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The story behind the Cebu Bakwit schools

The story of the Lumad Bakwit Schools in Cebu can be traced back to 2019, when students, teachers, and datus left their communities and established volunteer schools in different universities that welcomed them.

In a press conference on Tuesday, February 16, University of the Philippines professor Regletto Imbong said the Lumad fled their communities because of the civil war between the government and the rebel Communist Party of the Philippines.

"Napugos ang atong mga kaigsuonang Lumad labi na ang mga estudyante ug mga magtutudlo nga mo bakwit gikan sa lugar nga grabe ang kagubot, gikan sa lugar nga nagkakusog ang civil war," he said.

(Our Lumad brothers and sisters, especially the students and teachers, were forced to evacuate from their areas where there's chaos, from the areas of intensifying civil war.)

"Ang mga nagkadaiyang skwelahan sa lugar nihangyo sa mga tawo nga kaayog kasing-kasing sa Cebu na sagupon sila… tungod ani… natukod nag Save Our Schools [Network] Cebu," he added.

(The individual schools requested kind-hearted individuals in Cebu to give them refuge… because of this… the Save Our Schools Network was established in Cebu.)

Save Our Schools Network is an alliance of individuals, and religious, and academic institutions which help displaced Lumad students continue their education through makeshift facilities called "Bakwit" schools.

Imbong said the first Lumad Bakwit School attended by the current batch of 42 delegates was established in the University of the Philippines- Cebu in October 2019.

The delegates then transferred to St. Scholastica's Academy in Talisay, Cebu in January 2020.

Then in March 11, 2020, when a lockdown was imposed in Cebu City, the Lumads were welcomed by the University of San Carlos (USC) and were housed in its Talamban campus retreat house.

In a joint statement, the USC administration and the SVD Philippines Southern Province, said the students remained sheltered in the retreat house due to quarantine restrictions imposed on Cebu City on March 13.

"The delegation was supposed to complete their modular schooling on April 3, 2020, and after which, they would have returned to their respective indigenous communities," said the statement.

"After being locked down, the SVD Community has since sheltered the delegation at its retreat house, providing them with comfortable accommodation, and allowing them the use of its facilities for the Lumads recreations," the statement reads.

When quarantine restrictions were eased, according to the statement, preparations for the delegates' travel back home were arranged. About 4 delegates reportedly have since returned to their home island.

On Monday, February 15, the police and the Cebu City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) office arrested 26 delegates in the retreat house. Nineteen minors were transferred to the custody of the CSWD while 7 adults have been detained at the Police Regional Office- Central Visayas for allegedly training "child warriors".

Among the 7 were two volunteer teachers including activist Chad Booc, two Lumad datus and 3 students.

Imbong said that their volunteer teachers used modules prepared Department of Education.

The joint USC and SVD Southern Province statement also said that there was no need for the "rescue" operation.

"Here, no rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the Lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being, and all throughout, they were nurtured, cared for, and treated with their best interest in mind," the statement said. – Rappler.com