I have been dedicated to teaching indigenous peoples’ children for over 15 years as a daycare teacher, striving to provide them with proper education and instill the skills of reading and writing. Despite the challenges in a remote community, the inspiration I draw from these children fuels my commitment to what I believe is a noble cause. In Barangay Lumangbayan, particularly in the Sitio Kamatsilihan of the Iraya tribe, adverse weather conditions, especially during the rainy season, pose significant challenges.

The Child Development Center, serving over 35 indigenous children, is a modest structure built through the collaborative efforts of the barangay council and the parents. However, its small size and the lack of tables and chairs make the learning environment less than ideal. The commitment of parents from other IP Sitios to accompany their children for over two hours through rough terrain underscores the value they place on education.

During typhoons and heavy rainfall, the vulnerability of the school, constructed with lightweight materials, becomes a pressing concern. Despite facing numerous challenges, including the difficulty of securing funds for a new facility, I never gave up on providing essential education for these Mangyan children.

The turning point came with the initiation of KALAHI CIDSS on November 16-18, 2021, in our barangay. Attending the orientation and subsequent Participatory Situational Analysis (PSA) training allowed me to articulate the pressing issues faced by IP children in terms of education facilities. I was heartened to find that the construction of a resilient daycare center emerged as a priority project in the PSA.

Persistently engaging in barangay activities, contributing to project proposals, and actively participating in training for community volunteers, I ensured the success of the project. The impact was substantial, not only providing a conducive learning space but also serving as a crucial evacuation center during calamities.

On February 28, 2023, after over a year of relentless effort, the Construction of Child Development Center cum Evacuation Center was officially turned over to the barangay. The number of enrollees has since increased to over 50, with heightened participation from IP parents. They even formed an organization dedicated to maintaining the facility.

The daycare center cum evacuation center has proven invaluable during calamities, offering a safe space for evacuation without the need to travel to the barangay proper. The organization, with the guidance of KALAHI-CIDSS staff, ensures the ongoing operation and maintenance of the facility. Regular meetings are held to discuss matters of concern, with my commitment to providing guidance and assistance.

I understand the challenges faced by the IPs, particularly in accessing social services like education. Nevertheless, I am resolute in my mission. Serving the IPs is demanding but fulfilling; it requires patience and a consistent emphasis on the value of education. My commitment is unwavering, fueled by the belief that these children are my family and their education is my life’s purpose.

Supported by my husband and children, I consider it a blessing to have passed the LET. With the fully established Child Development Center, I am determined to continue providing care and services to the IPs, ensuring they can contribute positively to the community in return.

Written by Albert Delgado, Community Development Officer in KALAHI-CIDSS Occidental Mindoro;
A Story of Irene D. Ricohermoso, KALAHI-CIDSS Community Volunteer and Child Development Worker assigned in the Indigenous People’s Sitio in Brgy. Lumang Bayan.