The Agno River which is Located in the Island of Luzon in the Philippines was adversely affected during the Tailing Spillage of Philex Mines in August 2012. The Agno River originates in the Cordillera Mountains, passes through the low lands in Pangasinan and empties in the South China Sea through the Lingayen Gulf.
During the spillage, one of the affected communities is Pangbesan, Dalupirip, Itogon Benguet. As part of the corporate social responsibility of Philex Mines, they granted scholarship to 81 college students living in Pangbesan.
This is when I was invited to speak about Climate Change Reality in Relation to Education. It was a hard task, for I was asked to encourage the scholars and their parents to be positive in spite of the disaster.
I accepted the invitation in spite of the challenge that I am not that qualified for an inspirational talk but I took the chance to share my passion on Climate Change, also I was once a working scholar for 4.5 years back in college. Below is the full sharing I had to the scholars and their parents:
In the Philippines, climate –related disasters have claimed thousands of lives, destroyed billions worth in property. The grassroots communities such as farmers,women and children, indigenous peoples and the poor population suffer disproportionately because of their low capacity to adapt as a result of chronic poverty and lack of access to social services.
In the Cordillera Administrative Region our issues is more complex and with the kind of geography that we have, it makes us more prone to landslides and flash floods. The natural disasters that we all bravely faced in the past has continued to affect and bury many of us into deeper poverty.
But these disasters have also build us to be stronger in facing these realities of life. As a youth and recognized as the hope of the fatherland, your responsibility to take action is greater as you look forward to what you will offer to the next generations behind you.
Education is your arm, your shield and promise towards a better you, towards a better family status, better community and better world.
A scholarship grant is nothing without you. The opportunity to go to school with the support of your family, the community and your donor, cannot be undervalued
With the kind of educational system in the Philippines, let us say that you are more fortunate compared to others. Across the country, there are schools that lack even the most basic facilities, including running water and electricity.
In southern Philippines, children swim through 2km of swamp to get to class, braving harsh conditions as they strive for a better future. In Beckes, Atok Benguet, little children has to walk an average of four hours a day just to go to school.
Recently, a young college student from the University of the Philippines committed suicide due to lack of enough funds to support her tuition fee. The news had prompted debate, rallies and protest regarding the current educational programs and services of the country. Kristel Tejada and her family had done their very best to find means to pay her tuition fee. But to no avail, Kristel had to give up her only status and pride-being a student. Yes! She cannot accept that she had to surrender her school ID in the middle of the school year. It is heart breaking that she has to take her life. The Filipino youth has cried for her wasted life but may she live with the legacy she left that Education and the welfare of youth should be given top priority.
We cannot afford to have another Kristel Tejada just because of poverty; we wanted you to achieve your dreams and may you take the opportunity of a scholarship program to achieve your dreams.
Find a way not to limit yourselves to classroom studies. Strive to give back to your community or the younger ones looking forward to your success. This scholarship opportunity given does not only strive to send you to school but to expose you to what is out there, to see what’s across the ocean and be able to live life to the fullest. This is also to nurture you to virtues common to humanity: empathy, compassion, responsibility, integrity and service above self.
I was once like you and Ms. Janice Terso who is now a successful professional and Ms. Nathalie Malabato who is now a registered social worker at the same a registered nurse were my colleagues in our struggle to go to school. We are all library working students in Saint Luis University. YES! We have to work to go to school. We struggled even without pocket money or worst, without money for lunch. You will never meet Ms. Janice without her struggles working at the library. Going to university is our only chance and poverty and giving up is not option. When you desire you achieve!
We cling on you, on your education and leadership for the benefit of the seven generations next to you.
May you take the scholarship granted to you more than an opportunity to go to school but for something that is more than that.
I look forward to seeing you on your graduation four to five years from now.
Thank you very much and Good Morning!