DAVAO CITY – As a daily routine, learners of the hinterland village of Sitio Kisoy in Datal Anggas in Alabel, Saragani Province are already up before the sun goes up.

10112020 BaanAlabel DepEdSarangani 1024x717 - Learners in remote Sarangani village try to balance farming with studies
Emelaica Baan sits on a makeshift tower to watch over their upland rice farm as she works on her module at the same time in the mountainous village of Sitio Kisoy, Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani Province. ( Photo courtesy of Jenebeth Waloc)

They are already up, not because they need to go to school, but because they need to tend to their farm and work on their modules at the same time.

This was how Grade 8 teacher Ryan Angtud described the situation of his students living in one of the most remote villages of Alabel.

Under the distance learning modality, the learners of Datal Anggal Integrated School Extension School (DAISE) in Sitio Kisoy are adopting the modular modality.

Angtud cited one of his students Emelaica Baan, a 13-year old B’laan, who has to bring her module with her to their nearby upland rice farm that is located on the slope of the mountain.

Since the rice is about to be harvested in less than a month, Baan has to ward off the Maya birds from feasting on the rice grains.

“Since it’s about to be harvested, it already to the birds. Thus, every morning, they are like racing against the Maya to get to the ricefield,” the teacher added.

Like Baan, most of the learners in Sitio Kisoy have the same routine since it is almost harvest time in the village, according to Angtud.

And when it is the parents’ turn to mind the farm, the children stay home to prepare the meals.

“That’s the routine of our students even before the pandemic. There were days that they had to excuse from our classes because they had to help their parents in warding off the birds,” Angtud said over the phone.

In a picture posted on the DAISE Facebook account, Baan could be seen sitting on top of a makeshift watchtower beside their upland rice farm, on the lookout for the pesky Maya birds.

According to Ethelbert Dimal Somera, also a Grade 8 adviser in DAISE, Baan’s father just tied several ropes from the watchtower going to some erected poles on the opposite direction.

“When she sees the birds are flocking and trying to swoop down on the field, she waves the ropes closest to the birds’ position imitating a spider web wagging its web to deter the enemy. This leads to the flock of Maya birds to be driven away safely and unharmed,” Somera wrote on the DAISE Facebook page.

DAISE is one of the most remote schools under the Department of Education Sarangani Division.  It caters to about 100 B’laan students from Grade 7 to 10. The elementary learners are enrolled in a separate school served by the Davao Occidental Division.

Sitio Kisoy is about 81 kilometers away from the town proper of Alabel, and sits near the boundary of Malita town in Davao Occidental.

Teachers and villagers have to pay P800 just to hire a motorcycle in going to the village.

“Motorcycles are only up to Datal Anggal proper, which is 56 kilometers from the town proper. From there, we had to walk for three hours to reach Sitio Kisoy,” Angtud explained.

Mobile network signal is very erratic, he added.

When the teachers in Sitio Kisoy need to communicate with their fellow teachers in Datal Anggal proper, Angtud bared, they have to send someone to bring a handwritten note.

School principal Rob Masalon also said that from the village proper, the villagers or the teachers have to hike through the thick forest.

“It’s quite risky during rainy days because you might be hit by felled trees,” Masalon wrote in an email to Manila Bulletin.

Amid the challenges of distance learning due to pandemic, Masalon said that the learners in Sitio Kisoy were still determined to pursue their studies.

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