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STORIES FROM THE FRONTLINES

What does protecting our world mean through the eyes of the youth? 
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Photograph by Missy Patite (Age 11) of the Indigenous Manobo People of the Agusan Marsh. 

Who gets to tell the story? 

Lands inhabited by IPLCs (Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities) contain 80% of our World's biodiversity, with indigenous knowledge systems being key into designing sustainable and resilient climate solutions. But in an age where Indigenous People in the Philippines have also become one of the most marginalized groups in the country, with these knowledge systems threatened to be lost and forgotten, how do we remember? And who gets to tell these stories for remembering

Photograph by Chaychay Fructoso of the Indigenous Manobo People of Agusan Marsh.

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A new generation of Indigenous and Frontline Storytellers.

In the 4 years I was working with different communities across the archipelago, there was a similar thread that weaved them all together. It was very often that I would be handed a book or be told that the information I'm looking for when working with a community was authored by an outsider or foreigner. How strange, I thought! How different would it be if communities were given the agency to document and preserve their own culture, knowledge, and memory themselves? And how would this touch our collective memory if it were remembered this way, where the people who own these stories were also the ones who shared them?

Through the support of the National Geographic Society, we made our way through 3 indigenous and frontline communities where we asked "Why should your home be protected?" and then taught young people from these spaces how to use a film camera to answer the question. 

What came after were these amazing photographs that depicted homes in the community of Lake Mambogongon in the Agusan Marsh as a magical playground between land and water, where children learn how to maneuver a canoe by the age of 3, and live on floating homes in the middle of a magical and mystical marsh. 
 
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Lydian (Age 14) of the Aeta People of the Yangil Tribe , under the community Balete Tree, drawing pictures depicting her home. 
Through the lens of the youth. 

From the magical Agusan Marshlands, we traveled to the north of the Philippine Islands and into the remnants of the infamous volcanic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Here, at the ancestral lands of the Yangil Tribe, where growing forests neighbor rivers of volcanic ash, we asked the youth to show us why their home should be protected. 
 
Children playing at the drop-off point to the Ancestral Lands of the Yangil Tribe. 
We protect playgrounds that have grown from the ashes. We protect places of joy and ancestral knowing.
Self-documentation for a people who have been photographed by outsiders for years offers a new perspective about life as part of the Yangil Tribe, and tells a story through the lens of the youth for what it means to be part of a community who has lived through the experience of the eruption, and are now restoring their ancestral landscape for future generations. 
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Forward in remembering. 

From the Ancestral Lands of the Yangil Tribe, we traveled back south to visit the youth in Siargao Island a few months after Super Typhoon Odette devastated the area. The storm had leveled the island, leaving thousands homeless and without any access to basic resources. In recent years, typhoons have intensified due to warming oceans. with the Philippines steadily becoming one of the most vulnerable countries to the climate crisis.  
 
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"We should protect Siargao becayse tayo lang din naman yung nakikinabang sa kagandahan nito. I live here and therefore, I should take actions to protect Siargao at all cost because it is my home, it is where I find myself happy and proud. I want betterment and development for Siargao in the near future." 
- John Napier, Grade 12, Burgos, Siargao Island

As part of Pasalo Club of Lokal Lab Siargao
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