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Bukidnon IPs hope skills training would lift them out of poverty

Members of Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities in this town are optimistic that their economic conditions would someday improve through the special skills training program (SSTP) spearheaded by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Marivic Endera, 34, a member of the Manobo tribe and mother of six, expressed her gratitude to the government for giving her a chance to be part of TESDA’s National SSTP that was launched here Friday.

TESDA's National SSTP seeks to empower IPs and cultural communities through the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). The program also focuses on former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

Top TESDA officers and local government officials led the launch at the school campus of the Mindanaw Tribal School in Barangay Panadtalan.

Endera, who resides meters away from the school, said she enrolled for dressmaking skills training.

Based on the training module, she will undergo 280 training hours or 35 training days. Upon completion and upon passing TESDA’s assessment, she will get National Certification (NC) II in dressmaking.

“I used to make or repair ordinary dresses of my neighbors manually. With the help of this training that I will engage in, I will enhance my little knowledge and skills in dressmaking. My target is to create tribal dresses, especially for my fellow IP neighbors. Once I get an NC II from TESDA upon completion of my dressmaking training, that will be my ticket to ask help or apply for a loan from other government agencies for me to get a brand new sewing machine,” Endera said in the vernacular in a chance interview after the launch.

In the meantime, she helps her husband, who is a chainsaw operator, make a living from her commission as part-time dealer of home products.

Datu Ingikon Maydskie Pandian, who replaced his late father Datu Mayda Magdalino Pandian as head of the Mindanaw Tribal School, said he and his fellow Manobos welcome TESDA’s program for IPs.

Pandian said his fellow IPs who do not have a chance to go to school, will be given a chance to get a decent job or livelihood through TESDA.

“About 20 men and women from our fellow IPs here are included in the list to avail of this SSTP. Most of the women are enlisted in dressmaking. But prior to this SSTP, around 200 of my fellow Manobo Tribe have already completed their TESDA skills training in masonry, carpentry, massage and cookery and are NC II holders,” Pandian said in the vernacular in an interview.

Alvin Feliciano, TESDA Deputy Director General for operations, said one of the programs of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, aside from free education, is to provide free technical and vocational skills training for IPs and former rebels.

Feliciano said completing the TESDA training is a short cut to a good future.

He said TESDA is an architect of blue collar jobs but for him, the agency is a creator of “gold collar” jobs.

Feliciano urged IPs to take advantage of the opportunities given by the government.

“What TESDA began should end in a bright future for you,” he said.

Feliciano said IPs are the program's priority because they are usually targeted by the NPA for recruitment, citing records from the Armed Forces of the Philippines that show that at least 70 percent of former rebels in Bukidnon are members of IP communities.

Bukidnon’s provincial director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Chona Labaon, said since the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) became a law, this is the first time that livelihood program for IPs has been given emphasis.

She said IPs have skills that need to be enhanced so they would become competitive.

Kotie R. Bax, TESDA Bukidnon provincial director, said the SSTP will begin this month of June.

She said earlier that the program will accommodate 15,000 skills development training slots for IPs nationwide.

In the province, Bax said the training will be held in 31 TESDA-accredited public and private schools that offer technical and vocational programs.

Abdulwahid Madum, TESDA Bukidnon information officer, explained that of the total national quota, the Northern Mindanao region has 1,400 slots, 340 of which have been allocated for Bukidnon.

Madum said recipients of the program will receive PHP100 daily training allowance, compared to only PHP60 per day for other TESDA programs.

Based on the presentation, TESDA has allotted PHP6 million for the SSTP in Bukidnon.

2 projects unveiled

Feliciano led the unveiling ceremony of two major projects to be constructed at the campus of the Mindanaw Tribal School.

The first project is the Skills Training Court via training-cum production and the Skills Training Center for IP Traditional Skills.

Bax said the Skills Training Court is worth PHP2.5 million, funded by TESDA, while the Skills Training Center for IP Traditional Skills is worth PHP1.5 million from the development fund of Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri.

A ceremonial awarding of scholarship grants to IPs was also held.

Bukidnon, which consists of two cities, 20 towns and 464 barangays, is home to the tribes of Manobo, Higaonon, Bukidnon, Talaandig, Matigsalug, Umayamnon, and Tigwahanon.

Mel Madera / PNA