For many young people in Bukidnon upland communities, a National Certificate (NC) from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is not just another piece of paper in their job application folder. The certificate also embodies a sense of pride and validation that they are capable and can contribute meaningfully and be included in broader Mindanao and Philippine society.
Through Hulas, the youth development training program of the Forest, Farm, and Leadership in the Margins (FFLM) Center of the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Educaton Center (APC), 10 Pulangiyēn youth were assessed for NCII Masonry skills at the TESDA Bukidnon Provincial Training Center in Hagkol, Valencia, Bukidnon on 4 February.
This is a major milestone in the decade-long history of Hulas as the program moves towards building stronger relations and partnerships with government agencies, particularly with TESDA.
There are many challenges that Mindanao indigenous youth increasingly face; yet they are also eager to express their integrity and dignity as rooted in their relationship with their ancestral lands. However, this relationship that defines their sense of identity and belonging is threatened by the livelihood and land use practices commonly prevailing in many upland areas.
In Bukidnon, forest areas have become corn farms or plantations. The massive change in the landscape is evident and the surrounding rivers and streams are polluted with chemical-based agricultural by-products, as well as other kinds of household and industrial waste.
What do all these mean for the youth? Available job opportunities are limited such as working in poultry farms, in plantations, or at gasoline stations in the city. These options take them away from their culture and expose them to serious health hazards and risks of employment exploitation.
The challenge is to enable the youth to access better and more sustainable livelihood options. This means capacitating them to acquire technical skills that match market demands and are certified by national standards. Communities are also enabled to create livelihood opportunities from within their gaup or ancestral domain.
The support from TESDA is crucial, as the FFLM program is currently pursuing government certification and registration for carpentry, masonry, bamboo production and processing, organic agriculture, and forest and water management.
The FFLM Center is also processing its application as a Farm School from the Agricultural Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture. TESDA Bukidnon Provincial Director Kotie Bax visited the training site in Bendum on 13 February to gain a better understanding of the learning context in the area and to discuss collaboration opportunities with the FFLM team.
The Hulas youth who passed the NCII Masonry assessment include Hulas Batch 17 graduates Reynaldo Cañete Jr., Dexter Sagula, Tulmie Lagti-an, Lauro Compade Jr, APC Gulang (Grade) 11 Rasel Guinton, EcoAgri youth assistants Rolly Namansulay, Sean Banahan, and Arman Sagula with EcoAgri Farm Coordinator Arnel Santander and Forest Management Team Leader Jason Menaling.