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Actress Jodi Sta. Maria visits lumads in Haran

(published in SunStar Davao July 25, 2016)

IT WAS not the first time that the Lumads at UCCP Haran Center was visited by a star.

Still, many of them were star-struck when Jodi Sta. Maria (or more known with her screen name as “Amor Powers” in one of her teleseryes) walked in with a smile for everyone.

She also visited the children in their makeshift classrooms, and personally gave them bags and school supplies.

“Huwag niyong hayaan na makuha ‘yung pag-asa na nasa puso ninyo, yong pangarap na isang araw babalik kayo sa lupa ninyo. ‘yun ang huwag niyong i-give up (Don’t let them take the hope in your heart that one day you will be back to your land, never give it up),” was Ms. Jodi’s inspiring message to the Lumad kids.

Clad in shirt and denims, Ms. Jodi was a picture of pure enthusiasm as she listened to the background information why the Indigenous Peoples have evacuated at the Haran Center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) for over a year now.

Bishop Hamuel Tequis of the UCCP welcomed her, and representatives from SAGIPP and the Save Our Schools (SOS) network gave her an overview of the problems besetting the IPs in Mindanao, and those of their schools in Lumad communities that are still being attacked by paramilitary elements.

When “Ilay”, an IP student recounted her experience in one of the schools under attack, Ms. Jodi was visibly affected her expressive eyes looked saddened.

This was corroborated by an IP mother who likewise related that their peaceful life in the community had changed since military authorities started to come and disturbed their lives.

Looking pleased at a short play and song presented by a group of very young IP kids, Ms. Jodi’s eyes lit up as she recognized the children’s efforts to give her an idea about what they used to do in their communities.

In acknowledging the generosity of its benefactor, a member of the Board of Directors of MISFI, Dr. Rody Lucero profusely thanked the actress who in turn expressed her delight at the warm welcome she had received on that day.

Much later, Ms. Jodi had a private meeting with the MISFI Community Education program under Ms. Milagros Maglungsod-Tan and some teachers from the community who gave her an overview of the situation of the MISFI schools in Southern Mindanao.

Ms. Jodi expressed amazement at the information that some Lumad’s ancestral lands were just exchanged with some cans of sardines, then broke the seriousness of the discussion with humour by asking which brand of sardines, to which the teachers of MISFI laughed out loud.

Conveying her solidarity with the Lumad struggle, she said she intends to visit again and to bring along some of her friends in the industry as part of her advocacy for the Lumads, and to stay for a few days in a community to really experience life with them.