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IP youth leader: Champion of IP youth, rights

Born and raised in an indigenous peoples (IP) community, Ian Daniel Geslaga is all out in ensuring that his tribe flourishes and his tribesmen are well-recognized.

At a young age, Ian, as he is fondly called by his peers, founded the University of Southern Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Association (USMIPA) in an aim to highlight the voices and contributions of IP students in the academe.

“My aim of founding the association is not only for IP recognition but also for IP education by equipping IP students with knowledge on their rights and privileges,” the young founder stated adding that by far, this is the most significant volunteer activity he did.

The very first duly accredited IP organization in the university has 250 members, who, in one way or another, help Ian in conducting volunteer activities.

Among his volunteer activities were repacking of food packs for victims of the 2019 series of earthquakes in Cotabato Province, distribution of hygiene kits to students with special needs in USM, distribution of meals for less fortunate students, and assistance to the university’s student help desk and activities of the National Training Service Program (NSTP) beyond his year as an NSTP student.

Ian also lobbied for the 10-peso fare decrease in passenger vehicles traversing Carmen to Kabacan and vice-versa following the fare increase due to the pandemic. Such move is now enjoyed not just by students but also by senior citizens.

Meanwhile, in his community, Barangay Liliongan in the municipality of Carmen, aside from being an active volunteer in different community activities, Ian helped over 1,000 IP youth to be registered with COMELEC. He also conducted several IP assemblies and workshops on IPRA Law and other topics concerning indigenous tribe.

When asked about how he feels as a volunteer, Ian proudly said it is physically draining yet the fulfillment it brings re-energizes him. He is thankful that the course he took up is aligned with his passion. With this, Ian was able to manage his time as a Development Communication student, and at the same time student volunteer. In fact, the young volunteer graduated with Latin honors.

The young volunteer, a proud member of the Erumenen ne Menuvu, believes that championing the IP youth is one way of uplifting the morale and defending and preserving the IP culture and their rights.

Currently, Ian is working on another project for the benefit of his fellow IP youth. He authored a proposed ordinance on the mandatory representation of IP youth in the special bodies of local government units. It is a move he optimistically sees that can further give the IP, especially the youth, a stronger grip of their rights, and a louder voice for representation. (PIAX II)

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Shahana Joy Duerme

Writer

Region 12

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