July 21, 2023

Missionary-led Literacy Programs Spark Unprecedented Shift

Rebels in South Philippines embrace change and surrender in mass numbers.

Quin Salarda, Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Adventist Review
The official surrender took place at the municipal gymnasium on July 10. Military personnel, policemen, government officials, and Adventist leaders attended the ceremony. [Photo: courtesy of Central Mindanao Mission]

A series of literacy programs in the Philippines has influenced the recent surrender of approximately 100 insurgent supporters residing in San Fernando Municipality and three towns — Sacramento Valley, Sitio Sabolwan, and Magkalungay, in Bukidnon, regional church leaders said. The initiative, known as SULADS, has been designed to empower marginalized communities through education and to shape hearts and minds while promoting peace and order, they explained.

SULADS is a non-governmental, charitable educational organization in the Philippines with the mission of educating and inspiring unreached indigenous people. Its name derives from the Manobo word “sulad,” which means brother or sister. In addition, it stands for Socio-economic Uplift, Literacy, Anthropological and Developmental Services, people behind the initiative said.

The SULADS organization is an outreach arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the region, dedicated to reaching out to families and communities in challenging areas. It has been operating in places where poverty, insurgency, and limited access to education remain rampant, church leaders explained. By offering literacy programs, vocational training, and other educational opportunities, SULADS has been able to help build self-reliant communities and achieve sustainable peace.

The official surrender took place at the municipal gymnasium on July 10. Military personnel, policemen, government officials, and leaders from Adventist World Radio (AWR), the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Central Mindanao (CMM), and SULADS attended the ceremony.

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During the Oath of Renunciation program in Bukidnon, Philippines, rebels willingly surrendered their firearms, displaying their commitment to peace. [Photo: courtesy of Central Mindanao Mission]

Local authorities, community leaders, and government officials such as San Fernando mayor Rogelio S. Yeke and Bukidnon governor Rogelio Neil Roque praised SULADS for its invaluable contributions to encouraging positive change.

The 48th Infantry Battalion Commander Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert F. Gomez said that the event should serve as an inspiration for achieving peace and order in San Fernando and the province of Bukidnon. Roque led the “Panunumpa Sa Pagsalikway,” or the Oath of Renunciation. Here, the former fighters officially renounced their support to the rebel group and affirmed their allegiance to the government. This was followed by the peace covenant signing and the handing over of firearms.

SULADS president Ephraim L. Pitogo reiterated that the organization has been successful thanks to its partnership with the government and men in uniform. “The collaboration will keep making it easier to address social issues as we seek for a peaceful and prosperous society.”

The SULADS organization will continue its mission to promote education and uplift marginalized communities, leaders said. SULADS “remains an example of how education can be a catalyst of change and foster sustainable peace,” they said.

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division news site.