I am Mark Amban and I am a Lumad.
The school community where I belong to is a microcosm of the whole community of Baguio District– a melting pot of culture where students of diverse cultural backgrounds interact with each other and create a rich blend of culture and history. The place is mostly inhabited by the Indigenous Peoples (IP) who, for such a long time, have been plagued by poverty and discrimination. Most of us do not have the same amount of opportunities enjoyed by others. Due to poverty, most of the IP students could not pursue their college education. Some of us who were fortunate to receive assistance to go to school had to overcome all sorts of discrimination for being a lumad. I had to prove to my fellow Ateneans that lumads have great minds and I am glad that I have proven that a lumad like me can successfully graduate as Cum Laude.
I could not certainly have gone this far without those people who unselfishly extended their never-ending support to me and my fellow scholars. Thanks to organizations like Aboitiz Foundation through the Davao Light and Power Company which have benevolently extended financial support to IP students, more IPs are now able to go to college, eventually graduated, and landed in good jobs, thereby helping their families and communities. The support they gave, which was coursed through the Mindanawon Initiatives for Cultural Dialogue of the Ateneo de Davao University, was used to pay the scholars’ tuition and miscellanous fees, board and lodging expenses, book allowances, among others. This has been enabling scholars to survive our college education and successfully brought us far to where we are. With the support and hope given, most of the katutubo are now more determined to study to have a brighter future for themselves and their families.
Now I am a public school teacher. This is my way of giving back, my way of showing gratitude to the people who helped and believed in me. I will never stop educating my fellow Indigenous People so that in time, the best legacy that they can give to their children is also education. Just as I have passed on to my brother and sister the importance of education so can my students to their children and future grandchildren.
I have a dream that one day all the people in our community will be educated and freed from ignorance and poverty. I want to make our community a better place to live in– where people dwell in peace and harmony while preserving our rich culture and tradition, where people enjoy the beauty and lushness of our nature while protecting our environment, where people are given fair and equal chances of developing their potentials to make their lives better and uplift their socio-economic status. I believe that this can only be made possible through the right amount of education.
To my fellow IPs, I hope that you will break the cycle of poverty by pursuing your studies. Explore possibilities and go beyond the limits. You are meant for greater things.
To all of us Filipinos, I hope we open our hearts. I hope we open up doors of opportunities for our IP students and help bring out the best in them. Surely, with all of us working together, this world will be a better place for all.