Indigenous Peoples displayed their products as outputs of their partnership with Tarlac State University and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) during the culminating activity of the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) project on Wednesday morning (July 26), held at the TSU Hotel Function Room in Lucinda Campus.
CEST is a DOST-funded project that started in 2018, where Sen. Joel Villanueva played an essential role in pushing for its budget allocation. It has assisted over 83 municipalities nationwide, of which 13 are from Tarlac Province, and has also reached 39 barangays, where 29 are occupied by IPs.
The "Value Chain Commodity Development through CEST Program for Indigenous People in Tarlac" project is a two-year long-term extension initiative with the San Clemente, Mayantoc, Bamban, and San Jose municipalities that started last July 1, 2021.
"Nung hinandle ko yung CEST noong 2018, this is not a job; this is something you find in your heart, the passion to help. Because if you do not have that passion, hindi ka tatagal sa Community Empowerment through Science and Technology. 'Yung mga pinupuntahang community, uplands, islands – it is part of our jobs. 'Yung ngiti ng mga benepisyaryo, that’s the greatest consolation that we get dito sa aming propesyon,” CEST Head Ms. Janice Martinez, who represented DOST III Regional Director Dr. Julius Caesar Sicat, said in her speech.
As the CEST aims to build a sustainable and resilient community by reinforcing efforts to alleviate poverty and improve the standard of living of the IPs in selected Tarlac municipalities, Ms. Martinez hopes that the beneficiaries can now stand alone in terms of the livelihood they have started through the project.
“This is a ceremony that we are passing the torch. Ipinapasa na namin 'yung responsibilidad after ng ginawa ng TSU at DOST na ibigay 'yung mga kaalaman at mga trainings, skills, ibigay ang mga kagamitan sa inyo. Ito na po ang pagkakataon upang gamitin natin, pagyamanin natin, lahat ng natutunan natin na ibinigay ng DOST at TSU sa inyo,” Ms. Martinez added.
According to DOST PSTC-Tarlac Provincial Director Ms. Karen Dañez, the beneficiaries were given a business operation guide, a recipe process, a food hygiene guide, and other instructions they might need to review occasionally.
Meanwhile, Remy Tolentino, barangay councilor of San Vicente, Bamban town, shared that IPs in their place learned how to process their produce into banana chips and turmeric powder and make empanadas with sweet potatoes. The beneficiaries were also taught how to come up with more artistic bamboo handicrafts like coin banks, tissue holders, and pencil holders.
According to Office of Extension Services Director Dr. Lea Milan, also the assistant project leader, CEST is the third DOST-funded project implemented in TSU with the help of Dr. Brendalyn Manzano, its project leader, who presented the project outputs of the beneficiaries and municipalities.
San Clemente town mayor Elma Macadamia lauded the DOST project that will become a source of livelihood for the Aetas in their community in Dueg.
“Alam niyo po, napakahirap po ng buhay nila doon. At bilang fifth class municipality, hindi po namin kayang i-sustain ang kanilang hanapbuhay. Pero dahil sa mga trainings na ibinibigay ng DOST kasama po ng TSU team, talagang ma-alleviate po ang kanilang pamumuhay. Sana, mga kaibigang mga IPs, sana ipagpatuloy natin. Hindi ngayon lang magpupursige, sana forever niyo na itong gagamitin,” Mayor Macadamia said.
In a statement of commitment to sustaining CEST, Mayantoc town councilor Dario Jose also commended and thanked DOST and TSU, who taught them how to pulverize turmeric, which they could sell in the market.
“Dati pinapabayaan lang po namin 'yung turmeric dahil hindi po namin itinatanim 'yan. Kusa po 'yang tumutubo sa kabundukan. 'Di po namin pinapasnin. Pero ngayon, ang mga katutubo po ng Mayantoc, pinag-aagawan po nilang bunutin dahil nakita po nila 'yung kahalagahan at teknolohiya na aming gagawin po sa aming pamumuhay araw-araw," Jose said.
Representing Vice President for Research Development and Extension Dr. Murphy Mohammed, Dr. Cynthia Quiambao, Center for Community and Local Governance Studies and Policy Development Director, also extended her gratitude for the opportunity to help uplift a part of the IPs' lives.
“Hindi po suporta lang ang ibinibigay namin sa inyo kundi maging ang aming taos pusong pasasalamat kasi po naging bahagi po kayo ng aming pagkahinog bilang isang mamamayang Pilipino... Tarlac State University will continue to commit, to engage, and to sustain as your team partner,” Dr. Quiambao said as a message of support. (jlmm-OPA)
Photos by Jodie Andrea G. Pangilinan