Cagayan de Oro City — Given the chance to be a government college scholar, Marlon Mandago, 24, a member of the Higaonon tribe of North-Central Mindanao, urged his fellow indigenous peoples (IP) to finish their education and help uplift the lives of their tribal group.
Marlon of San Luis, Malitbog, Bukidnon is a scholar under the Expanded Students Grants-in-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA), a program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries.
“Education has always been identified as a priority concern for the indigenous peoples so that they may have a better future. Having a college degree will equip them for gainful employment and transform their lives in the process,” DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman said.
Under the program, a student-grantee is entitled to a maximum grant of P60,000 per school year or P30,000 per semester for tuition and other school fees, textbooks or other learning materials, and stipend.
As of January 25, 2015, there are 31,350 student-grantees nationwide under this project. In Northern Mindanao alone, there are 2,037 student-grantees enrolled in eight CHED-accredited state colleges and universities.
Marlon is a third-year student of the Mindanao University of Science and Technology, taking up Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, major in Physical Sciences.
“Para sa akin, ayaw kong maranasan ang hirap na pinagdaanan ng aking mga magulang kung kaya’t pipilitin kong makatapos ng pag-aaral (As for me, I don’t want to go through the poverty that my parents had gone through, that is why I am determined to finish my college education),” he said.
Hinihikayat ko ang mga kasama kong IP na magtapos ng pag-aaral dahil ang edukasyon ang mag-aangat sa amin sa kahirapan (I am encouraging fellow IP to prioritize education because it will lift us out of poverty),” he added.
Growing up poor
At a very young age, Marlon witnessed the economic struggle of his parents who are laborers of a vegetable farm in their hinterland municipality, some 42.6 kilometers off southeast of the city.
During his elementary days, Marlon recalled that his parents would take home P50 a day after rendering services in the farm. It was increased to P100 a day, but still below the daily minimum wage standard in the region which is P284.
Marlon’s family does not have a house of their own. They live with his grandparents until now.
He is thankful to DSWD for helping him reach for his dream – that is, to finish a college degree.
If not for the college scholarship under the ESGP-PA of the Pantawid Pamilya of DSWD, Marlon said that realizing his dream would be bleak.
He added that DSWD is one of the government agencies that helped his fellow Higaonons lead a peaceful life.
Despite the remoteness of their community, DSWD workers regularly visit them to provide services and conduct Family Development Sessions (FDS) to Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries.
The FDS is a monthly session where the partner-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilya are required to attend as part of their co-responsibilities. Through the FDS, parent/s or guardians are taught about personality development which includes proper grooming and hygiene; strengthening family relationships; and fostering respect by inculcating one’s rights, roles, and responsibilities within the family and their community. Parents also discuss disaster preparedness, financial literacy, and other topics that may be helpful to the family.
Marlon believes that with DSWD’s interventions to his tribe, “Kakayanin namin ang pagbabago habang itutuloy naming isabuhay ang mga magagandang kaugaliang natatangi sa aming tribo (We can initiate change in our community at the same time continue to preserve our unique culture).” ###