Representatives from the Pulangiyen community shared stories from the uplands in the recently held international conference on the 3rdAnniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, at the Vatican, 5-6 July 2018.
Pulangiyen community members Mercy Pakiwag and Jason Menaling were among the delegates who travelled to Rome, not only to meet the Pope, but to bring forward the call for social and environmental change in the context of indigenous peoples.
One of the main points emphasized in the conference was the need for global engagements in order to respond to the social and environmental challenges the world is facing today, thus, a parallel session on Youth and Indigenous Peoples gathered representatives from Asia and Pacific to share their specific contexts and aspects of their communities’ relationship with nature, which live out the sense of integral ecology promoted by Laudato Si’. They also shared on the challenges in their communities and the hopes they have for the future.
Mercy, the Deputy School Manager of Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC) in northern Mindanao, Philippines, shared that the APC is a source of hope in the Pulangiyen community in Bendum and in neighboring villages in the Upper Pulangi watershed. APC is an upland indigenous school formally recognized by government that uses mother tongue-based approach in education and integrates indigenous knowledge in the curriculum, seeking to make education responsive to the realities of indigenous communities.
Jason, also a Pulangiyen community member and a community forest manager with the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research and training organization in the Philippines, shared about the role of the youth in managing their forests through a youth program that is partly supported by the Flights for Forests programme of the Jesuit Conference Asia Pacific. Not only are these youth seeking to stop illegal logging, they are also actively extending the forest cover. Extending the forest through agroforestry and assisted natural regeneration of forests along the Pantaron Range helps minimize soil erosion and rehabilitates a stretch of stream for a better water source. The youth do their part by removing the grasses and protecting seedlings and by controlling disturbances in the forest areas, germination of native tree species in regenerating forest areas is triggered.
Jason also personally gave Pope Francis a copy of Forest Faces, a publication by ESSC in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that chronicles the stories and tragedies associated with the changes and loss of Philippine forest.
The cultural practices of Indigenous Peoples that contribute to managing our common home are typically dispersed and scattered, thus it is crucial that their voices are pulled together through dialogues and collaborative, inclusive action.