The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office VIII through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program recently conducted the three-day Indigenous People (IP) Youth Conference at Leyte Park Hotel, Tacloban City. The activity aims to empower and prepare the katutubos or ethnic people to become future leaders of their communities.

Around 50 young katutubos attended the said event, including Mamanwas from Southern Leyte municipalities (Pintuyan, St. Bernard, and San Francisco), Biliran (Almeria and Caibiran), Samar (Basey), and Leyte (Burauen and Tacloban); and Badjao from Leyte (Isabel and Bato); and Manobo from northern barangays of Tacloban.

They were oriented about the programs of the department, especially the Pantawid Pamilya, and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) 8371 to recognize, promote, and protect the rights of Indigenous cultural communities.

As a result, the youth participants came to learn that they have the right to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions but still enjoy equal human rights and freedom, without distinction and discrimination.

Jomalyn Bernaldo, 13-year old Mamanwa from Caibiran, Biliran, expressed her amusement of the event, “Damo an akon nabaruan labi na han IPRA nga akon iistorya pag-uli ko ha amon (There were many things I have learned, especially about IPRA, which I will be sharing once I get back in my hometown).”

At same event, the young katutubos also showcased their talents in singing and dancing.

Hazel Torrefiel, Development Management Officer V of the National Commission of Indigenous People who was present in said activity, bared that, “In totality, the gathering was a success. Hopefully there is a second phase to this.”

Torrefiel shared how Pantawid Pamilya has shaped positive changes especially among the IP communities, “The enrollment of IP students has increased. On the health aspect, they are now especially concerned with hygiene and sanitation. Although they have their own way of treatment in their won indigenous way, now they also know how to visit health centers.”

“Kaya ko to serve the indigenous people, even after retiring,” she added.

Out of the 50 participants, only 3 are currently under the Pantawid Pamilya. IP Focal Person Jay Mar Albaos said that there is an ongoing enrollment of IP households to the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) Program for the Indigenous People which has been created to match the latter’s culture and traditions. MCCT is designed to reach out to the IP minority who are poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged, but were left out in the implementation of the Pantawid Pamilya because of their being excluded in the previous enumeration of Listahanan due to geographical isolation and inaccessibility.

As of to date, Pantawid Pamilya has identified 324 IP households in Region VIII.

The youth katutubos serve as the newest advocates of the Kaya Ko ang Pagbabago! campaign.  They enthusiastically share their Kaya Ko ang Pagbabago! pledges to become partner advocates of hope and change and to fight discrimination by finishing their studies, attaining decent jobs, helping their families, having better lives, and lending a hand to anyone in need.###