Indigenous – a term that refers to something that is native; something that originates or occurs naturally in a particular place. This also applies to our dreams. As human beings, it is natural for us to dream and aspire for something that we long to achieve. Others achieve their hearts’ desires easily, while others find it a little harder to achieve.
In a society where resources are limited, it is inevitable that some have some, and some have more. Indigenous tribes in the country are undoubtedly a sector that has less in life. In most cases, other than having very little in resources, they are most often victims of bullying and discrimination.
Such is the experience of Bernadette K. Sulayman – a young and intelligent lady that belongs to the Sama Laminusa tribe, one of the indigenous peoples tribes that originates in Siasi, Sulu in Mindanao. As a child, Bernadette has been the center of mockery and bullying by children in school primarily because of her affiliation to the tribe.
The common issue that is thrown to ridicule her is that their tribe is not civilized enough, that they do not know how to use footwears, or that they stink. Young Bernadette could not help but think that the society is cruel for inflicting such a judgment and pain especially to an adolescent mind like hers.
Because of these judgments towards their people, Bernadette became even more eager to prove herself, her worth, and her value to the society.
“Lagi akong nananampalataya na magkaroon ako ng pagkakataon na makapag-aral, (I always pray that I will be given the opportunity to go to school,)” says Bernadette.
Providentially, came the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The 4Ps is the country’s human capital investment program that invests in the education and health of the poorest of the poor families. It ensures that the poor children are healthy and in school.
Bernadette and her family then became a beneficiary of the 4Ps. Her attendance to school is monitored by her City Link, Myra Cadir Lakibul in coordination with the Department of education.
Because of this support, she became more driven to do better in school, probably even better than most kids in the school that she was enrolled in.
This renewed energy fueled her determination to finish her education, not to mention with flying colors. She was awarded with a With Honor distinction in junior high school and finished at the top of her class in Senior High School.
Top 1. Who would ever thought that this Sama girl who was once called less civilized will emerge on top of all the students in her class? Certainly, not the bullies. But Bernadette believed in herself and her dream. She believes that given the opportunity and access, indigenous tribes can go at par with the urban kids in terms of competitiveness. The 4Ps believes that every child has the right to education and therefore must be provided with aid for them to exercise such right. This story is a testament to what the 4Ps program stands for.
Because of her experience in her childhood and learning the value of education, Bernadette decided to pursue a path towards helping children shape their minds and values. She took up Bachelor of Secondary Education in her dream of becoming a teacher.
Just last year, Bernadette marched down the aisle at the MCLL Gymnasium as she was presented with a Cum Laude distinction during the commencement exercises of Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology.
In a written testimony, Bernadette expressed gratitude to her City Link, Myra Cadir Lakibul, for the interventions and guided provided to her and her family as well. As a beneficiary of the 4Ps, Myra constantly monitors the well-being of the family and looks out for social services that can address the needs of the Sulayman family.
“Malaki ang naging tulong ni Ma’am Myra cadir Lakibul sa aming pamilya simula noong naging miyembro kami ng 4Ps. (Ma’am Myra has helped us a lot since we became members of the 4Ps,)” Bernadette wrote.
Likewise, she also expressed gratitude to the DSWD for the interventions it provided to the entire family. Bernadette’s brother, Alfredo K. Sulayman, also became part of the Expanded Students Grant-In aid Program for Poverty Alleviation or ESGP-PA. Alfredo passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers and now works at Brent Colleges, Inc.
The ESG-PPA was a scholarship program under the DSWD that provides educational assistance to poor yet deserving students. The program has been transferred to the Commission on Higher Education and improved to what we know now as UNIFAST.
Truly, no matter how far from the civilization we are, if we have the determination to break the cycle of poverty and we work hard to achieve our goals in life, we could be part of a developing society. This story, as well as many other stories that feature the uniqueness, diversity, talents, and capability of our indigenous people serve as inspiration to everyone regardless of their strata in life. A dream does not choose. There is always one for each of us.