Students stand up for cultural and environmental sustainability in UPeace dialogue

Students of the Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship (APS) in Balay Laudato Si’ with ESSC staff Amor Paredes (lowest right) who facilitated the course.

Jill Banta

“It is in our culture that we respect our Creator and his creation. We farm, but for our own consumption and sustenance and not for big agricultural purposes. It is us – the youth— who manage our own forests and this is why we, including the people in the lowlands, still have fresh water and fresh air.”

These were the words of Maria Mae Ampohon, a Grade 10 student, expressed to 26 University for Peace – Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship (UPeace-APS) graduate students during the group’s dialogue with the APC youth on June 24-30, in Balay Laudato Si, Bendum, Bukidnon.

The dialogue was part of the community engagement activities for their 3-week visit to give opportunity to students to have actual interaction with people affected by the problems they discuss in the classroom. Mostly coming from Asia, the students were expected to have a non-academic local experience on how communities manage their resources.

In the dialogue, the APC students expressed their respect and appreciation for their own culture. They also explained their role in sustaining their gaup(ancestral domain) through natural resource management activities they learn as a core subject in school.

Connecting the Pulangiyen values and sustainable land management practices, Ampohon said, “We come from the land. We live on the land. We respect all life that comes from the land. We also learn about caring for the environment. Thus, we hope for recognition of our culture, that our culture will not be erased.”

“We stand up for who we are. We sustain our culture despite the presence of migrants and foreigners,” Eljoy Linggay, a Grade 9 student added.

When asked about their dream for their tribe, Grade 6 student Rogen Almahan shared that he hopes tosee the abundance and sustainability in the gaup.

“My dream is to see most of my people literate so that no one can take advantage of our community,” he added.

The APC students also asked questions about the graduate students’ thoughts on Bendum and the Pulangiyen culture based on their encounter during their short visit.

“We’re here to learn about building peace because building peace cannot be attained without environmental management. Lifestyle in the city is different from here. Marginalized groups like the Indigenous Peoples are vulnerable but their communities (through traditional practices) are the solutions to problems of global scale,” Hiroshi Takanaka from Japan said.

The UPeace-APS program has 3 main goals: evaluate the factors behind the relationship of human development and resource governance; let students have on-the-ground experience to fully understand concept and theories; and create an understanding of the natural resource management of a community through engagement.

It is through this program that APC bridges the geographical and experience gap between   future experts on development work and developing communities.

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