The celebrity vlogger recently featured on his Youtube channel his trek to the schools built for Palaw’an indigenous peoples in the jungle and hilly terrains of Brooke’s Point town by a non-profit missionary organization.
Erwan Heussaff was toured around the Bayog Pengandel Literacy Center in Sitio Bayog, Brgy. Aribungos, one of the schools for indigenous learners built by the Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services (PAMAS) Mission, an NGO that provides help across the country through the use of air support, medical aid, and education.
In Brooke’s Point, PAMAS has provided aid to 14 villages in the mountain area, and established schools on the more treacherous parts, accessible only by helicopter or hours of hiking.
PAMAS also has the DepEd accredited Palawan Aid International Kabatangan View Schools, Inc., (PAI-KVS), established in 2015, with campuses in the villages of Amrang, Kansuli, and Kamantian.
Erwan approved of the efforts made by PAMAS to deliver services in the area.
“They say that education should be the great equalizer, so at least presenting that opportunity for people to learn things, I think, is amazing,” he said.
Jasper Iturriaga, a former pastor now working for the NGO, raised funds for the Literacy Center through social media in 2022, collaborating with Karmagawa, a social charity community. PAMAS’ helicopters airlifted all the equipment for the school buildings, and for years shuttled patients from the remote village areas to get medical aid.
The former pastor rallied for help on social media and was able to raise enough funds to build schools in remote areas of Brooke’s Point.
“One thing unique about the jungle school is that we didn’t really have that idea. It was them who said, ‘Hey, our kids are walking two hours, you know. Can we build a school even if it’s just in a hut.’ That was the whole concept, and I thought maybe this is a good place to build a school,” Jasper said.
He said one thing he knew was that maybe people could help. “First week, we raised 10 grand ($10,000). In two weeks, we raised, 20 grand ($20,000) to build the school.”
Jasper said they needed $30,000 to build the school and pay for the salaries of volunteers who will teach the Pala’wan students.
PAMAS’ helicopters airlifted all the equipment for the school buildings, and for years shuttled patients from the remote village areas to get medical aid. PAIKVS has a mini-hospital on their Sitio Kamantian campus, and has foreign volunteers for teachers and nurses.
However, PAMAS was not the first to build schools for IP communities in Brooke’s Point. In the video, a teacher in PAIKVS mentioned the difference between their private school curriculum, which included harvest and farming time alongside regular school work, and the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Alternative Learning System (ALS) curriculum implemented in a similar school lower on the mountain range. The ALS curriculum required the Palaw’an learners to stay in school the whole day, preventing them from contributing to their daily work.
In 2017, DepEd Palawan established the public Kelwi Village Elementary School for indigenous learners.
Kelwi Village ES is a six-to-seven-hour hike from the town proper, located on the outskirts of Brgy. Saraza.
The educational program is additionally founded on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE), enabling Palaw’an indigenous peoples to receive instruction in their native language.
While PAMAS obtained a permit from DepEd Palawan to operate and construct a physical school in the area, there is still contention regarding whether the education they provide for the IPs aligns with DepEd Order No. 62, which adopted a National Indigenous Peoples’ Education Policy Framework.
PAMAS also includes elements of contemporary Christian religion in their curriculum. PAIKVS’ foreign volunteers also included pastors doing missionary work among the Palaw’an.
This was inconsistent with the DepEd mandate for IP education, which was to provide basic inclusive education that recognizes, protects, and promotes the rights and welfare of IPs, including adopting their traditional cultures and beliefs in the educational system.
In the opening of the featured video “Let’s Get It On” on the YouTube channel FEATR, clips of Palaw’an children were showcased. These clips were accompanied by the Filipino version of “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God” playing in the background, as Heussaff narrated the challenges of providing accessible education in the mountainous region.
He claimed that PAMAS’ humanitarian assistance helped alleviate some of these difficulties.
Kelwi Village ES faced challenges in delivering proper education as well, as the DepEd certified teachers were not able to hold classes every day due to the distance of the school and treacherous hiking trails.
Despite IP education in Brooke’s Point proving to be an uphill battle, the effects of education on them proved to be fruitful. As Benito Amis, one of the Palaw’an featured in the video, put it, “Ginto talaga yung tao, na yung lahat ng tao ay matulungan.”
The feature about the IP schools in Brooke’s Point also paid tribute to helicopter pilot Daniel Lui, who disappeared while conducting a rescue mission in the waters near Balabac back in March of this year.
Jasper said it was Daniel who got in touch with him, telling him to visit and take pictures of what PAMAS is doing in Palawan.
“I said I’m going there for a few days, and come visit. And those few days became a year,” he said, noting it was what set him straight when he was lost. “I owe that a lot to Dan. Without him, we wouldn’t be building schools.”
“Daniel came here a few years back (…) He fell in love with the people. He’s a paramedic, an aircraft mechanic, a pilot, and a helicopter instructor. He can drive bulldozers, all these things,” he added.