Southeast Asia

Disadvantaged Children Escape the Cycle of Poverty through Education

Filipino missionaries Wilson and Cora Ladringan visited an Aeta village in 1988 to share the Good News of salvation with the villagers. While Wilson was preaching, Cora saw the small Aeta children, dirty and malnourished, roaming around. She noticed that they were of school age, yet they were not in school. After Wilson finished preaching, Cora turned to him.

“What are these children doing here? They should be in school!” At that precise moment the Lord laid a burden on their hearts to help.

The Philippines has a literacy rate of 95.6%, up from under 20% a century ago. But there is one group that missed out on that progress: the Aeta, considered the aborigines or first settlers of the country. Short in height and dark in complexion, the Aeta are mountain people who survive by hunting and small-scale farming. They are animists and nomads, moving from one mountain to another searching for food. Society looks down on them and regards them as outcasts. They are a disadvantaged, downtrodden, marginalized people group, so poor that they cannot go to school, so uneducated that they remain poor. The Aeta have been trapped in this vicious cycle of poverty and ignorance for so long that many have resigned themselves to it, accepting it as their destiny.

With the permission of the village’s parents, Wilson and Cora took five Aeta children back home with them to Balaybay in the province of Zambales. For the very first time, these children—bathed, fed, and clothed—went to school in the nearby public elementary school. They also learned about God’s power and love, and they began following Jesus. Several months passed, then Wilson and Cora took them back to their village. The other children and parents could not help but notice the improvement in these five children. They liked what they saw. The five children became more respectful and obedient to their parents. They knew how to pray. They sang worship songs, much to the delight of their parents.

The five children became 10, the 10 grew to 20, and before long the Aeta Children’s Home was opened in 1988. It has been a home away from home to hundreds of Aeta children.

The Aeta children staying with the Ladringans at the children’s home didn’t escape their past entirely: they often suffered humiliation, discrimination, and bullying in the public school. It wasn’t uncommon for a child to come home crying because other students were teasing and making fun of them. By God’s grace, Wilson and Cora established their own private Christian school in 2007, thereby sparing the Aeta children from further ridicule and shame. To God be the Glory Christian Academy, a government-recognized school, offers preschool, elementary, and high school education to Aeta children and youth. Aeta children live at the home and study at the school free of charge.

A number of Aeta children raised in the Aeta Children’s Home have attained higher education and are now gainfully employed. Wilson and Cora, following God’s direction, broke the cycle of poverty and ignorance for these children. Education within a nurturing Christian environment has played a key role in this life-altering change. Here are stories of three Aeta children whose lives are now brimming with hope.

Ramon

Ramon belonged to the first generation of Aeta children who stayed in Wilson and Cora’s home. He wanted to get an education, so he walked several hours to a public school, most days on an empty stomach. But he couldn’t stand the discrimination, mockery, and insults of the students—and sometimes the teachers too. So he dropped out of school. His parents took him to the Aeta Children’s Home, and he ventually attended the Ladringans’ Christian Academy. While there, Ramon came to faith in Christ.

Ramon teaches the aeta young people about welding (breaking the cycle of poverty)
Ramon leads classes on welding at the Aeta school.

After Ramon graduated from high school, Wilson and Cora sent him to a vocational school, where he trained as a welder. He worked in Qatar for two years as a welder, then came home. He now works in one of the shipyards in his province and, upon Wilson’s request, also teaches part-time a welding course in the Christian Academy. He and his wife, Yolanda, also an Aeta, have saved enough money to build a house of their own.

Ramon reflected, “I hope and pray that someday many of these Aeta students will also be able to finish their education and that their lives will also improve. I was able to do it. I am certain they will also be able to do it. They just need determination and, most important of all, prayer and faith in God.”

Jasmine

“My parents are both Aeta,” Jasmine said. “They are very poor and worked hard to feed us. We are five siblings. They could not afford to send us to school. I thought I would be like them and have no chance to improve our quality of life.”

One day Wilson and Cora visited and preached the Gospel in Jasmine’s village. Jasmine’s parents gave their hearts to Christ. They took six-year-old Jasmine to the Aeta Children’s Home and enrolled her in the Christian Academy, where Jasmine gave her heart to Christ the next year. She dreamed of becoming a teacher to her own people, particularly the Aeta children.

jasmine teaches children at ABSC school in philippines
Jasmine teaches the young students who sit where she once sat.

After graduating from high school in 2011, she studied education at a local university with the help of Wilson and Cora. She worked as a teacher’s aide in the Christian Academy during the day and went to school at night. By the grace of God, she successfully completed her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education in 2015. Her parents came to her graduation and were in tears to see their daughter achieve her dream.

Today, Jasmine is a Grade 1 teacher at the Christian Academy, a living testimony of God’s faithfulness and goodness. She declares, “I am praying that through teaching these little children, I can be an instrument of God in transforming their lives and helping and encouraging them to dream and improve their quality of life.” Jasmine is helping her parents build a small house in the village.

Levita

The oldest of four children, Levita lost her mother when she was six. Her father entrusted her to the care of her grandfather, and she has not seen her father since then. When she was seven her grandfather took her to the Aeta Children’s Home. She finished her elementary and high school education in the Christian Academy. She accepted Jesus while in school.

Levita and her massage therapy class
Levita (center front) now helps others acquire the vocational skills she has learned.

Wilson and Cora sent Levita to a vocational school, where she trained in massage therapy. After completing her training, she became a guest instructor of the high school students in the Christian School. She continues to teach part time and volunteers, during her free time, in the Children’s Home, doing various jobs. “I love my work,” Levita said. “I love sharing my skill with the Aeta youth. Most of all, I am given the opportunity to share the love of the Lord with them. I pray for the Aeta youth constantly. May the Lord help them achieve their dream and someday rise from the cycle of poverty and ignorance.”

She longs in her heart to see her father someday, hoping and praying that he is still alive.

A Heart for the Poor

The Bible contains many references to the poor and how God deeply cares for them. Psalm 36:10 reads, “My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.’” His heart for the poor is unmistakable, and He charges us to have the same regard for them. Likewise, he explicitly lays down the dire consequences awaiting those who behave unkindly towards the poor.

  • “When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord—and he pays wonderful interest on your loan.” – Proverbs 19:17
  • “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” – Proverbs 28:27
  • “He who shuts his ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in his own time of need.” – Proverbs 21:13
  • “Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.” – Proverbs 14:31
  • “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:17

Wilson and Cora Ladringan, in their ministry to the Aeta people, exemplify the heart of God for the poor. Their unrelenting love for the Aeta has delivered many of them from material and spiritual poverty. After enduring many years of humiliation and ridicule, the Aeta now enjoy a perceptible sense of dignity.

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