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The Next Generation Leader 

On February 16, 2018, Lea Ignacio, a resident of Barangay Aroman, Carmen, North Cotabato as a representative of her Erumanen ne Menuvu Tribe confidently read a position paper in front of the congressmen/women and members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  This was during the Congressional Consultation on the BBL in North Cotabato.  Lea was a 21 year graduate of Agriculture major in Plant Genetics from the University of Southern Mindanao in North Cotabato, Philippines.  Her confidence during this presentation surprised even herself.  Her journey up to this point was not an easy one.  “My self-confidence has improved especially in terms of speaking and talking in front of people. Before, I was shy even when talking with one person”.  Lea is now an emerging leader, brought up by the MPPM project implemented in partnership with Voice.       

Indigenous people suffer from insecurity and a lack legal protection that they sought in the proposed Bangsamoro Basis Law (BBL).  The indigenous community also suffer from lack of capacity among the IP leadership and their organizations.  Their participation and engagement in the Bangsamoro Peace Process was therefore not strong enough to achieve results.  The Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement (MPPM) project supported by Voice project. aimed at changing all this and they looked for youth volunteers to be involved in the different project activities.    In October 2017, Lea started her volunteering program and took part in the development of the Keetew exhibit from script writing to visual material gathering up until the series of installations. She also helped in the preparation of some of the activities of the project, like community discussions and tribal rituals. 

Lea also participated in the Crash Course on Human Rights Documentation. She was trained in Visual Storytelling which encouraged her to direct a short film entitled Simbuhay, aimed at amplifying the assertion for the full inclusion of IP rights in the BBL and their demand for the exclusion of their village from the law’s target expansion area since it is part of her tribe’s ancestral land.   

On March 8, 2018, after six months volunteering with MPPM, Lea made a verbal presentation of her documented experiences, her learning and realizations before the members and leaders of her tribe gathered in their Tribal Hall in Brgy. Aroman, Carmen, North Cotabato.  She said,     

“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 not have 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 who 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. 

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 people. Before, I was shy even when talking with one person. 

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

Lea’s transformation into a youthful leader came from her ability to confront her own self-doubts and develop self-confidence to face her own fears.  Her volunteering with MPPS offered her a chance to interact, learn and understand the real issues facing her community and she was now able to present these grievances to the leadership.  Her growth allowed her to occupy a greater political space from which to champion the human rights of her community! 

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