Lumad evacuees adjust to life under coronavirus lockdown

Samantha Bagayas
Lumad evacuees adjust to life under coronavirus lockdown
Displaced Lumad children and teachers worry about what will happen to them in the next few weeks amid the growing number of coronavirus cases

MANILA, Philippines – As the Luzon lockdown continues, displaced Lumad children in University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman are adjusting to the new normal of living life under quarantine.

Seeking solace in the new building of UP’s College of Fine Arts, some 100 Lumad children live and study in the Bakwit School set up by the Save Our Schools Network. (LISTEN: [PODCAST] Making Space: Lumad schools face challenges after government-ordered closure)

With the “enhanced” community quarantine in place since March 17, Bakwit School teachers worried about what would happen to them in the next few weeks, especially with the coronavirus outbreak.  (READ: Trauma haunts Lumad students after attacks on their community)


Among their major concerns is their limited resources and where they could source food during the lockdown. 

The suspension of mass public transportation and the restriction of land travel have made it difficult for usual donors of Lumad Bakwit school to reach out and help.

“The food and other resources is a challenge in this time of enhanced community quarantine since we couldn’t leave the premises, and so do other individuals or groups who have been visiting us,” said Save Our Schools Network’s Rius Valle.

“We have been dependent on humanitarian support from different individuals and groups since 2017,” he added.

They also struggle to buy groceries good for more than a hundred people, after the Department of Trade and Industry imposed a limit on the purchase of select items to avoid hoarding during the coronavirus outbreak. (READ: LIST: Who are allowed out during Luzon lockdown?)

Another challenge the Lumad Bakwit School faces is ensuring the health of all teachers and students during the coronavirus outbreak, especially as they share one space.

“We could not afford to get infected,” Valle said. “That is why we are taking this issue seriously. A slight complacency is absolutely unacceptable.” 

To protect themselves from the coronavirus, the Lumad Bakwit school conducts general cleaning and disinfection measures every 4 days. They also bleach personal things and items used by all, as well as observe daily monitoring of their health. 

HEALTH CHECK. A man gets a blood pressure reading.


A no-visitors policy, covering even their Manila-based teachers who are volunteering, has been put in place as well to ensure the students and teachers of Lumad Bakwit School don’t get exposed to the new virus.

A concern, however, is how sleeping in one space can affect the health of the students.

“The sleeping is a challenge since even with physical distancing, we share one space – although we have prepared an isolation tent for those who have cough and colds,” Valle shared.

Coping with life under quarantine

But even with their challenges, life continues for the students and teachers at Lumad Bakwit School, as they try to make the best out of their situation.

While classes in all levels have been suspended due to the lockdown, the Lumad Bakwit School has been doing special classes for students to pass the time.

With the help of their 8 in-camp Lumad teachers, the classes touch on issues such as the coronavirus outbreak through educational discussions and film viewing. (WATCH: Lumad children want to be back in classrooms)

On March 13, the Lumad students even made a video tutorial on how to make your own face masks, after supplies ran out following the rising number of coronavirus cases.

Despite the restrictions imposed by the lockdown, the Lumad Bakwit School is still thankful that there are groups and individuals who went above and beyond to donate goods to them.

“Right now, we are seeing different individuals and groups, some we never met before, offer to help–from donating food and other supplies to offering transportation, equipment and volunteer work, all in an effort to help Lumad children get through with this,” said Valle. 

Since the lockdown, people from the Lumad Bakwit School have hesitated to leave their space, as they worried about their health. But the donations of rice, vegetables, fruits, hygiene kits, alcohol,and other items have helped keep them afloat during the lockdown so far.

SUPPLIES. Food donations


Others went even as far as lending their refrigerator to store perishables, while some volunteer doctors offered to give online consultations. To safeguard their health, they disinfect donations they receive, as part of its protocols.

But not all vulnerable groups are as lucky as the Lumad Bakwit School. (READ: Fighting coronavirus requires efforts to help the poor – PCIJ report

Valle highlighted the importance of supporting vulnerable sectors especially at a time like this.

“The call for support is still open for both the bakwit school here in UP Diliman and also for the refugees in UCCP (United Church of Christ in the Philippines) Haran in Davao,” said Valle.

The Lumad Bakwit School also thanked the UP Diliman community and the other heroes who continue to be of service to the people before and during the crisis.

“In this time of uncertainty, these people – and they are a lot of them, like frontline health workers, teachers, church people, students and scientists battling this virus, taking greater consideration to the needs of the poor and marginalized – have been reassuring us. During crisis, it is the people’s collective movement that will defeat not just this virus but social inequality and injustices,” Valle said.

The SOS Network calls for assistance for hundreds of Lumad evacuees in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic and its spread all over the Philippines.  Contact the following numbers for more details on how to help: Metro Manila (09090128952), Cebu (09453549620), and Davao (09462336527).

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Samantha Bagayas

Samantha Bagayas is a community and civic engagement specialist under MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm. Aside from writing stories about movements and civic initiatives, she works with movers and campus journalists across the Philippines to amplify issues affecting their communities.