A profile of a national outstanding volunteer awardee
Cristina Segnaken-Aban learned from her mother at an early age to share food and comfort with people who are in need and to value giving service to them. The difficult situation of her family during her younger years pushed her to work hard, persevere and to source out for scholarship grants so she could finish a college degree.
It was in that situation that volunteerism started to become a way of life for Cristy which urge her to ‘pay forward’ the blessings that she has received. She believes that one of the ways to lead other people to succeed is by training them to develop a sense of volunteerism and passion to serve poor people and communities.
She applies the same philosophy effectively well with her students, having been a professor of the Department of Religion of the School of Humanities at Saint Louis University for the past 14 years.
When Cristy goes out of the gates of SLU after her teaching hours, she starts to ‘wear another hat’ where the other side of her emerges as she steps nto a totally different world – that of a consummated community organizer and development worker.
Cristy recognized the plight of talented young people but whose parents or guardians could not afford to send them to school because of extreme poverty.
So in 1997, she founded IYAMAN, a non-profit and non-stock private organization classified as a non-government organization, and registered it with the Securities and Exchange Commission. IYAMAN develops the youth and farmers into community workers, and serves needy communities through various programs using a scholarship program as an entry point.
IYAMAN is a combination of Filipino and Japanese words. “I” a Kankanaey tribal group word that means “from,” ”yama” a Japanese term that means “mountain,” “yaman” a Filipino word that means richness, and “iyaman” an Ilocano word meaning “grateful.” IYAMAN serves as a venue for the exchange of the richness of the Filipinos and Japanese in terms of culture, values and material goods.
She has no regrets founding IYAMAN. The joy of seeing her scholars turn into graduates and eventually into self-made professionals simply pushes her even more to persevere and forge the initiatives that she has taken full responsibility.
She mobilized resources to construct the IYAMAN building housing its office at Km. 5, barangay Balili in La Trinidad, a municipality of Benguet. It also serves as a halfway home for poor and sick rural folks who are undergoing treatment in Baguio City and in La Trinidad. It also serves as a center for relief operations during calamities as well as a meeting place for people’s organizations and NGOs.
“In volunteerism, we find ways to do ‘carefrontation’ instead of confrontation, of listening instead of condemning, of giving instead of receiving. We do not leave alone people with problems but rather accompany them in their struggle in whatever way we can. After all, we are keepers of our brothers and sisters,” Cristy said.
Through Cristy’s initiative and leadership, IYAMAN has so far produced 42 college graduates and 10 current scholars. It provided free board and lodging to 19 graduating students whose families were victims of typhoon Pepeng so that they can graduate on that year.
“The spirit of volunteerism becomes naturally alive amidst difficult situations because people need and rely on each other. Motivated by our concern for one another, we find ways of fraternal correction when somebody errs,” she added.
She also initiated the creation of local and international programs for the youth, professionals and farmers to help them become more productive members of the society. The trainees, volunteers and staff of these programs had opportunities to be exposed in Cambodia, Thailand and Japan which likewise send volunteers to IYAMAN. Cristy also manages the NAMNAMA Family scholarship program that guides and mentors its scholars since 2003. The program has produced 18 graduates and 13 current students.
IYAMAN conducted environmental education activities in 14 elementary schools in Benguet and La Union, conducted medical missions and alternative medicine training that served 3,500 people, trained 11 barangay health workers and provided health apparatus to two barangays. It organized the Sinacbat Organic Farmers Association in Bakun and facilitated the export to Japan of PhP 771,840 worth of their ginger tea products, together with other farmers in Kapangan.
“Volunteerism is fun. One does not know what one will find or will happen next. Often, it makes one realize how blessed he really is. Most of all, the happiness and fulfillment that one gets can never be quantified and paid,” Cristy said.
National Search for the Outstanding Volunteer
Her efforts paid-off well after being nominated and eventually awarded by the Philippine National Volunteers Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) as one of the three recipients of the 2011 National Search for Outstanding Volunteers (adult category).
The PNVSCA is a government agency that promotes and coordinates all volunteer service matters. It was created through Executive Order No. 134 in 1964 to concretize the government’s commitment in adopting volunteerism as a tool for socio-economic development.
Presidential Proclamation No. 55 series of 1998 declared the month of December of every year as National Volunteer Month to make the general public aware and appreciate the essence of volunteerism.
The masterpiece of the NVM celebration is the Search for Outstanding Volunteers in order to highlight and recognize volunteers for their exemplary performance and dedication to service in building strong communities in the country.
The theme of the 2011 search “Build Hope, Change Lives: Volunteer” speaks well of how Cristy provided hope to the IYAMAN clientele in being able to acquire a decent education leading to the opportunity of being employed.
IYAMAN became synonymous to doing service without expecting anything in return. That is the very essence and intrinsic meaning of volunteerism.
“Volunteerism should be more highly regarded because in the midst of all the materialism, there are still people who commit themselves for the welfare of others. In workplaces, volunteering is pervasive that oftentimes it goes unnoticed and unrecognized. Volunteers are indeed our modern-day heroes,” Cristy concluded. Individual and group volunteers from the Cordillera have consistently been winning in the PNVSCA annual national search. In 2010, Marcelo Abela, an active implementor of agricultural cooperativism, was one of PNVSCA’s national awardees. In 2009, Philex Mining Corporation bagged an award for its disaster rescue and retrieval operations in the region and around the country.
Cristy’s work does not only include uplifting the lives of poor people but also in promoting and preserving the indigenous culture of the Cordillera. She is the founding president of Lubong-Baguio, Inc. an organization that aims to produce wholesome movies, theater shows that promote authentic Filipino culture particularly Cordillera values.
In the early 2000s, she took a long leave from her teaching job to work fulltime as a volunteer co-script writer, overall in-charge of pre and post production, and organized community volunteers during the production of the film “Abong” (small home) that was completed in 2002.
“Abong” was the first monumental Igorot feature movie of the Philippines and it was endorsed by the Baguio and Benguet division offices of the Department of Education. It was viewed by 34,677 school children in the Cordillera region, shown in different theaters in Baguio City and Manila, in two Manila film festivals, and 13 international film festivals.