We use the money for our consumption and the rest will be our budget for the next planting season),” Aling Flora, 36, a mother of eight children including Dodong, shared how her family makes ends meet.
Just like any other housewives of the 70 families at the sitio, Aling Flora was denied proper education due to poverty. Education, for people like her in the area, is not free and only available to privileged people downtown and never an option for them on the uphills. For sheer lack of education, girls as young as 16 years old get married and have children instead.
This prompted the Children’s Joy Foundation, Inc. (CJFI) to take action. As a non-profit organization that sets free education as one of its primary goals for destitute children, it tied up with Children’s Joy Foundation Canada for financial support in the construction of a day care center in the area. The day care program prepares three to five years old children for formal education. It is under the supervision of the government’s social agency, the Department of Social Welfare and Development or DSWD. With the learning facility built just within the community, the children do not have to walk long distances to attend school, thereby, increasing attendance rate among learners.
Dodong is graduating from the day care center next year. By then, he will be prepared for preschool at a nearby sitio.
Aling Flora’s joy overflows. She’s happy for the opportunity, thankful that the children in their community are now given equal opportunities as those in the city.
She said that she is looking forward for her daughter, Lilia, to avail of the day care program next year. Lilia is also upbeat about studying in the colorful building at Sitio Contract that stands firmly on the red ground.

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