“Palayain ang isipan, paunlarin ang kamulatan. Kumilos, makibaka!”

This was the rallying call of the thirteen (13) Manobo grade eight students from Salugpongan Ta ’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) as they marched wearing their traditional clothes and buli hats bearing their demands for food, education and genuine peace in Mindanao during the Bonifacio day commemorative action today. Together with urban poor communities of Metro Manila and other rights advocates, they walked the streets on their way to Liwasang Bonifacio and Mendiola.

“In the tradition of Gat Andres Bonifacio’s patriotism, children and child rights advocates marched to the streets and demanded the government to heed their calls. For so long, lumads have been struggling against military attacks on their schools and communities and against development aggression like foreign large scale mining, intruding in their ancestral lands,” said Madella Santiago, spokesperson of the Save our Schools network.

The Talaingod Manobo children protested the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ presence and encampment in schools and communities that brings much fear, anxiety and trauma to every lumad. They went to Manila with other contingents of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2014 and called on the Aquino government to pull-out the 55 combat battalions of the AFP, wreaking havoc in the island of Mindanao.

“Like Andres Bonifacio, we, are actively participating in social issues that gravely affect us. It is difficult for us to study and to live in peace if soldiers are continuously terrorizing us and our communities. We appeal to Pres. Aquino to listen to our calls – save our schools and communities and pull out the soldiers encamping in our ancestral lands,” explained Roland Dalin, a 17 year old student of the STTICLCI.

Child rights advocates and the children challenged Pres. Aquino, “If he really cares for children, especially for the marginalized and oppressed lumads like us, he should live by Bonifacio’s example. He should ensure our protection and genuine development instead of allowing foreign corporations to destroy our lands, lives and future,” continued Ronald.

The Manobo children and child rights advocates under the Save our Schools network called on other children and advocates to unite and continue Bonifacio’s patriotic aspiration. “We should work together to achieve a quality life for our children, the next generation who will continue the Filipino people’s struggle for genuine peace based on justice,” concluded Santiago.###

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