A non-profit and church-based organization in Brooke’s Point has extended efforts to develop and unleash the potentials of young Pala’wan indigenous peoples (IP) in culture and arts while their activities are limited due to the pandemic.
Rin Motin and Apol Cuevas, both members of Rod & Staff Community Connections, started to assist the IP community of Sitio Bilang-Bilang, Barangay Salugon, Brooke’s Point since March 2019 through community development efforts.
As a church-based organization working in different areas of the country, like the Bicol region, Isabela, and Bataan, the focus of their group is to assist the development of the community in a holistic approach.
They aim to re-orient the community in the essence of family, assisting them to attain a sustainable livelihood, and developing their personalities such as working on their potentials and talents.
Motin and Cuevas took the opportunity to teach the IP youths arts and English subjects starting the month of July this year.
Motin, a freelance visual artist, observed that the Pala’wan youths are more engaged with the arts as their classes continue.
“Nag-start talaga ‘yong idea ng art class dahil nga nakita namin na wala namang klase yong mga bata. Gusto namin na maging productive ‘yong time ng mga bata, they will learn something new kahit wala sila sa school,” Motin said.
“Ang first ko na tinuro ay basics lang din, kung paano mag-mix ng color, in-introduce ko sa kanila ‘yong primary colors tapos nagbigay lang kami ng concept o gagayahan nila. Habang tumatagal ‘yong duration ng aming painting class, nag-i-improve sila,” she added.
The theme of their artworks revolves around their daily lives such as the scenery in their community, natural resources, their activities, and expressing themselves.
Motin and Cuevas conducted an art class with 25 to 30 participants from ages four to 18 years old every Saturday.
After the series of art classes in July, the local government unit and the Rod & Staff Community Connections decided to showcase their artworks through an art exhibit in line with the celebration of the Indigenous People’s (IP) Month on October 29.
Motin said they pushed the first IP art exhibit in Brooke’s Point after seeing the potentials of young artists in expressing their subjects through pieces of paintings.
She highlighted that the goal of the art classes and art exhibit will not limit to just showcasing their art pieces; the paintings displayed by the IP young artists will be sold and the proceeds will directly go to them as their earnings.
“Ang pinaka-goal sa mga bata na tinuturuan ng art class ay mas ma-cultivate ‘yong kanilang talents sa arts. At the same time, hindi lang ma-cultivate, but through that arts or arts class ay mas mapangalagaan ang kanilang kultura’t tradisyon kasi mas gusto namin na ma-showcase ang buhay nila ron at ma-promote din ang lugar nila at eventually hindi lang makatulong sa bata pati sa family nila at community nila,” she said.
With the IP Month’s theme “Correcting Historical Issues and Injustices on Indigenous People”, participants were encouraged to put their stories of struggles and social injustices such as unequal treatment towards them through paintings.
Motin said that the art exhibit was also funded and supported by the municipal government.
Those paintings produced by the IP youths are sold online and the proceeds will directly go to the artist.
Motin said that the pricing was based on the sizing and material through the help of her fellow artists. Out of 59 pieces of paintings, 22 percent or 13 of them were already sold to interested buyers.
“Yong mga mabibili ay diretsong pupunta sa artists iyong proceeds. Kung sino nag-paint, sa kanya didiretso. Kung sakali na hindi mabenta ang kanilang paintings, ang sinabi namin ay ibabalik namin sa kanila ‘yong artworks,” she said.
Aside from the art exhibit, their group also gave a portrait copy to 10 IP families to help them value the essence of family bonds even in their far-flung area.
Cuevas, a registered social worker, believes that helping local youths in providing exposure and platform to their artworks would help them more to discover their selves and their hidden talents.
Their group would like to see that the art could also help to boost the confidence and self-esteem of the IP youth in Sitio Bilang-Bilang.
“Makakatulong din ito sa kanilang self-confidence, self-esteem. Gusto rin namin i-highlight na there is a creator na nagbigay niyan, kailangan nila pagyamanin at maging good steward ng binigay sa inyo ng Panginoon. Makita rin nila na ang master artist talaga ay ang Lord,” Cuevas said.
Cuevas and Motin both expressed their joy to see that in a short span of time, the young artists have improved from just teaching them the basics of paintings and providing visual materials as their reference. They have observed that there is a great chance to produce local artists from the Pala’wan ethnic tribe.
“Nakakatuwa kasi nakita namin na yong mga itinuro sa kanila, basic lang din itinuro sa kanila pero nagugulat kami na ang galing. Papakitaan sila ng kaunting art video sample pero nakukuha nila, kaya sinabihan namin sila why not discover niyo kung anong meron sa paligid niyo, iyon ang gamitin niyo,” Cuevas said.
Both of them are still uncertain about when they will leave the community but they would like to assure that they could leave a sustainable development to the area before their assistance ends in Sitio Bilang-Bilang.
“Na-discover namin na ang Sitio Bilang-Bilang, ang meaning pala noon ay mint leaf, kaya pala pinangalan doon ay maraming mint leaf doon. Noong na-discover namin iyon, pinaalam namin sa community na hindi niyo ba alam na pwede pagkakitaan iyon. Dahil nagbago na ‘yong community, parang very limited na lang ‘yong mint leaf na nakatanim so ini-encourage namin na magtanim pa rin sila para pwede nila uli pagkakitaan at matulungan namin sila,” she said.
Aside from unleashing the inner artistic selves of the Pala’wan youths, Motin and Cuevas both aim to help the community grow and develop.
Rod & Staff Community Connections also plans to establish a water system and assist them with gardening at their own backyards for their consumption and source of livelihood in partnership with the local government unit of Brooke’s Point.