by Amaranth Saludar
Indigenous ancestors impart their wisdom to the youth to strengthen their cultural identity across generations.
However, according to the United Nations (UN), the indigenous youth often face the choice between maintaining their roots in the indigenous community and pursuing education and employment far from their homes.They are also met with many more struggles, including environmental pollution and malnutrition, as also noted by the UN.
With that, the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) face the dilemma of maintaining their identity, cultural heritage, and sustainable living.
Nevertheless, Noel V. Sadinas has his solution to that in his province, Nueva Vizcaya, which is Project Applying Pro-Environment Practices and Local Ideas: a Collective Advocacy Towards an Intimate care of Our Nature or Project APPLICATION.
In line with global citizenship education (GCED) and four of the sustainable development goals (SDGs 3, 4, 13, and 17), Project APPLICATION served as Sadinas’ Re-Entry Application Project in the 2019 Korea-Philippines Teacher Exchange Programme (KPTEP).
Sadinas pursued this project due to his interest in organic school backyard gardening and his experiences as a teacher at Kongkong Elementary School (KES) in Nueva Vizcaya and at Seochang Elementary School in Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam Province, South Korea, during his three-month KPTEP deployment.
With the desire to help the IPs, he started the implementation of the project in July 2019 and is set to conclude it in August 2020.
Preserving indigenous culture
Sadinas had been teaching for two years at KES which is situated in Kasibu, one of the mountainous municipalities of Nueva Vizcaya where farming is the main source of livelihood.
KES is a multicultural institution supporting the IP Education Program, catering 392 pupils, where 31% belongs to the IP groups (Ayangan, Bugkalot, Ibaloi, Kalanguya, Kankana-ey, Tuwali, and other groups), while 69% belongs to the majority group (Ilocanos) in School Year 2019-2020.
Considering the cultural diversity in KES, Sadinas encouraged both IP and majority elders to share and demonstrate their wisdom in traditional farming to KES pupils through Project APPLICATION.
This project taught the pupils, as well as their parents and their teachers, to appreciate and retain their culture; to acquire the skills and values needed to preserve local organic farming ideas and practices; and to realize their culture’s contribution on environmental sustainability.
Curbing environmental pollution
Sadinas addressed the issue of using highly hazardous pesticides and other harmful inorganic substances in farming that pose danger to human health and contribute to air, soil, and water pollution.
“We have to realize that we are responsible and accountable for the world where we live, and we have to take the initiative, even with simple steps, to resolve this issue,” he said.
Realizing his environmental responsibility, Sardinas initiated a joint school and community demo farm village under Project APPLICATION.
Through this, he promoted organic farming to KES pupils and to the community; helped them make organic products, such as insecticides, foliar spray or flower bloomer, and soil saver (traditional plus vermiculture); and taught them safe farming practices, namely traditional intercropping methods and rice hay mushroom production.
He introduced these activities to motivate the school and the community to conserve the environment and to achieve good health and well-being.
Sadinas intensified the Gulayan sa Paaralan for the school’s feeding program in order to minimize the number of undernourished KES pupils and develop their academic performance.
He noted that there were 20 undernourished children in KES this school year whom he aimed to help through Project APPLICATION.
The school used the harvested vegetables and mushrooms as ingredients from the demo farm village for the daily feeding program that took place from August 2019 to February 2020.
After conducting the feeding program for seven months, the number of undernourished KES pupils dropped from 20 to zero.
With this achievement, Sadinas kept his hope that this number would remain with the help of his project, together with the support of stakeholders in education.
Creating healthy connections
In pursuing Project APPLICATION, Sadinas incorporated the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
This proverb inspired him to establish links with the school stakeholders as it will help in educating and nurturing KES pupils.
“Indeed, school programs could not be implemented successfully without the support of its inside and outside partners in education,” said Sadinas.
He expressed gratitude to the following people and partners in education to express his gratitude for their contribution towards the success of the project: Department of Education (DepEd) – Internal Cooperation Office through Director Margarita Ballesteros; Regional Director Estela L. Cariño; Former Schools Division Superintendent (SDS) Flordeliza Gecobe; Current SDS Rachel R. Llana; Dr. Maricel S. Franco, Education Program Supervisor – Science; Mr. Marlon V. Butay, District In-Charge; Mr. Morencio S. Pacio, KES Principal.
Sardinas also gave credit to the success of the project to other stakeholders that helped him accomplish his goals: KES faculty and staff, Parent-Teacher Association, Supreme Pupil Government, Gulayan sa Paaralan Club, School Agents for Environment Conservation Club, pupils; IP groups; School Governance and Operations Division – Nueva Vizcaya Youth Formation; Philippine Science High School Cagayan Valley Campus; Local government unit (LGU); Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office; Department of Agriculture, and Barangay LGU of Kongkong.
Sustaining Project APPLICATION
As of now, further physical improvement on the demo farm village is delayed as the budget from the Municipal Mayor’s Office of Kasibu is under process, but Sadinas hopes to resume this after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, he remarked that he plans to sustain Project APPLICATION by conducting training sessions and by including an “Adopt a School Program,” which will improve the project having the guidance and supervision of the partners in education.
“There are still things to pursue under this project. The implementation of this project was just interrupted due to the COVID-19 crisis,” he stated.
Pushing through with his GCED advocacy amid the setback, he tells everyone, “Be a GCED advocate even in simple ways. It is you, us, [who] can make a difference beyond borders… [who] can make this world a better place to live in.”