Azkals, Sen. Pangilinan urge kids to protect indigenous people

October 23, 2011

The Inquirer Read-Along Team
October 23, 2011

Children from as far as Nueva Vizcaya, Zambales and Quezon Province trooped to the Inquirer office on Saturday afternoon to attend a special Inquirer Read-Along session to mark the celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Month.

The session featured Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the Philippine Azkals and Alitaptap Storytellers Phils., Inc. as guest readers.

Pangilinan kicked off the session with “Saleng, the Story of the First Pine Tree,” written by Evelyn Cabanban and published by Tawid Publications. It retells a Cordillera folktale about the origin of the pine tree.

Members of the Philippine Azkals—Chieffy Caligdong, Roel Gener and Misagh Bahadoran—led by team manager Dan Palami and team coordinator Patrick Ace Bright, read “Ilaw sa Isla (Pailaw sa Isla ng Polillo),” a story prepared by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Climate Change and Clean Energy Project (CEnergy) in partnership with the Team Energy Foundation, Inc.

A true story

The story, created especially for Saturday’s session, was based on the true story of the electrification of Brgy. Bonifacio of Polillo Island using solar energy.  It is part of the campaign to promote renewable energy.

Alitaptap storyteller Posh Develos capped the program with her reading of “Ang Mahiyaing Manok” by Rebecca Añonuevo and published by Adarna House, a story about a chicken named Onyok who eventually learns how to get over his shyness and crow properly.

Pangilinan, who said he often reads stories to his own daughters, Frankie and Miel, said the session was “very nice and very therapeutic.”

Pangilinan’s said Saleng, a story that reflects the customs and traditions of the indigenous people of the Cordilleras, was in line with his own advocacy to restore the Banawe Rice Terraces.

Environment officials in the Cordillera region recently asked President Aquino to subsidize the upkeep of the Unesco World Heritage Site, saying its maintenance has been taxing the resources of the Ifugao government.

“I am in contact with [Ifugao] Congressman [Teodoro] Baguilat. We’re putting together a fund-raising effort to save the rice terraces,” Pangilinan said. He also batted for public support to protect and preserve the terraces.

He said he is looking forward to working with the indigenous people to sustain their upland farming heritage. “We’d like to preserve the tradition. Most of our efforts are on rural development, and a significant portion of the population in rural areas are indigenous people. For us to be able to improve the quality of their life, I think the way to do that is to be able to improve their productivity in the production of food and other crops,” he added.

From football to environment field

The Azkals, on the other hand, showed that they also excel in things other than football.

“It is never too early to teach children about environmental concerns. It was nice that we were able to teach children about alternative sources of energy through the use of a story,” Palami said.

“This was the first time for all of us to do something like this. We were a bit nervous at first but it was such a fun experience. It was fun interacting with the kids. They were very attentive. If given the chance, I would like to guest in another session,” Caligdong, the team’s cocaptain, said.

“I would like to thank Inquirer Read-Along for giving us the opportunity to share what we can share with the kids. I’m glad that we are able to give something else apart from football,” Palami added.

Henry Turgo, the barangay captain of Brgy. Bonifacio, attended the session and described their experience of living without electricity and how having electricity changed their lives.

“It was very difficult. Our activities were very limited and we had to live in the dark most of the time. Now, we have radios, televisions, electric fans, and computers. Having electricity has helped our community a lot. It has made our life much easier,” he said.

A solar-powered village

Brgy. Bonifacio only got electricity in 2003 with the help of Team Energy Foundation, Inc. and the Department of Energy. At present, 100 percent of the barangay now uses solar energy as its main source of power.

Angel Kate Butale came all the way from Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya with four other kids and Jenilyn Cutaran, coordinator for Nueva Vizcaya-based non-government organization Salaknib Inc.

Butale, who introduced Pangilinan to the children, said the session was a very memorable experience for her, adding that she liked how the session emphasized the rights of indigenous people. “It is also important that we from the indigenous groups also know our laws so that we can fight for our rights,” she said.

Of all the stories read, she said her favorite was “Ilaw sa Isla” read by the Azkals. “Through the story we saw how hard it is to have no electricity in our homes and how fortunate the people in the island are because there were people who were able to help them in their problems,” Butale, a self-confessed bookworm, added.

“We left last night at 9 o’clock and arrived in Manila only this morning,” shared Cutaran. “But the kids were all excited about this. The long bus ride was worth it.”

Aeta children welcomed

Twelve-year-old Aira Joy Dimain came to the session with six other Aetas from Cabangan, Zambales. She said she enjoyed the session and is thankful for the warm welcome. “Reading can help us not only in our studies but also in our roles in society and the country,” she said.

Like Butale, Dimain’s favorite story was also “Ilaw sa Isla.” “I learned from the story that I should be thankful of what I have and care for my environment more. The lives of the people became easier and more productive after electricity was brought to their island,” she said.

Aida Tadena, area coordinator of the Zambales-based Maporac Aeta Organization, accompanied her seven Aeta wards to the session. “When we were on our way here, they felt restless because they didn’t know what the Read-Along is all about,” she said. “But I saw how they really enjoyed today’s session. I myself enjoyed it.”

“When they get home, I’m sure they will tell their friends about their experience today. They’re happy that they were finally able to meet in person some people they only used to see on TV, like Sen. Pangilinan and the Azkals,” Tadena added.

Overcoming shyness

For 11-year-old Matjan Rotakyu, who came all the way from Sitio Malatunglan, Gen. Nakar in Quezon Province, being part of the Read-Along session made him very happy because the readers were good and the other children were very nice. Rotakyu’s favorite story was “Mahiyaing Manok.” “I learned that it is not always good to be shy,” he shared, adding that it was his first time in Manila and that he is happy that he was able to attend the Read-Along.

Rotakyu’s friend Arjon Astovisto, 11, also from Gen. Nakar, said that his favorite story was “Mahiyaing Manok.”

“I enjoyed it because Ate Posh was very lively,” he said, adding that that he felt very welcome even if he was really feeling shy at the beginning of the session.

Rotakyu and Astovisto were with 16 other Adta kids who hailed from Real, Polillo, Gen. Nakar, Infanta and Bordeos in Quezon Province, and were accompanied to the session by their teacher, Wilma Quieres.

Quieres shared that her group traveled to Manila the night before and even endured engine trouble. “But it was all worth it because the kids really enjoyed today’s session,” said Quieres, coordinator of education programs at the Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Adta in Quezon Province. “As a teacher, I also learned new techniques that I could use when I teach other students back home.”

“It’s also good that our kids were able to mingle with other kids. Attending activities like this helps them overcome their shyness,” she added.

Indigenous People’s Solidarity

Also present in the session were children from Virlanie Foundation, like Mary Grace Angeles, 12. She said the session was fun because there were a lot of different kids with them.

Saturday’s session, hosted by Junior Inquirer editor-in-chief Ruth Navarra, was part of the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Campaign of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, in cooperation with USAID, CEnergy, Team Energy Foundation, Consultative Group on Indigenous Peoples and Alyansa Tigil Mina. Books by Vibal Publishing and items courtesy of USAID were also given away as prizes during the question-and-answer portions. With reports from Schatzi Quodala, Marielle Medina, Ana Roa and Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research

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