A year after a research study was conducted on the Municipality of Talaingod, five institutions decided to take on the challenge of providing the place a chance for tertiary education. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed on October 4, 2016 to acknowledge the start of operations of Datu Jose A. Libayao: DNSC Extension Campus. In attendance for the signing were DNSC President Jonathan Bayogan, Davao del Norte Governor Anthony del Rosario, Municipal Mayor Basilio Libayao, NCIP Provincial Officer Emmanuel Cacal, and Ata-Manobo Tribe Representative Bai Pilar Libayao.

The agreement ensured 40 Ata-Manobos of both scholarship with allowance and quality education from the faculty of DNSC. However, the course program – Bachelor in Agricultural Technology – was in consortium with the Southern Philippines Agri-business and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology (SPAMAST). The program was chosen to help the tribe manage their ancestral domain which is highly agricultural. The signing was done during the inauguration of the campus. Ms. Lucia Paraiso, a faculty and an IP herself, shared to everyone her hardships as she pursued schooling despite her family’s financial status. She studied in DNSC as a scholar but had to accept laundries from her teachers to support herself. She emphasized the value of education by saying, “ang paguma ika isa ika duha ra na sa isa ka tuig, ang balik sa pageskwela, naa hangtod sa buhi pa ka.” She urged her future students to see the long-term effect of the opportunity at hand. She also asked them if they wanted to be like her someday, and all replied, “yes ma’am!”

In the beginning of the program, the students sang an original composition. The narrative exposed the difficulties they face every day, like finding food and earning money. But the refrain appeared to be hopeful when they mentioned the words “maestra” and “eskwelahan”. Near the end, they also presented a harvest dance with the help of their elders. Although their presentations had modern touches already, the sincerity of the message of thanksgiving and the genuine want of expressing their identities were still there. While DNSC and its partners wanted best quality education for the community, they intricately balanced both goals of education and culture preservation. During the study, DNSC declared utmost respect to the indigenous culture and rights. The program was rooted in the Indigenous People Republic Act (IPRA) 8371 and its provisions, and the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Republic Act No. 7586, which encourages the protection and conservation of natural resources for the future. The MOA for the organizers was the start of making Talaingod a “centerpiece for cultural preservation and flagship area for agricultural and forestry management.” The event was also made possible through the efforts of the project’s lead convener – the Institute of Management Governance and Continuing Studies, headed by Dr. Marilou Junsay, supported by Talaingod’s campus coordinator, Dr. Jo Mark Libre. (end, CNL)

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