After listening to a story, the children wait for Tita Kate to choose who will snuff out the candle. (Photo by Maya Flaminda J. Vandenbroeck.)

After listening to a story, the children wait for Tita Kate to choose who will snuff out the candle. (Photo by Maya Flaminda J. Vandenbroeck.)

The year 2011 was unlike any other. For three blissful weeks, 18 imaginals from Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and Germany stayed together on a biodynamic farm in Zarraga, Iloilo. Every day they woke up to skies lit with beautiful colors of the sun rising and the music of birds.

They went on nature walks and sat amidst the happy sunflowers, basil and lettuce to do their personal mastery exercises. The cows, grasshoppers, butterflies, dragonflies, and lizards added to the enriching human companionship forming and getting stronger day by day as the “aha!” and “just in!” moments increased.

Starting with Nothing

In this atmosphere Maya and Kate gave their commitment – with their MISSION friends as witnesses – to pioneer Steiner/Waldorf education in Mindanao. It was going to be hard, no doubt. But there was so much goodwill and positivity that having no money, no land, no classroom, no students, no teachers, no training in Steiner/Waldorf education, and no permit from the Department of Education (DepEd) were seen simply as natural challenges to be ticked off the bucket list all in the same year.

They returned to Mindanao to do just that. Maya quit her job; Kate had already quit hers. They lived together in Maya’s house, bought only fruits, vegetables and fish; stopped taking jeepneys and instead biked everywhere; practiced yoga-pilates every day; studied and trained in Steiner/ Waldorf education; and held 15 public orientations for potential parents.

It was a very exciting year trying to convince family, friends, and strangers to support a school that didn’t exist yet. Maya and Kate passionately talked about a pedagogy they had only recently read and heard about and were convinced could also be done in Mindanao.

(Click on photo to enlarge. Photos by Photos by Maya Flaminda J. Vandenbroeck and Louise L. Far.)

Increasing Support

The two friends talked about their dream school so much that the Blissful villagers, a community of vegetarians, offered their eco village to be the school site. Two villagers, Kate Kiran and Visnu, offered their property free of rent.

That first year, with seed money given by Nicanor Perlas, an Alternative Nobel Prize winner, and Belgian singer-songwriter, Milow, a t-shirt printing shed was turned into a kindergarten classroom. Rahul Saso, a neighbor, helped Kate supervise its construction. Monica Ayala, Niklas Reese, Bimbim Gayo, and Moniela dela Cruz helped clean and prepare the outdoor space for vegetable plots and a playground. Norma Javellana and Arnold Vandenbroeck lent baskets, musical instruments, donated bamboo, lent their car, fed them, and more. It was a crazy hectic time of willing the dream school into existence despite everyone’s doubts.

Opening the First Kindergarten

On June 13, 2012, Tuburan’s first kindergarten class was opened with 12 children and with Kate as the pioneering teacher. She was first assisted by Moniela dela Cruz and then by Noredelle Libera. They had their work cut out: mastering Bisaya, the vernacular language, creating their own songs and stories, creating puppets, understanding the development of young children – basically learning everything about Steiner/Waldorf education and then immediately applying these with the children.

Maya, on the other hand, focused on liaising with the government, raising funds, finding volunteers, and finding more parents. She had her work cut out too: think of creative ways to subsidize socialized fees and secure an operation’s permit from the Department of Education (DepEd), and register the school with the Business Bureau and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Carpool was a big logistical challenge. Visnu and Kate Kiran generously offered to lend their vehicle. The gasoline and frequent repairs, however, quickly made a dent into the money raised from fees. To ensure costs were kept at a minimum, materials for the office and classroom were borrowed. The staff waived their salaries and subsisted on reimbursements for their food and transportation and free meals and rides from family and friends.

At the end of the first year, everyone gathered in the classroom to look at the fruits of all the hard work and concluded: Yes, Steiner/Waldorf education in Davao works!

Our daughter used to be like a wall flower in her old school just watching the other kids play. When she transferred to Tuburan, she became very expressive. She had to adjust because at Tuburan children need to talk to each other to be understood when playing. There’s a lot of negotiating, compromising, and settling their own conflicts because the teachers won’t step in and do it for them. – Glocelito C. Jayma

Because of Tuburan, my son and daughter learned to speak their mind if they don’t agree with something. This was new for us at home. But I guess it’s good they’ve become so expressive, assertive and confident. We’re learning a lot from them.” – Emilou Sean A. Tinio

Before Tuburan, my daughter was so sick with asthma we had to go to the doctor regularly. But when we enrolled her in Tuburan her asthma disappeared and we never had to buy medicines again. Thanks to all the tree climbing, nature walks, outdoor free play and nutritious food which we’ve also adopted at home. – Sheila B. Almasa

A few months into Tuburan’s first year and we experienced the strangest questions from our son; questions which his older sibling never asked. Like, ‘Why is it the leaves are wet in the morning even if it didn’t rain last night?’” – Josephine C. Tinio

My daughter couldn’t speak at four years old when she entered Tuburan. To communicate, she’d just nod or shake her head or point or cry and stay in a corner away from everyone. Three months later though she could talk very well and play well with other children. That’s because of the teachers and because everything I learned and observed in Tuburan I also applied at home. I removed the television and Ipad and removed most of her plastic toys. I only kept her wooden toys. I also stopped using baby talk and other things like not anymore serving hotdogs and other processed food and junk food.” – Erwin James E. Ismael

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