When the youth in Bendum are asked what are they grateful for, they always tell you about the fresh air, water from the spring and the forest that surrounds them. These are expected answers and visitors say, yes, how wonderful it all is, and how cozy community appears.
Like any other community, the different layers of social and environmental reality call for cooperation and seek responses that are rooted locally. The context in rural communities is increasing determined by the shifts in financial arrangements with traders and so increasingly individualistic, less interdependent. So the context may be dominated more by financial transactions and sometimes politics more than the culture.
The youth needs community who stand with them and guide them, like grandparents who speak with wisdom and integrity. Datu Nestor Menaling once said to his children “if you don’t want to see your children stealing fruits from your neighbor, plant your own fruit tree now”. Datu Nestor only attended grade school but when he walks to his farm, he can name all the plants and recognizes how each of them grows and can be used. Unfortunately, some of the youth don’t even know the path to their own farm land or have no idea on how to work in a farm and have a source of food for the family.
To deepen the understanding of contemporary challenges, we designed in Balay Laudato Si’ a Work Experience Program for the indigenous youth including few from migrant families that ran for eight weeks. They had a basic orientation on work roles and responsibilities and work was scheduled with shared weekly objectives. Then there was time to share on the experience and how this helps develop their relations in the community.
The young women who were part of the Work Experience Program were assigned to work and learn the practices in the Eco-Agri Farm. They were thankful for the experience because it gave them a chance to understand better the value of farming and the importance of the land in their daily living.
In the two month period, young men learn the basic in masonry and construction work. With assistance from local skilled workers, they became part of the team building hand sinks, toilets and shower rooms for dalēpaan (a home away from home) for the students and staff coming from across the valley. The learned how to participate in a work environment and how to communicate with supervisors with a sense of understanding of responsibility for others.
In the process, the youth participated in a reflection workshop and realized that there are greater challenges ahead. There were many questions forming in their mind on how to move through the culture and with people in the community. How can they effectively participate and at the same time contribute in sustaining good relations for the common good. Maybe, for many youth in urban areas, they may not see the value of living with sense of community, but for the Indigenous People, it is the equivalent of who they are: their identity as a person and sense of belongingness in the ancestral domain.
Laudato Sí and Querida Amazonia are the two contemporary contextual documents, and Querida Amazonia is perhaps the only contemporary cultural reflection of great utilization. These documents are helpful for the youth to find a way to talk about the fundamentals in their way of living and to discuss legitimate concerns that need group decision and action. The messages of Laudato Si’ and the four dreams of Querida Amazonia helps in deepening the local context and common aspirations of the youth for the culture.
The two-month program was concluded by reflecting on the understanding of the value of dreams for the culture, not simply the individual and how it can be a guide to move forward, generating solidarity and cooperation for a common vision. If you ask the youth again as to what they are grateful for they may begin to tell you about the simple life and the daily experience of peace that is coming from within themselves as they begin to reflect on their lives and how they want to take action.