Re­vis­it­ing bayani­han

The man who builds schools in re­mote ar­eas maps out a trail of com­pas­sion


“I’m not sure what my pro­fes­sion is. Am I a farmer, a lawyer, or a so­cial worker?” pon­ders Atty. An­gelo Va­len­cia, fondly known as Kuya Pul­tak. This Tues­day af­ter­noon, he’s at a farm to as­sist in the care of a horse that had just given birth.

With his no­madic lifestyle, Va­len­cia has found plenty of places to call home, from the slopes of Mt. Pu­lag to the deep seas of Palawan. At Tibby’s Farm, he in­tends to build a close-knit com­mu­nity for the bene­fac­tors of Klas­rum ng Pag-asa, the same peo­ple who had wel­comed him into their homes. “You need to have a com­mu­nity where peo­ple can learn, where they can feel safe, and where they can grow. That’s what we’re do­ing in the farm,” Va­len­cia says.

Why is it im­por­tant for us to build com­mu­ni­ties?

If we’re go­ing to do some­thing, we have to do it as a com­mu­nity be­cause that’s what bayani­han is. I’ve al­ways be­lieved that where you were born, where you live, where you’ve stud­ied is the place you have to work with. You have to be in your com­mu­nity and be a fac­tor in its de­vel­op­ment. We must build where the streets have no names and where the roads end, and those who have had less should have more— these are the in­dige­nous peo­ple. No of­fense, but the future of this coun­try is not found in cities. Rather, it’s in the hearts and minds of the coun­try­side. That needs to be im­parted to those liv­ing in cities, so they could shed off their man­tel of en­ti­tle­ment.

In build­ing com­mu­ni­ties, how do you deal with stub­born peo­ple who refuse to co­op­er­ate?

It takes a lot of pa­tience. When I was a child, my mom would tell me to visit the play­ground. There are bul­lies there, I would tell her, and she’d an­swer, “How else would you learn? Life is like a jun­gle full of an­i­mals. You have to learn not to fight with them but to make sure that they see things your way.” So, what do we need? Pa­tience. As I put it, “stay a day longer.” There may be catas­tro­phes, but they even­tu­ally end any­way.

What have you learned from dif­fer­ent re­gions of the Philip­pines?

In Sulu, honor is very im­por­tant— marta­bat. For the Tausugs, they say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they do. Ev­ery­one com­plies with these prin­ci­ples and also hold each other ac­count­able. In the north, the ed­u­ca­tion of the kids is pri­mary; they put the in­ter­est of their chil­dren first. As for the chil­dren, they bond to­gether and dis­re­gard in­ter­fam­ily squab­bles. Here in the city, we have to con­tin­u­ally im­press upon our part­ners that no mat­ter how tal­ented they are, it’s not about them. [Our work] is never about the tro­phy, never about a medal.

No of­fense, but the future of this coun­try is not found in cities.”

Moy Moy the wild boar is treated as pet at Tibby’s Farm, where he can freely roam.

The cows are free to graze and are occasionally fed with sugar cane.

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