“Nahitabo na giyud ang atong pangandoy. Atong paningkamotan na mahuman ta aron mausab ang kurso sa atong kinabuhi,” words of Hon. Basilio A. Libayao, Municipal Mayor of Talaingod – home of the newly inaugurated Datu Jose A. Libayao: DNSC Extension Campus. His message encapsulated the tribe’s dream of freeing themselves from poverty through education.

On October 3, 2016, this dream became a reality when the first ever tertiary-level classes in Talaingod were conducted through the combined efforts of Davao del Norte State College, Municipality of Talaingod, Ata-Manobo Tribe, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Southern Philippines Agri-Business and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST), and the Province of Davao del Norte.

The school’s formal inauguration ceremony took place on October 4, 2016 along with the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement. The inauguration became not just an opening event, but a source of inspiration to all attendees. Instead of giving out information about the school, the guests of honor delivered heartfelt messages that showed how promising and special the Extension Campus is.

DNSC’s president, Dr. Jonathan Bayogan, started the streak by admitting to have asked his team, “Kaya ba natin ito?” There was doubt at first if DNSC, as the overall academic in-charge, could sustain the length and demands of the project. But as he stood in front of the 40 pioneer scholars, Dr, Bayogan reassured that DNSC will help them become the best they can be.

He also gave credit to former Governor of Davao del Norte, Hon. Rodolfo del Rosario for taking the preliminary steps to make the project possible. He humbly ended his message with a promise, “to the youth of Talaingod, we are here to serve you!”

In a meaningful coincidence, the month of October also marks the 19th Anniversary of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 with the theme – Empowering the Indigenous Peoples for Unity and Development. NCIP Provincial Officer Emmanuel Cacal reminded the community that although they will be given education, cultural preservation is still one of the topmost priorities of the project. The statement was applauded by the tribal elders who were represented by Bai Pilar Libayao on the honorary table.

Agricultural Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies from SPAMAST, encouraged them to become licensed agriculturists in the future. He also inspired them by saying that in the 21st century, illiteracy is determined not by those who can’t read or write but by those who refuse to learn.

Governor Anthony del Rosario of Davao del Norte lightened up the mood of everyone by throwing half-meant jokes about marriage and school. Like the previous speakers, he talked about his tribal roots. His family was one of the indigenous settlers in Davao who originally came from Iloilo. Almost all the speakers identified themselves to belong in a tribe. This made Datu Jose A. Libayao not just an extension campus but a program of going home to our roots.

The gathering became a celebration of ancestry and culture, especially when the guests were invited to dance with the Ata-Manobos. Some of the elders graced the dance by beating a huge log to produce unique yet inviting music. The ceremony ended with a food festivity in the tribal house. (end, CNL)

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