Kapalong, Davao del Norte (DSWD XI) – Clad in their colorful tribal dresses and accessories, 36 women from the Ata-Manobo tribe proudly received their respective livelihood training certificates during their recent graduation. 

These women are a spectacle in their eye-catching outfits which they crafted with their own hands. Thanks to the 15-day Skills Training and Capability Building on Dressmaking and Beads Crafting for Indigenous Knowledge System Practices (IKSP) provided through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services Payapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn Indigenous People – Community Driven Development (Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA IP-CDD) project.

“In this event, we display our works for the very first time, not only to showcase our output but also to show that Indigenous women are active, capable and should be celebrated as contributors in preserving their tribe’s culture,” said Neybe C. Erlano, 23, one of the graduates.

Dreams and designs

Erlano dreamed of becoming a seamstress and acquiring her own sewing machine. Even with limited means, she found other means to pursue her passion such as sewing clothes using scrap materials.

A mother of two, Erlano is primary responsible for taking care of their children. Her husband earns PhP 200 daily, which is barely enough to buy food and cover expenses needed for their children’s education. The meagre earnings jolted her to also earn to help support their family, which she took to mean helping her spouse in farming and setting aside her dreams of becoming a seamstress.

However, when the Skills Training and Capability Building on Dressmaking and Beadsmaking for Indigenous Knowledge System Practices (IKSP) was offered in their village, Erlano decided to be one of the 36 participants.

Preserving the tribe

Through the years, the Ata-Manobo tribe in Barangay Florida saw declining interest in the cultural heritage and tradition among young people, including fashioning their distinctive embroidery and accessories.

“Pagsulod sa Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA sa among barangay,  among gihandum nga ma preserba and lumadnong kultura ug sining sa among tribo, mahatagan og oportunidad nga ma promote ang kasuotan ug mga beadscraft sa tribong Ata-Manobo, ug makahatag og dugang kahibalo nga magamit ug matudlo namo sa mga musunod nga henerasyon (When Kalahi-CIDSS PAMANA came into our barangay, we were inspired and yearned for our native culture and arts to be preserved, be provided the opportunity to promote our cultural costumes and beads accessories, and endowed with more knowledge which we can use and pass on to the next generation),” Erlano passionately shared.

Advancing IP women

Kalahi-CIDSS IP-CDD aims to deliver basic services to IP communities by supporting the implementation of the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan (ADSDPP), strengthening partnership of local governance institutions and the Indigenous Political Structures (IPS), and building the communities’ resilience to conflict.

This particular sub-project has a grant allocation worth PhP 600,000.00. This covers the provision of sewing machines and dressmaking materials to enable them practice their tradition in dressmaking and expand their livelihood initiatives as they target to display their products in a bigger market. Initially, the sub-project benefits 343 households in the barangay.

The skills training in Barangay Florida is also in partnership with the Local Government Unit (LGU), Public Employment Service Office (PESO), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). The partners provided support in the training design and provision of materials to help participants sustain what they have started.

“The Kalahi-CIDSS program opened my eyes,” declared Erlano. “It transformed IP women into competitive and productive individuals. It not only taught me the importance of livelihood and preserving our tribe’s culture, but it also instilled in us how a skill can be sustained with discipline and focus. Our income can help fulfill our dreams, like putting all our children to school and raising our standard of living.”

Erlando believes that their new skills will lead to women empowerment and contribute tremendously in preserving their tribe’s culture. With the skilled and more knowledgeable women working united, their tribal tradition will flourish definitely even throughout the next generations. (DSWD)