Sharing the Joy of Learning with Fellow Iraya-Mangyans

Dona Garcia and Henia Pampilo from the indigenous Iraya-Mangyan community in Talipanan, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro are licensed teachers. Dona Garcia and Henia Pampilo from the indigenous Iraya-Mangyan community in Talipanan, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro are now licensed teachers.

In a small village in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, two Iraya-Mangyan girls dreamed of helping their community and their families.

They wanted to help their families and community by becoming teachers—sharing the gift of education with other Mangyan children, and sharing simple joys with their parents, like taking them on trips outside their village, including Calapan and Tagaytay, places they’d visited as students.

Dona Garcia (24 years old) and Henia Pampilo (21 years old) are part of the indigenous Iraya-Mangyan community in Talipanan, Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro. They recently passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET), bringing a lot of pride to their village.

Both drew their inspiration from teachers they met when they were still students at the Talipanan Mangyan Elementary School. Seeing their own teachers interact with young Mangyan students made them want to pursue the profession.

“Every time I saw my teacher in front of the class, I looked up at her, and I really saw how passionate she was,” shared Henia. It’s the kind of passion, she said, that she would like to share with other Mangyan students.

For many years Ayala Foundation has been committed to the education and skills training of Iraya-Mangyans in Puerto Galera. With the assistance of the Sisters of Charity of St. Anne, Mangyan children and youth receive early childhood care, as well as education and feeding assistance.

Henia and Dona were both scholars of Ayala Foundation from their grade school days up until college. They graduated from the Prince of Peace College, also in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.

“We are very thankful for the scholarship, if it weren’t for that, we would not be able to go to school,” said Dona. “We had to study hard so that we can move forward and live a better life.”

And the value of hard work is still with them, now that they are teachers.

Dona is a kindergarten teacher at the Talipanan Mangyan School, the very school where she first found inspiration to become a teacher.

Henia teaches at the Ambang Mangyan School in Barangay Villaflor, located at the opposite end of Puerto Galera. It takes her an hour’s walk, and a couple of jeepney and tricycle rides to get to school. She stays in a house provided for the teachers during the week, and returns home every weekend.

The two-hour travel and staying away from home are worth it, Henia shared.

“It’s worth it. It’s really great to teach Mangyans, because we are all the same—we share the same heart,” she said.

During the summer break, Henia and Dona spent time in their village, helping their families weave traditional “nito baskets.” The nito baskets carry an intricate woven pattern that is unique to the Iraya-Mangyan. The weaving practice, they say, has been with them since they can remember. Ayala Foundation, under its Sustainable Livelihood pillar, supports the Iraya-Mangyan’s tradition of weaving.

Henia and Dona look forward to the day they will become regular members of the Department of Education’s teaching force. Once they are regular teachers, they said they would plan to proceed with their graduate studies and take up a master’s degree in education.

Five years from now, both dream of becoming competent teachers that inspire more Mangyan students to dream big and follow their dreams.

“Our dream for every Mangyan student is that they achieve dream and succeed in life by working towards the careers they want to have in life,” said Dona.

“We hope we can be an inspiration to all of them—that dreams do come true,” added Henia.

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