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The Next Generation Leader

Meet Lea Ignacio, a young tribal explorer from the Philippines

Lea Ignacio is a 21-year-old graduate with an agricultural major in Plant Genetics from the University of Southern Mindanao in North Cotabato, Philippines. She is a member of the Erumanen ne Menuvu Tribe, which is one of the tribes the Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement (MPPM) worked with in their project funded by Voice. The overall goal of the project is to improve the security of indigenous peoples (IPs) in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law system (BBL), to strengthen capacities of IP leaders and organisations, and to increase IP engagement in the Bangsamoro Peace Process. The BBL is a law creating a new government called the Bangsomoro Government that aims to improve the autonomy of the region.

When MPPM started their project, they wanted young tribal people to be volunteers in the different project activities. Lea started her volunteering in October 2017, helping to develop the Keetew exhibit from script writing, visual material gathering up until the set-up of installations. She also helped in the preparation of some of the project activities like community discussions and tribal rituals. The Keetew exhibit is a moving exhibit that
highlights the struggles and demands of the Lumad community for recognition and full inclusion of their rights in all these peace negotiations that are going on

Lea was glad to attend the crash course on Human Rights Documentation which included training in Visual Storytelling. This encouraged her to direct a film entitled Simbuhay, a short film aimed at amplifying the struggle for the full inclusion of IP rights in the BBL and their demand to exclude their village from the target expansion area of the law. After all this forms an integral part of her tribe’s ancestral land. 

And now, being a youth, I have become one of them, continuing the fight for our territory.

In February 16, 2018, Lea read the position paper on behalf of her tribe in front of congressmen and women and members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the Congressional Consultation on the BBL in North Cotabato.

Just before her volunteering work ended with MPPM, Lea wrote down her experiences and learnings. On March 8, 2018, she shared her story with the members and leaders of her tribe who gathered in their Tribal Hall in Brgy. Aroman, Carmen, North Cotabato.

Below is her speech translated in English:

“I’m Lea Ignacio, an Erumanen ne Menuvu. I live in Barangay Aroman, Carmen, North Cotabato. I want to thank Timuey Ronaldo “Jojo” Ambangan because he was the reason why I became part of MPPM.

As a volunteer of MPPM, I am thankful for all the things that I experienced, the company, and the knowledge I have gained.

First of all, being born to a family whose father is an inactive member of Erumanen ne Menuvu and a mother who is a Cebuano, I have limited background of the issues that my tribe is facing like the issue on rights to territory. If not for MPPM I would have not understood the struggle our leaders have been fighting for. They have been very brave to assert our right to our ancestral domain. And now, being a youth, I have become one of them and I will continue to fight for our territory.

Secondly, it is through my involvement with MPPM that I was able to see the real meaning of the word unity. In MPPM, we come from different tribes and backgrounds but we treat each other as equal and one. We talk, we laugh, we tease, but we don’t hurt each other. We take care of each other.

When I was still in college, I could sense the division among us: the Ilocanos and other Christians, the Muslims and the Indigenous Peoples or Lumad as a result of the different beliefs and cultures. We only got to mingle when we were in a group activity. Sometimes, there were conflicting ideas resulting to tensions and further misunderstanding. As a volunteer of MPPM this experience was different, I was able to experience unity amidst diversity.

Lastly, it was in MPPM that I was able to freely apply my knowledge in dialogue and relationship building with others. My self-confidence has improved especially in terms of speaking and talking in front of other people. Before, I was shy even when talking to just one person.

Thanks to MPPM for everything and for the opportunity of being a volunteer. I am now Lea the Explorer; exploring and learning, because learning is a continuous process!”

As a volunteer of MPPM this experience was different, I was able to experience unity amidst diversity.

Watch Lea’s speech in this video (In Filipino)

A special thanks to Lea Ignacio for sharing her wonderful speech and her involvement in ensuring that the voices of the IPs are not left behind. May her story inspire more next generation leaders ready to continue standing up and speaking out!

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