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Baguio City – “You are the seeds that need to be sown for the future.”

These were the words of NCIP OIC Regional Director Nora T. Chulipa as she talked to the participants of the Youth Leaders Assembly conducted on June 6-7, 2015 at the Hotel Supreme.   The assembly gathered student-grantees of the NCIP-Educational Assistance Program (EAP) from the different provinces hoping they become partners in the advocacy of Indigenous Peoples (IP) rights, at least in the campuses. 

Ms. Marifel Macalanda of the Cordillera Youth Center (CYC) facilitated a workshop where the participants brainstormed on their roles as grantees of a program for IP students; other concerns as youth/students; and their recommended solutions to address such concerns.  

Access to education, access to jobs or employment, discrimination and lack of knowledge of their own culture were some of the concerns presented by the participants. 

Ms. Emilia Challongen, the NCIP focal person on IP education, gave an orientation on the EAP. The participants were reminded of their roles and responsibilities as grantees and students – to give back to the community and be academically responsible. 

Mr. Michael Umaming, chief of the Technical Management Services Division, discussed the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) focusing on who are the indigenous peoples; why there is an IPRA; and what are the rights that the law guarantees.  He also presented the mandates and services of the NCIP. 

“To participate in forums like this so we will be educated and also to participate during Free and Prior Informed Consent activities,” an Ifugao student responded when asked how IP youth can help the community. 

Mr. Garet Pangket, also of CYC, spoke of the situation of the youth in the Cordillera, their experiences and struggles.  He mentioned among others that issues faced by the indigenous youth include commercialization of education; high rate of unemployment; and, continuous disintegration of their  culture, values and knowledge. 

As an offshoot of this activity, there will be an EAP student assembly in the provinces which should lead to organizing them to promote IP rights advocacy in the campuses. 

“It was exciting; I met new friends from other schools; and I was able to learn the unique traditions and culture in the Cordillera, my native place,” echoed Alejandro Bagay II, a merit-based grantee and one of the participants. (Sp Lupante)