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Father Ewald Dinter, a German priest who has worked with the Mangyan people since the mid-1980s, has received another award for his services. Two years ago, Fr. Dinter was recognized for his contributions to the education of the Buid and the other Mangyan societies on Mindoro Island in the Philippines.

The 72 year old priest arrived in the Philippines in 1969. He performed various duties before settling on Mindoro, where he has focused his energies on setting up schools and protecting the land rights of the Mangyan peoples. He suspects that the Mangyans accepted him because he never made any negative remarks about their culture and he didn’t try to overtly convert them. He said he only wanted them “to experience the love of God.” He has been the director of the Mangyan Mission, Inc. (MMI) for more than 20 years.

When he became mission director, he updated its approaches. Instead of continuing to give handouts to the indigenous people, he asked them what they were doing and what their aspirations were for their own futures. The goals he established for the mission were based on what the people told him. They wanted schools for their children. The mission has now built 27 of them for the Buid and the other Mangyan groups, many of which run programs for elementary level students. All of the schools have been turned over to the Department of Education for their supervision.

Over 1,300 students have participated in the programs offered by the schools. The MMI helps Mangyans attend high schools and colleges as well. About 500 of the Mangyan students have graduated and become midwives, lawyers, nurses, social workers, and other professionals. Fr. Dinter credits the success of the mission to the assistance he has received from many others, particularly the Mangyan people themselves. Never far from his origins as a priest, however, he teaches everyone that they are all children of God.

On January 29, the Society of the Divine Word, of which he is a member, honored him with the Saint Joseph Freinademetz award for a member of the society who best exemplifies its goals.