Friday, August 26, 2011

Education advocate looks back, inspires more


ALABEL, Sarangani (August 24, 2011) - As a child, Anne sourced out money to buy her favorite candy caramel by plucking kangkong leaves in the ponds and selling them from house to house. But one afternoon as she was vending the vegetables, a heavy downpour rushed her home still pocket-empty.

Annalie Edday, one of the nine Asia 21 Philippines Young Leaders who will represent the country to the international conference in New Delhi by November, was amused recalling her childhood 20 years back when she cried out of her childish frustration of not being able to generate even a single peso to buy the candy she always craved for. But it was this thought to be insignificant episode in her life that made her promise to finish schooling.

Anne is a pure blooded Blaan raised in a traditional way their tribe does. She was born of a very poor family and the youngest of eight.

Her father was a tenant of a vast land claimed to be an ancestral domain of the Blaans which later on imperiled their lives. Her brother was shot to death, making the whole family leave Landan, Polomolok, South Cotabato the day before Christmas.

While they were trying to start a new life in the original place of her parents in Malungon her sister died in a bus accident the following year. She was in fifth grade that time. Life became even bitter for them. Her father thought they were cursed that whose child of him finishes college will die - a provocation that drove her father to withdraw support to the rest of his children who were still studying.

Yet Anne said this never let her lose hope and continued to stay in school. Then she smiled but tears eventually fell down to her cheeks as she was saying “I could still remember I always receive awards since kindergarten but it was only that I was in Grade 6 that I was able to have new set of clothes.”

Anne found solace from friends in high school when she needed to borrow a pair of shoes and clothes. Yet, it was enjoyable for her instead. “I needed to move forward and not just dwell on the problem. I needed to continue to go forward and achieve my dream because I don’t want to sell kangkong for the rest of my life!”

Before she could have her capping, it was awful for her to shift into education because her monthly scholarship stipend of P2,000 as a nursing student couldn’t anymore cope with the extra expenses in school for projects and other contributions. Her family, too, was just hard-up that she could not demand something her family couldn’t afford to give.

She was a scholar of Foundation for Development thru Education Inc. run by the family of Governor Migs Dominguez.

As a nursing student Anne used to be within the top 5 rank but after she shifted she lost the interest and started to have grades below 2. In short, she graduated but without much love for her course.

It was when Synergeia, a non-profit organization, came to Sarangani and initiated education reforms that Governor Migs gave Anne the command to lead Aral Tayo project before it became Quality Education for Sarangani Today (QUEST). QUEST is Sarangani’s local initiative of collaborating with community stakeholders to improve delivery of basic education. The realization came later that she love already what she’d been doing as it also gave her the avenue to inspire and communicate with her fellow Indigenous People (IP).

After coming back from a one-month training in Illinois and Indianapolis, USA, being hailed as one of the top young leaders in 2009 under the Philippine Youth Leadership Program, Anne got many offers from abroad and private companies but her passion and dedication made her stay in Sarangani.

“There are still so many things to be done yet,” Anne said.

She started in QUEST as a neophyte and now she feels greater accountability with the public school system where it was previously the sole concern of the Department of Education to look into.

Now she felt somehow fulfilled to have contributed in the process that many IP children will graduate as this poignant plight of her tribe of being less noticed and attributed to as “no read, no write” and the most impoverished had challenged her to do more for them.

When there were times Anne felt like quitting, the sad plight of many of her tribesmen are into gets her going instead. She would hike several hills and cross rivers to reach remote communities where the tribe could hardly eat three meals a day and the ailing would die eventually without seeing a doctor or perhaps, because they haven’t come across yet with the idea of what a hospital is.

Anne lamented if she and her siblings weren’t given the opportunity to get education, then they might have lived like them too.

With this dilemma on illiteracy, Anne wanted to share her inspiration to free the country from illiteracy which seems to be “a cancer cell causing pains, hardships, and even death to those who are infected with it.”

Illiteracy, as she puts it “is also the main reason of the heartbreaking, frustrating, and ubiquitous poverty that has been oppressing our country for a long time.” And in Sarangani, she recognized the education reform as the best means to draw shared responsibility and accountability from the communities to counter this.

Having been chosen as among the batch of honorees of this year’s Asia 21 Young Leaders, Anne is hoping the network of young leaders will specifically address illiteracy.

Around 200 top young leaders coming all over the Asia-Pacific region the Asia Society is expecting for the summit in November. Asia Society is a prominent New York-based international organization aimed at strengthening relationships and understanding among peoples across the region.

Yet, Anne never stops here and hoped for an even greater network to continue her advocacy. (Beverly Cababat-Paoyon/SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)

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