On June 19, 2023, during their summer intersession program, a group of Jesuit scholastics embarked on a visit to Sitio Teheman in Maluso, Basilan. The group consisted of Bro. Jaclay John, SJ from Malaysia, Bro. João Barreto, SJ from East Timor, and Bro. Renzo Akiat, SJ from the Philippines. Accompanying them were Sir Honey Rod T. Alfaro, Assistant to the President for Formation of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Sr. Lucia S. Arana, OND, and several locals.
Maluso, a coastal community in Basilan, shelters families from diverse indigenous groups, including the Sama-Badjau, who used to rely on a crumbling wooden bridge to connect with the mainland. In this community, the Yellow School of Hope can be found. This floating elementary school is a collaborative effort between the Claret Samal Foundation and the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, serving exclusively the Samal-Bajaus IP’s in Sitio Teheman, Maluso.
During their visit, the Jesuits immersed themselves in the village and the profound presence of the Yellow School of Hope. The very name of the school resonates with hope, symbolizing the transformative power it embodies for the community of Maluso. The Jesuits bore witness to the vibrant energy and active engagement of the students, which underscored the significant impact of this institution. The students eagerly showcased their knowledge and skills, with some demonstrating their courage by confidently conversing in English with the scholastics. As a heartfelt farewell, the Bajau pupils enraptured the Jesuits with a captivating cultural dance performance.
Moreover, the Jesuits were privileged to witness the tangible progress brought about by the unwavering dedication of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the area. With heartfelt relief, Bro. Jaclay beheld the sight of sturdy concrete bridges now spanning the once treacherous gaps that were once crossed precariously on dilapidated wooden planks. Understanding the immense challenges faced by the community, especially during emergencies, the formands appreciated the significance of these infrastructure improvements. While the scholastics ventured tentatively onto the old wooden bridges, fear ultimately gripped them, preventing further exploration. The experience proved harrowing, requiring unwavering balance and courage. In stark contrast, Bro. João fearlessly traversed the squeaky bridges, forging connections with the residents and delving into the heart of the community.
As the scholastics made their journey homeward, they shared their stories and experiences from Maluso. Gratitude emanated from within, cherishing the opportunity they had to visit this sitio and deeply appreciating the profound work undertaken by the Claret Samal Foundation and the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation. Though weariness clung to their bones after the arduous journey, the joyous smiles etched across their faces radiated a resounding sense of fulfillment. Among them, a vow resonated: to return when the winds of time allow, to revisit the seeds of hope sown in the heart of Sitio Teheman.