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The indigenous hill tribes of southwestern Mindanao have occupied their territories for perhaps as long as 5,000 years –That would be some 1,800 years before the beginning of the Hebrew tribes we read about in the Old Testament. They have lived here almost in complete isolation with only minimal contact with Chinese and Arab traders. So we must see it as a historical moment for the tribes in the Deguma Mountain Range when five traditional leaders set out from the shores of lake Sebu to the Rojas mountains where there was a tiny mission for the Bla-an people under the care of American Passionist Missionary priest, Fr. George Nolan of Boston, Massachusetts. The five T’boli leaders were Baay Seng, Fikan Datang, Alon Sembel, Bebing Siob, Headed by Datu Ungoy “mafok” Kawig walked their way thru thick forest and passed crisscrossing streams of Lake Sebu, Kanahay Buldos and Surallah to extend their invitation to Fr. George Nolan for the establishment of semilar mission for the Tboli people. An agreement between these tribal datus led to negotiations for the site and land area where the proposed Mission was to be established and agreed all what is donated by the donors shall remain for the tribes and not for any entity.
DATU UNGOY “MAFOK” KAWIG donated hectares of land. In later years other lands were donated while others were purchased by the Mission. The formal documentation was witnessed by the Provincial Government of South Cotabato, the officials of the Commission on National Integration (CNI) and the Mission representative Mr. Geronimo Nelmida.
Fr. George Nolan, C.P. had a mission for the Bla-ans was the result of the decision of Bishop Gerard Monjeau, OMI of Cotabato City who insisted that the newly arrived Passionists would assign at least one priest to work completely and exclusively with the indigenous peoples, which group had been left unattended, but not forgotten, for the 20 years since the first arrival in Cotabato of the Oblate missionaries. The steady flood of Catholic settlers migrating to Cotabato Province had placed impossible demands on the time and energies of these stalwart missionaries from Canada and USA.
Fr. George responded immediately to the request of the five Ta-u Ogot emissaries of their people, and sent teachers to open and staff an elementary school for the T’boli children. The two male teachers were Greg Macabente and Sylvestre “Silver” Magsipoc to staff the bamboo and cogan grass schoolhouse. Later Greg and Silver were replaced by Quirico Batilaran and Roberto Domingo.
During the first or second Christmas Fr. George invited Fr. Rex Mansmann to hike 9 hours with him to Lem Ehek to baptize some 20 students. Among these were Christina Langgong and Teresita Lambong (Ye Edna Lambong). Less than a year later Fr. Rex was to replace Fr. George in Lake Sebu.
The Santa Cruz Mission was founded and operated by the Passionist Congregation in 1961 and is a mission extension of the Diocese of Marbel with Bishop Quintin Olwel, CP.
Officially, the Mission for the T’boli started in year 1961. Initially considered as the sister mission of Bulol, it was supervised by Fr. George Nolan and later on, in 1962 taken over by Fr. Rex Mansmann, C.P. who heads until the earliest part of 1991.
1963 the arrival of Fr. Rex Mansmann and the opening of a school for the T’boli tribe made the Santa Cruz Mission a distinct reality to the highland folks.
Santa Cruz Mission began like so many Christian missions all over the world with a chapel, school and a clinic. Over the next 30 years of mission life the new programs and projects were added until at one time the payroll included over 500 professional employees including teachers, agriculturist, community organizers, doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers, marketing specialists. Over 100 projects were organized under Seven (7) programs: religion, education, health, community organization, marketing and agriculture – engineering and administration were tucked in there somewhere. This was called a comprehensive and integrated human development program and was organized (if not entirely operated) according to modern management principles. All of the programs were operative in some 30 outstations scattered throughout the mountains of southwestern Mindanao and included services to 6 of the seven tribes indigenous to the target area.
At the opening of the school year 1962-1963, three classes were organized with a total of 89 pupils (75 boys and 14 girls) for Grade 1, 40 boys for Grade II, and 20 boys for Grade III, or a total of 149. Those enrolled in Grade II and Grade III were those who studied in Bulol, Lamdalag or in the Lake Sebu public schools.
Year 1968 a small primary school was opened at Lake Sebu with the name of Notre Dame of Lake Sebu. It was registered under the Securities and Exchange Commission on December 8, 1968 with registration No. 36994.
Year 1978 the mission started to expand its programs to the different mountainous areas bringing education and health care nearer to the people and reaching out to the thousands without any form of assistance.
On February 1984, the name of Notre Dame of Lake Sebu was changed to Santa Cruz Mission School, Inc.
In year 1974, Father Rex Mansmann invited the Sisters of Saint Paul of Charters, through Bishop Reginald Arliss,C.P. Bishop of the prelature of Marbel, to take charge of the health needs of the T’boli’s. In April of the same year, Sister Eva and Adele made an ocular visit to the Mission site and meet the management and some T’boli’s.
The three pioneering teachers of the health team, Sister Marie Adelle Bonzon the superior and health educator, Sister Eva Maamo physician and surgeon and Sister Cecilia Lorayes a registered nurse was given a warm welcome in their convent which was the house of Peace Corps Volunteer.
On October 16, 1974 the sisters started seeing their patients and they were treated through the help of two T’boli aides to interpret T’boli dialect and they were able to speak it.
October 21, 1974 Sister Eva’s first breakthrough on surgical and emergency operation of ophorectomy and appendectomy to the fifth wife of Datu Ma’fok with the assistance of Sister Cecilia. It was done in the priest’s convent due to the situation of not being able to transport the patient to Surallah because of the swelling of the liver. It was a breakthrough of Sister Eva and the beginning of more daring and medical and surgical operations in the history of medicine.
During the summer of 1976, Sister Rebecca Calumpang, a nursing student of St. Paul College Manila along with 4 Jesuit Volunteers and CP Seminarians came to give remedial classes in respond to the call to teach T’boli students of the grade school as well as the students studying in Surallah.
Due to the increasing number of clients who need health care, the need to expand the clinic become more imperative. Sister Rose Margaret Nuval Architecture and Fine Arts graduate came to Mission to help design and build a new annex clinic out of bamboo and cogon which would house the nurse’s station which has 4 wards, 8 beds, 4 private rooms and a laboratory.
Year 1985, the SCMSI opened a college in the main center in Lem-ehek, Poblacion, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato to provide the college students with comprehensive trainings, to become multi-skilled professionals, versatile, self-reliant as well as balanced person who will soon serve their own communities and have capabilities to cope with the changes of survival. The single college course offered a degree of Bachelor of Science in Community Development (BSCD).
The SCMSI established a skills training program for the out of school youths men and women such as dressmaking, wood and bamboo craft for men. This program was operated as non-formal education for six months training.
The school had also established Research Documentation and Information Program that will strengthen community relations with institutions through information exchange with other related agencies.
The SCMSI College Department as a catholic institution envisions an integral developed graduates, globally competitive and proud of their cultural heritage geared towards self-determination.
The SCMSI College Department commits to:
Lem-Ehek, Poblacion, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato