IT WAS raining all night on December 15, yet the spirit of going to Talaingod for the traditional "Christmas cheers" of children in the early morning of the next day was all time high.
The stark aide-memoire of Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) a year ago that devastated the provinces of Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and some parts of Davao del Norte did not dampen the determined organizers either.
The group of the Worldwide Filipino Alliance-Pangdaigdigang Alyansa ng Pilipino Inc. (WFA-Papi), headed by Romeo Lagahit, from Davao City, and Leo Ceniza, of WFA-Australia, was about to join the Christmas Party of some 500 Indigenous People's (IP) children at Tibi-tibi Elementary School at Sitio Salawao in Barangay Sto. Niño, Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
WFA-Papi is a non-stock, non-profit corporation organized by Filipino compatriots and chaired by Atty. Lolita Farmer, OAM to assist in the development of the homeland and to link overseas Filipinos for this purpose.
Ceniza, a board member of WFA-Papi, also brought with him his daughter Mary Grace and granddaughter, some friends from Tagum City and the family of Neil Galang also from Australia.
Talaingod is a second-class municipality in Davao del Norte, some 75 kilometers north of Davao City and home to 4,196 households, mostly belonging to the Ata-Manobo tribe.
The team brought along boxes of rubber slippers donated by WFA-France, simple gifts for children and school personnel and food to share during their Christmas party.
Since 2011, WFA and its members overseas have chosen Tibi-Tibi Elementary School as beneficiary-partner for their outreach program for marginalized sectors in Mindanao.
WFA-Papi facilitated the delivery of school bags, boxes of school supplies, crates of books and computer sets for children during school opening.
WFA-Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and WFA-USA of Prof. Cesar Torres likewise donated a set of "agong" and rondalla instruments to the school, respectively.
Through these efforts, the school has received several awards and citations for academic and cultural achievements in the provincial and regional levels and its school enrollment picked up.
"Enrolment in our school has almost doubled from about 300 in 2012 to more than 500 this year that is why we have asked for more classrooms and teachers from DepEd," said Reynaly Santos, school principal.
Tibi-Tibi Elementary School received a two-classroom building donated by Australian Aid to be used as IP Learning Center for its school of living tradition classes and implementation of agri-based livelihood project.
Santos further said they have already finished compiling the Indigenous Knowledge, Skills and Practices (IKSP) of the Ata-Manobo tribe in Talaingod and is about to submit the document to the department for reproduction and promotion.
Tibi-Tibi is among the few remaining institutions in Mindanao with 100 percent IP enrollees. It is also one of the four DepEd’s pilot schools of living tradition in the province using IP curriculum to complement with the mother tongue approach of the K-12 program of the department.
One of its tasks as pilot school for living tradition is to document the (IKSP) of the Ata-Manobo tribe in Talaingod.
Even as a minor player in the overall development of IP children in this province, WFA-Papi has fulfilled its promise to bring cheers to IP children during Christmas and responded to other requests of IP communities.
Earlier this year, the school also received a cash donation from WFA-Australia for the "greening program" of the school which they used to plant corn in the hilly vacant space of the nearby Talaingod National High School and assorted vegetables inside the elementary school campus.
The vegetable products supplemented the food intake of selected indigent families while the corn was distributed to cultivate other farms in the community.
Lagahit, WFA-Papi president and former regional director of the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor (PCUP)-Region XI, said his neophyte organization hopes to connect Filipino organizations and Filipino diaspora with marginalized sectors and communities in the homeland for developmental and charitable purposes.
"We hope to bring holistic and sustainable development in Talaingod being one of the most depressed municipalities in the province so that IP community is capable of raising their families while their children have better access to quality education in IP-sensitive schools," Lagahit added.
WFA-Papi also assisted the farm training center rehabilitation of the United Mansaka and Mandaya Tribal Association in sitio Boston, Barangay Andap, New Bataan, through the donation of WFA-Japan following the onslaught of typhoon Pablo.
It also brought a shipload of relief goods to typhoon victims in Davao Oriental through the initiatives of WFA members and friends in Manila and assisted the children-victims of the same typhoon at child-friendly spaces in Montevista and Monkayo, Compostela Valley province with local NGO partners in Davao City.
WFA-Papi has been a keen observer of the peace process between the GPH and the two rebel groups, namely: MILF and the NDF. Moreover, WFA-KSA members sent some financial assistance to the families affected by the Sabah crisis in Jolo, Sulu.