Cordilleran bags nat’l award for volunteerism-A A +A
Saturday, February 11, 2012
DOING service without expecting anything in return -- that is the very essence and intrinsic meaning of volunteerism.
The difficult situation of Cristina Segnaken-Aban’s family during her younger years pushed her to work hard, persevere and to source out for scholarship grants so she could finish a college degree. She learned from her mother at an early age to share food and comfort with people who are in need and to value giving service to them.
It was in that situation where volunteerism started to become a way of life for Cristy and which urge her to “pay forward” the blessings that she has received in the past.
She believes that one of the ways to lead other people to succeed is by training them to develop a sense of volunteerism and passion to serve poor people and communities.
She applies this philosophy effectively well with her students and colleagues, having been a professor of the Department of Religion of the School of Humanities at Saint Louis University for the past 14 years.
“Volunteerism is fun. One does not know what he will find or what will happen next. Often, it makes one realize how blessed he really is. Most of all, the happiness and fulfillment that one gets can never be quantified and paid,” Cristy said.
After years of hard work and perseverance, her efforts paid off very well after being nominated and eventually awarded in December 2011 by the Philippine National Volunteers Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) as one of the three awardees of the 2011 National Search for Outstanding Volunteers (adult category) with the theme “Build Hope, Change Lives: Volunteer.”
The PNVSCA is a government agency that promotes and coordinates all volunteer service matters. It was created through Executive Order No. 134 in 1964 to concretize the government’s commitment in adopting volunteerism as a tool for socio-economic development.
To promote volunteerism as an admirable and enduring Filipino value, Presidential Proclamation No. 55 series of 1998 declared the month of December each year as National Volunteer Month to make the general public aware and appreciate the relevance of volunteerism.
The National Search for Outstanding Volunteers highlights and recognizes volunteers for their exemplary performance and dedication to service in building strong communities.
She recognized the plight of talented young people but whose parents or guardians could not afford to send them to school because of extreme poverty.
In 1997, Cristy founded IYAMAN, a non-profit and non-stock private organization classified as a non-government organization, and registered it with the Securities and Exchange Commission. IYAMAN develops the youth and farmers into community workers, and serves needy communities through various programs using a scholarship program as an entry point.
IYAMAN is a combination of Filipino and Japanese words. “I” a Kankanaey tribal group word that means “from,” ”yama” a Japanese term that means “mountain,” “yaman” a Filipino word that means richness, and “iyaman” an Ilocano word meaning “grateful.” IYAMAN serves as a venue for the fruitful exchange of richness of Filipinos and the Japanese in terms of culture, values and material goods.
She mobilized resources to build the IYAMAN office at Km. 5, barangay Balili in La Trinidad, a municipality of Benguet that also serves as a halfway home for poor and sick rural folks who are undergoing treatment in Baguio City and La Trinidad. It also serves as a center for relief operations during calamities and a venue for the meetings of people’s organizations and non-government organizations.
Through Cristy’s initiative and leadership, IYAMAN has so far produced 42 college graduates and 10 current scholars. It provided free board and lodging to 19 graduating students whose families were victims of typhoon Pepeng so that they can graduate on that year.
She also initiated the creation of local and international programs for the youth, professionals and farmers to help them become more productive members of the society. The trainees, volunteers and staff of these programs also had opportunities to be exposed in Cambodia, Thailand and Japan which likewise sent volunteers to IYAMAN.
She also manages the NAMNAMA Family scholarship program that guides and mentors its scholars. The program has produced 18 graduates and 13 current students since 2003.
IYAMAN conducted environmental education activities in 14 elementary schools in Benguet and La Union, conducted medical missions and alternative medicine training that served 3,500 people, trained 11 barangay health workers and provided health apparatus to two barangays. It organized the Sinacbat Organic Farmers Association in Bakun municipality in Benguet province and facilitated the export to Japan of p771,840 worth of their ginger tea products, together with other farmers in Kapangan.
The 2011 theme “Build Hope, Change Lives: Volunteer” speaks well of how Cristy built hope to the IYAMAN clientele in being able to acquire a decent education thereby leading to opportunities of being employed.
“The spirit of volunteerism becomes naturally alive amidst difficult situations because people need and rely on each other. Motivated by our concern for one another, we find ways of fraternal correction when somebody errs,” Cristy said.
“We find ways to do ‘carefrontation’ instead of confrontation, of listening instead of condemning, of giving instead of receiving. We do not abandon people with problems but rather accompany them in their struggle in whatever way we can. After all, we are keepers of our brothers and sisters,” she challengingly concluded.
Cristy’s work does not only include uplifting the lives of poor people but also in promoting and preserving the indigenous culture of the Cordillera. She is the founding president of Lubong-Baguio, Inc. an organization that aims to produce wholesome movies, theater shows that promote authentic Filipino culture particularly Cordillera values.
In the early 2000s, she took a six-month leave from her teaching job to work fulltime as a volunteer co-script writer, overall in-charge of pre and post production, and organized community volunteers during the production of the film “Abong” (Small Home) that was completed in 2002.
This was the first monumental Igorot feature movie of the Philippines. Endorsed by the Baguio and Benguet division offices of the Department of Education, “Abong” was viewed by 34,677 school children in the Cordillera region, shown in different theaters in Baguio City and Manila, in two Manila film festivals, and 13 international film festivals.
Volunteers from the Cordillera have consistently been winning in the PNVSCA national search for outstanding volunteers. In 2010, Marcelo Abela won for being an active implementor of agricultural cooperativism. In 2009, Philex Mining Corporation bagged an award for its disaster rescue and retrieval operations. (Nito Meneses)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 11, 2012.