I spent my first year in college at the University of the Philippines-Baguio, where I took a BA in Communication Arts. I then joined an organization of activists that I have committed to for half a semester.
Since that time, I have been exposed to “UP culture” together with some perspectives on nationalism that every UP student should imbibe. This experience during my first year in college is something I don’t regret having, and with outmost pride and gratitude, I am overwhelmed by the things I have learned that I would’ve never had known, had I not attended UP Baguio.
I can say that UP Baguio is a small university where activism is more rampant and strongly felt. As I have observed, the people in UPB are angered by western oppression and capitalism, and by the neglect of the government for the indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras.
For example, when the university took to the streets showing opposition to SM Baguio’s attempt to cut down trees for their parking lot extension, almost all of the classes I took there had me peer through a “‘non-western-centric lens” and an anti-capitalism perspective.
And as I was working on my transferring papers to UP Diliman, I’ll never forget what the psychologist pointed out during my final interview at UPB: that the Filipino people pay for our school fees and that whatever we get out of this university should go back to the Filipino people. “True development does not compromise peoples’ welfare and their cultures.”
At UP Diliman, I pursued a BS in Tourism, an act that seems to contradict the principles I had acquired at UP Baguio. Nonetheless, I’ll be continuing my studies and dedication to my field, as it is an industry that, if properly managed, will not lead us towards identity loss, will inhibit environmental degradation, and will serve as an opportunity for the people and their localities.
I joined World Youth Alliance (WYA) in 2011 and have been a committed member ever since I started my internship in the organization. My experience at WYA had led me to realize my advocacy for the environment and indigenous people (IP). I have deeply imbibed the principles of freedom of excellence, the freedom to choose to do the right thing regardless of one’s condition, culture, and a non-compromising and true development, especially human dignity. From these principles, I was moved to take action in my advocacies.
To pursue my advocacy for IPs, I searched for part time experience in organizations advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights in the Philippines. During my interview for one of the organizations I had applied for, the director told me that IPs’ rights concerns and the pursuit for healthy ecosystems are interrelated. The director then referred me to organizations that offer internships, fit for students like me. I was about to search for more when I remembered I had signed up for the Haribon Foundation during a college Eco-fair. So I applied for an internship with Haribon and was accepted. I already helped out during a recent general assembly and a bird watching excursion.
In the future, I want to be an active member of Haribon Foundation, even after this internship. I will continue supporting the organization’s undertakings for the conservation of our environment.
(Jamaica Marie G. Ona is an intern at the Haribon Foundation working for the Membership Division.)