“We are very much thankful to ERMFPI and Bato, Leyte LGU for showing us that you care. We learned a lot from all the activities and training you have provided to us, thank you for bringing back our confidence” 

– Vanessa Sabrani

President, Sama-badjao Home-based Women’s Association (SBHWA)

Those were the touching words of Vanessa Sabrani, the President of the SBHWA during her speech in the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. Although the United Nations General Assembly declared Aug. 9 of every year as the day for the World’s IP, this was celebrated in Bato, Leyte on August 26, 2022. Showing tremendous support, the activity was attended by 25 Department of Education Representatives, 25 Municipality of Bato Local Government Representatives, 40 teachers and staff of Bato National High School and 8 ERMFPI staff including the Foundation President. 

Early morning of the 26th, 100 Sama-badjaos excitedly prepared as the event has to start at eight in the morning at Bato National High School Gymnasium. With the theme: “Kasaysayan, Karunungan at Wika ng mga Katutubong Pamayanan: Mga Saligan ng Katutubong Pagkakakilanlan at Tulay tungo sa Inklusibong Kaunlaran”, the event provided a venue for the Sama-badjaos to confidently present their songs and dances and to show to the rest of the world that they have their own colourful customs and traditions that need to be preserved and protected. Despite the struggle for the larger community’s acceptance of the Sama-badjaos, such a celebration broke down barriers between their small community and the people of Bato, Leyte. Now, in its 3rd year, this kind of event was originally organized by ERMFPI in Bato, Leyte and is hoped to continue long after the organization’s exit from the Sama-badjao community.

The event proceeded with words of encouragement by Alex Yundam, a 3rd year college student urging his fellow youths to engage in schooling.

As the event came to an end, ERMFI’s President Mrs. Lucia Estella Grace Abaa thanked the Sama-badjaos for the opportunity to work together for the past four years and encouraged the commitment of the Municipality of Bato to continue what has been initiated in the Sama-badjao community. The Sama-badjao Womne’s Livelihood and Community WASH project will end on Dec. 2022 and it will be the Sama-badjao’s turn to maintain its regular engagement with the Bato LGU and continue its advocacy work to build its capacity and leadership to undertake initiatives for their own community.

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