LEGAZPI CITY – In a pioneering initiative that heralds a brighter future for indigenous youth, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office V through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program has initiated a transformative Two-Day Leadership Congress, tailored for Indigenous Youth in Camarines Sur and Albay which was held last October 20-21, and October 27-28 for the first and second batch, respectively.

This groundbreaking event has brought together 100 young indigenous leaders under the auspices of the 4Ps from Caranday National High School, Baao, Camarines Sur, and Joroan High School, Tiwi, Albay.

Based on the program’s data last March 30, 2023, Bicol Region has a total of 443,828 monitored youth beneficiaries ages 12-18 years old, wherein 1,830 are indigenous people youth.

The Province of Albay and Camarines Sur has the highest number of monitored and enrolled IP youth in various high school facilities in the region with 122 IP youth and 957 IP youth, singly. With the presented data, the said provinces are selected to pilot the implementation of youth activities.

Furthermore, in celebration of National IP Month, the two-day event featured an array of workshops for the one hundred (100) selected 4Ps IP from tribes Agta, Agta-Tabangnon, and Agta-Cimaron and non-IP students focusing on understanding the IPRA Law concerning IP youth, experiencing traditional games, leadership development, and advocacy skills, specifically tailored to address the unique challenges faced by indigenous youth.

Indigenous communities are vital repositories of cultural diversity and heritage. The Leadership Congress recognizes the significance of preserving and celebrating these unique cultural legacies while equipping indigenous youth with the skills and knowledge to become leaders and change-makers.

Nagpapasalamat ako sa DSWD dahil marami akong natutunan sa Youth Leadership Congress. Nalaman kong mayroon pala kaming ancestral domain at may batas na nagpoprotekta sa karapatan naming mga Agta-Tabangnon” Jairous Ciocson, 15 years old and an Agta Tabangnon of Joroan Tiwi, Albay, stated.

His co-participant, Marian Camu, 16 years old, an Agta Tabangnon of Mayong, Tiwi Albay also expressed her thoughts.  “Hindi ko pala dapat ikahiya na isa akong katutubo. Marami din kaming mga kakayahan. Nagpapasalamat ako sa DSWD at NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous People) dahil tumaas ang aking self-confidence pati na rin ang aking leadership skills”

According to NCIP Region V Community Affairs Officer, Al Prince S. Rellon, the two-day leadership congress for Indigenous Peoples is relevant because it serves as a vital means of cultural preservation, empowerment, advocacy, networking, and policy development for these communities.

This activity under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, exemplifies how DSWD, in collaboration with other government agencies and partner stakeholders, actively empowers indigenous youth to address unique challenges and become champions of change in their communities.

The inaugural Two-Day Leadership Congress for Indigenous Youth epitomizes the government’s dedication to fostering leadership, preserving cultural heritage, and ensuring the inclusion of Indigenous communities. The event is poised to contribute to a brighter and more promising future for indigenous youth and their respective communities.