Empowering the indigenous peoples (Second of Three Parts)

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By Ver F. Pacete

As I See It

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


THOSE who are not aware yet that in Negros Occidental we have IPs and our provincial government takes good care of them should have a serious look on their plight. In the past, the Atis were just considered as the wandering tribe hunting for food for their survival. The Agtas were treated like wild cats that were just left in the wilderness for their subsistence. The Bukidnons were unknown in our province. We thought that they only exist in Panay Mountains.

To know the IPs best, we have to deal with some issues and concerns. Are we aware that schools with IPs are located in remote areas? Many of the school sites are owned by private persons and these sites could be taken any time by the owners to serve their own purpose. It has been noted also that some IP learners are having poor health condition. We are alerting our public health personnel to give a priority to this. It cannot be denied also that DepEd lacks the basic resources in upland schools...teachers, classrooms, chairs, potable water and sanitation facilities.

There are hazards encountered by IP pupils. They have to cross the rivers and there are possibilities that they might be caught by flood upsurge while they are in the middle of the river. Hiking through steep or slippery footpath is not easy during the rainy season. Some have to pass unstable or dilapidated footbridge. With all these, we are appealing to barangay captains and principals assigned in IP communities too check always the condition of the learners. This is our social obligation.

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We are challenging the government agencies, educational institutions and non-government organizations to accept challenges and concerns for the welfare of the IPs. We have to sustain our active involvement and partnership in the preservation of their established culture. We can have more advocacy and partnership building, and to highlight the event we can encourage them to hold an "IP Day" to showcase their best. I agree with Datu Migketay when he said, "A thousand documents about the life, culture, and identity of indigenous peoples do not guarantee their survival until we stand up to take the journey of the ancestors."

I am with the idea that teachers who came from the IP community should be given special training on the ways of their ancestors and should be given the good chance to go back to their tribe and spearhead what is stated in IPRA, ". . . and that indigenous children/ youth shall have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State." We agree that all principals, supervisors and superintendents should undergo a seminar-workshop on Indigenous Peoples Education.

Go back to the basics. IP teachers should have full understanding of the culture that includes belief and spirituality, language (vernacular), stories, arts, songs, and music. Customary laws should not just be on wealth using and wealth getting. There should be culture within the economy that would lead to good health, proper medicine, security of the place, and mutual defense pact among the dwellers.

The teachers assigned in the IP communities should have thorough understanding of Indigenous Knowledge System Practices (IKSP). They are a body of knowledge, or bodies of knowledge of the indigenous people of particular geographical areas that have survived for a very long time. It includes norms, taboos, a system of classification of natural resources, a set of empirical observations about the local environment and a system of self-management that governs resource use. The elders have important roles to play in the transmission of IKSP to the younger generation.

We should learn from the IP elders. In several areas, local people refrain from cutting down trees, killing animals, unjust harvesting of useful plants, or even passing or entering sacred grounds believing that the spirits or the deities would be offended and bring harm to the persons, families or even the whole village. The ancestors have excellent knowledge of biodiversity. They understood best the role of natural ecosystems. (To be continued)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 18, 2014.

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