Let me tell you about the ordinary day of Manobo children, during their school year, which lasts up to 10 months, from early June to the end of March, excluding Saturdays and Sundays.
The day starts early, the awakening is usually at the crowing of cocks, 4 to 5 am, depending on how many kilometers he o she has to walk to school. As you wake up, before getting up, the little ones simply stretch the body to win the cold that is passing throught the walls of the hut, made of woven bamboo. They throw in a corner the rag that served as a blanket and rise from the bed of straw. Standing up they stretched again, then they rolled up the mat on which they slept, often gnawed by rats (yes, because the mice are at home in their huts), placing it on the raised floor of bamboo where they slept
Between light and dark (usually dawns are between 5.30 am and 6 am) they begin the daily housework. If it’s a little girl she will help her mother to light the fire, clean the floor, preparing food or care for younger siblings. If it is a child he will help dad to fetch wood, water, and bring animals to graze out somewhere – buffalos, horses, goats – if they have any.
Expetited these small chores, they go to the river to wash themselves. Usually with no soap: they take a stone and rub rough their skin trying to remove the dirt. They wash their clothes too with water, without soap or detergent. They just squeeze them if they must wear them later.
Back home, they get ready for school. They take off their wet clothes and spread them outside over some branches of trees: these will be dry in the afternoon. They get the school uniform and look if the mother has cooked some breakfast. If there is, it is usually boiled sweet potatoes, or prepared food to take to school for lunch: coarsely ground corn or rice. Rarely there is something like pottage (or salted dried fish, half a boiled egg or even salt). Everything is then wrapped in a banana leaf.
Then they prepare the backpacks, or plastic bags, placing in it the bundle with food, notebook, pen and a pencil. Now they are ready to go to school, depending on how far the school is. They call each other as they pass in front of the huts of other children. They go to school in groups, barefoot with shoes in hand to prevent to consume them, up and down the hills, crossing streams without bridges, under the sun or the rain, the dust and mud, often walking up to 6 Km
Once in school, with a hand they wipe the sweat then line up for the flag cerimony and the national anthem. 7.15 a.m. After the song there are ten minutes of exercise ( a continuation of the 5-6 km. walk), cleaning the school yard and classrooms, and after that, around 8 o’clock, all inside they are. Each has its own chair-desk that was brougth from home at the beginning of the school year. In a classroom of about 50 square meters there must be 50 children, maybe more. Some do not have the wodden chair so they sit on the floor.
Classes are held in Tagalog, the national language or dialect of the teachers (or Cebuano and Ilongo) with a few words every now and then in English. However, for Manobo children all these are foreign languages, as foreigners are them for the other non-Manobo children. For this reason the early months of school are really tough: they feel like fish out of water. If they can resist to the school’s program they go on, otherwise they will drop out, but then it will be very difficult to resume it. In any case, the teachers always follow only the most interested.
At 9.45 they stop for 15 minutes, the children leaving classroom for a breath of fresh air. Who has not had breakfast yet begins to feel grumbling stomach and can not resist the temptation to open the bundle of food brought from home, and eat it. Then at noon? Bahala na, we’ll see what to eat! At 10 they return to class until 11.30. Then it arrives the most important part of the day: the lunch (for those who have not eaten it before). It is consumed at most in 10 minutes. The rest of the time is spent in dozing under a tree or playing hide and seek.
At one o’clock they returned to class. The afternoon is the hardest part. Sleep begins to be felt, especially for those who have woken up at 4.30. Taking advantage of another short rest at 2.30 pm, the children are starting to scrutinize the weather. If is not so well and they live far away or have to cross rivers they take backpack, shoes in hand, and sometimes without saying anything to the teacher, home they go hoping not to find some swallen river and slippery mud. If the weather is good they might remain in school until four.
Back home they make sure that the backpacks are not ngawed by mice, placing it in a safe place, then they take off their uniforms and put on the other washed morning clothes. They hide the shoes in a corner of the hut, hoping that these are not carried around the village by the dog.
After resting a little, housework again. The girls help the mom to cook dinner and look after the younger siblings. The boys help their father to bring back the animals, fetch water and firewood. Schoolwork at home? Do not talk about it! Forget it! Then about six o’clock, when it starts to get dark, they eat dinner: sweet potatoes, rice or boiled corn. If there is a bit of vegetables and salted fish, they are happy. Meat instead is a luxury. At seven o’clock it is dark. So they lie down on the straw mat. All in bed. Sometime the children who walked 6 km from the school and did the homework are so tired that they fall asleep on the floor, skipping dinner.
This is the life of Manobo children. What do they want? What do they hope? Sometimes it is hard to understand them. But they have many choices, however, and slowly is becoming important for them to study, the literacy, learning the language, in order to get a recognition in their society. Who refuse it , will be lost. A difficult task for a child, but with our help we hope they will enjoy a brighter future.