JOURNEYING IN COMPASSION HAS KEPT ME GOING FOR TWO DECADES...
Day Care Teacher
In August 3, 1992, I was excited when I was called to report for work to the Shontoug Foundation. I just graduated from college with a degree in education. I was hired along with nine others as Day Care teacher. My first assignment was in Naguey Atok, Benguet.
After sometime, more sitios requested us to help set-up similar programs in their communities. So after the morning class in Sitio Sawingan, I would walk for1 1/2 hours to Sitio Egang. Then I return to Sawingan and am ready for the class the next day. I slept at the Barangay Hall with my co-worker in Shontoug and went home or to the office during weekends. I was inspired by the dedication of my co-workers.
Basic Ecclesial Community Organizer
The reflections and staff development I underwent in Shontoug has inspired me too. I started facilitating bible readings and sharing with the parents of the children. It was part of the Basic Ecclesial Community approach embraced by the nuns of the Religious of the Good Shepherds who started the Shontoug Center. I was further inspired when some parents said they wanted to celebrate Eucharistic mass in the community. I coordinated with the parish priest and he came. One of the parents also became an active lay leader.
Another part of our work is to train parent volunteers to eventually take over our work. To become day care teachers and community volunteers themselves. We also conducted trainings for the mothers including dialogues on parenting and childrearing. I myself learned much from these sessions which I later applied with my own family.
Relief and Rehab Worker
After Typhoon Pepeng, landslides blocked the roads. We had to walk for hours to reach communities to coordinate and deliver relief services. Rehabilitation work had its own challenges especially when we face one disaster after another with very limited resources.
Farming in the communities we work in is a mix of subsistent and cash-driven practice. In areas that are nearer the road, chemical based conventional farming is widely practiced. Areas farther from the roads and can only be reached through long and winding foot trails tend to practice natural farming. But the high cost of chemical inputs and low price of products is discouraging. The natural farming old techniques were not profitable and produce is not even enough for the family. We started advocating for Sustainable Agriculture. We encouraged the chemical based farmers to shift to improved natural farming system. We organized farmer trainings and invited organic farming practitioners as resource persons. We also facilitated farm visits. I started my own organic farm in Datakan, Kapangan which is now a demo farm.
A very challenging task assigned to me now is the Anti-Mining Campaign. The day care parents who were our partners are now facing the problem of the re-opening of the Boneng mines and many other mining applications covering the municipalities of Atok, Kibungan and Kapangan. Mining has divided the people and caused so much environmental damage to the communities. Seminars and forum were organized where the community leaders spoke. The people were informed about the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the Philippine Mining Act. Theyalso submitted their petition letters and position papers to various government agencies. Since the Boneng mines stopped, fish and the shrimps slowly returned to the Amburayan River. The mining company abandoned the open-pit mines in Boneng without any rehabilitation.
In 2011, we started a reforestation project in Lubo, Kibungan in the abandoned mine site. This is led by the Lubo Proper Rehab Organization. We also invited students from the city to participate in tree planting. It is also a way for the youth to understand environmental destruction and the importance of protecting the environment and supporting affected people. We lobbied for support from the provincial government. The Provincial Environmental Officer came to visit the reforestation site. We still need much support and also technical knowledge to restore soil fertility and ensure seedling survival.