This woman is first of Palawan Tau’t Bato tribe to graduate from university

Juda Diklay of the Tau’t Bato tribe went viral for her inspiring story as she was able to overcome many difficulties to finish her education, becoming the first in her tribe to graduate from university.
woman is first of Palawan Tau’t Bato tribe to graduate from university

Living in the mountains and getting their food from whatever is available in their surroundings, the Tau’t Bato tribe in Palawan does not really need much. But they live a hard life in the mountains, especially during rainy season when they had to hide in the caves to avoid the rain.

The tribe lives in Singnapan Valley that you can reach after an 8-hour walk from Brgy. Ransang, Rizal, Palawan. They gather wild fruits and vegetables, grow crops and rice, and go hunting for their food. But they have no access to schools or health care.

Tau’t Bato tribe in Palawan
Photo credit: Jacom Maentz Photographer / Good News Pilipinas

During rainy season, they go to the caves inside an ancient volcano to seek protection, but even getting there is dangerous.

“Napakadelikado po nung mga dinadaanan namin papunta sa mga kweba. Puro bato, at kaliwa’t kanang bangin ang dadaanan para makapunta doon at buwis-buhay talaga. May part pa doon na tatawid ng tulay na kailangan nakabalanse ka kung hindi malalaglag ka talaga,” shares Juda.

For many years, members of the Christian missionary group called Youth with a Mission (YWAM) not only brought Christian teachings to the tribe but also encouraged them to go down to the lowlands so their children can be educated, under the premise that education will be their key to a better life.

The tribe is afraid of what might happen to their children in the lowlands.

Challenges and difficulties

The group was eventually able to persuade Juda’s family to move to the lowlands so she and her brother can study, but it was a big struggle for the young girl who was already 10 years at the time but still in Grade 1.

Juda studied at Ransang Elementary School with her brother, but because she was much older than her classmates and was struggling to adapt to life in the lowlands, she didn’t have friends. She would immediately go home after school, leading many to think she was a snob.

Eventually she earned friends but still got bullied by many in the school for being different. She wanted to quit and go home but was surprised when she graduated Valedictorian!

In high school, things got worse because she was sent by YWAM to Puerto Princesa where she once again had difficulties adjusting to the city life. Bullies were everywhere – and she got a project destroyed by a classmate just because she completed earlier than everyone else. She cried and repeated the project, only passing after she made sure everyone else had passed theirs.

woman is first of Palawan Tau’t Bato tribe to graduate from university

Taking up Bachelor of Elementary Education at the Western Philippines University (WUP) in Puerto Princesa, Juda was able to finally have a place where she was free to be who she was, because everyone had their unique traits. But times were hard because YWAM could not fully support her studies in college.

Thankfully, Juda was chosen to be among the grantees of the Expanded Students’ Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). She received Php30,000 to cover her tuition fees, board and lodging, and other needs that first semester in school.

“Nagulat po ako noong nakuha ko yung pera kasi first time ko pong makahawak ng ganoon kalaki. Pagkatapos ko pong bilhin yung mga kailangan ko, yung ibang natira po sa pera ko ay ipinadala ko sa amin at sa isa kong kapatid na nag-aaral,” Juda recalled.

Finding success

She did her best in her studies and made everyone proud as she graduates from Bachelor of Elementary Education. As an educator, she hopes to encourage more people from her tribe to study.

woman is first of Palawan Tau’t Bato tribe to graduate from university

Today, thanks to efforts by YWAM, Juda’s success, and the government’s 4Ps, many children from the tribe are now studying. Juda’s father has also become the first Barangay Health Worker (BHW) of the tribe, monitoring their health.

— Joy Adalia, The Summit Express

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