Through the Community Extension and Outreach Programs Office of Saint Louis University, a team of passionate and dauntless individuals embarked on a journey on November 16, 2022 that aimed to unearth some pressing issues and concerns affecting the lives of Iwak Tribe in a far-flung barangay situated in Sitio Domolpos, Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet. The Iwak community consists of the elderly or senior citizens, non-working parents, unemployed adults, and of course, not to be left behind, the youth or kabataan.
The team was divided into three and then assigned specific roles to ensure that all essential information, every minute detail, from every sector was extracted through the second stage of the Community Engagement System of SLU called “Paglusong: A Rapid Rural Appraisal.”
The trip, though long, winding and, quite perilous, did not hamper the spirit of the “Binnadang” team that was composed of representatives from the Basic Education School, Annie Joy Castillo and John Vincent Capanang, and the Tertiary Level.
Representatives from the Tertiary Level include Caroline Bautista (Associate Dean of the School of Engineering and Architecture), Norman Elpa, Jr. (Physical Education Department, School of Teacher Education and Liberal Arts), Dr. Sheila Magat (Professional Education Department), Andrea Clabson (Religion Department), Labrador Cobcobo (National Service Training Program), Nigel Milo and Alfrando Caluza (School of Nursing, Allied Health and Biological Sciences), Junalyn Farnican (School of Law), Lurie Jane Lingayo (Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Parish), Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Enjang, CICM (Sunflower and Half Way Home for the Boys); Jerome Jocson, RB Angelo Padilla, and Mac Francis Balatba (Jesus, Others, and You student organization), Alvin Cruz (Office of the Student Affairs), and Charmaine Mendoza, the Director of the Community Extension and Outreach Programs Office.
Reaching this place was a big challenge considering that one has to be physically and mentally prepared to endure and quickly adapt to the environment and people in general. But the moment they reached their destination, it was as if they were transported into a different dimension.
Sitio Domolpos was a walk in the clouds because the calm and cool wind enveloped them as they traversed. In due time, the team found themselves amidst the amiable inhabitants. Almost instantly, they initiated the needed conversation, followed by the exchange of pleasantries.
Through the participatory approach called the “Rapid Rural Appraisal,” the benevolent Binnadang team began probing through each conversation. As expected, they heard and found out the problems that had been besetting the tribe since time immemorial, including the reasons why these issues were not addressed to this day. The team got what they needed to move on to the project’s next phase.
To highlight the activity, a Holy Mass celebration was held and was presided by the spirited Rev. Fr. Emanuel Enjang, CICM from the Sunflower and Half Way Home for the Boys. With the day’s events, the team is optimistic as they rekindle the love for the Eucharist within the hearts of the participants, something that was “put off” by unforeseen circumstances.
Having been captivated by the day’s activities, time went by so quickly for the warm-hearted volunteers. These compassionate individuals headed home exhausted, nonetheless extremely happy and content with the amazing accomplishment that was indeed a feat to reckon with. Matago-tago tako am-in!