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Branches of hope for Cordillera youth

Kathleen A. Llemit

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It was a date that was for the long haul. Wryneth Gay Mayapit was just supposed to meet this “Japanese” in a popular fast food chain after being told by her college theater music director, Edgar Banasan, that he wanted her to meet this particular Japanese.

They are the trio behind Edaya, a social innovation and creative education and design project with bases in Baguio Kalinga and Japan

She was taking up social anthropology at the University of the Philippines in Baguio. While at university, she signed up in a community theater group managed by a Japanese NGO.

BAMBOO craftsmanship is among the core teachings of EDAYA.

Mayapit had always been into the Japanese culture, having grown up in a home that hosted Japanese students who visit Sagada.

“I thought he was matchmaking me with a Japanese guy,” she recalled, laughing.

The “date,” however, turned out to be her introduction to a concept she would come to be passionate about. And the Japanese turned out to be a girl named Ayaka Yamashita.

A week after, she finally said yes to Ayaka’s proposal.

That was in 2014. Today, Mayapit, Yamashita and Banasan are the threesome who are like branches that spread out to as far as they could reach.

EDUCATION is key to a better future for these youth.

As a representative of their program, a combination of the Japanese word “Eda,” which means “branch,” and “Edaya,” a Kalinga word that means “spirit from the East,” they are the trio behind EDAYA, a social innovation and creative education and design project with bases in Baguio, Kalinga and Japan.

Training the future
Mayapit, 25, is the youngest addition to the group. She is currently its program manager.

The duo’s coming together in 2012 was in sync, much like the perfectly tuned bamboo musical instruments for which EDAYA is known.

Yamashita is a designer and researcher who is a graduate of the University of Tokyo. She was visiting the Philippines doing her research for her master’s thesis on the “deplorable mining conditions” in the country when she met Banasan. Banasan is a Kalinga native and a renowned Cordilleran artist and craftsman whose bamboo works and installations have been displayed in prominent areas in the region.

MAYAPIT during the BPI Sinag Accelerate Top 10 awarding ceremony.

In 2015, EDAYA would soon expand its reach. It came about when they were in one of their EDAYA Journeys, a series of community-based research that aims to understand why a certain group of people behave the way they do.

During one of those sessions, Mayapit shared on her interaction with a Kalinga woman who was a mother of eight. Three of her children had died because of mine-blasting while the other two perished to pneumonia. When asked what made her happy, the woman could only utter her wishful thinking: to be able to send her children to school and to have enough money for emergency health situations.

“When I joined EDAYA, I really pushed for youth integration. That’s my passion,” Mayapit shared.

Stories such as this made them create EDAYA Education, a social enterprise training program for the youth of the Cordillera.

“I don’t know if it’s true in the entire Phiippines, but the mindset in the Cordillera is: we are always told by our parents to study hard, get good grades and find a job in a big company because that’s the only way that we can be successful. But the quality of education in Cordillera is very low. A lot of young people don’t get jobs in big companies. So we started to introduce EDAYA Education as a way to engage young people to make things happen and to create jobs for the community as well,” Mayapit explained.

They’ve had two batches of graduates under EDAYA Education. The graduates undergo a six-month intensive program that offers crash courses on social entrepreneurship, leadership, Information Technology, finance, creativity and design-thinking with the goal of training them to become the “next generation community leaders and agents of change.”

They do not have a classroom setup but are able to provide a creative space where the lessons and workshops are taught. All successfully screened students get free training and food while on the course program.

Last year, EDAYA Education was among the 10 BPI Sinag Accelerate awardees. As an awardee, they were given a P100,000 cash grant. Mayapit said they used it for their homestay communities, a part of the next phase for EDAYA.

Next phase: Tourism education
Tahanan is an ecotourism and cultural immersion homestay program. Mayapit said it is the spinoff of their Education program. The graduates of the second batch are now being trained as managers of these homestays.

“We want to redesign the face of mass tourism. I’m from Sagada. I’ve seen how Sagada grew from a little town to what it is now. I see the adverse effects of the booming tourism and I don’t want tourism to rape other communities. This is what we’re trying to work on now,” she shared.

Sagada is a town famous for its hanging coffins. It recently became popular after Mt. Kiltepan, a dreamy highland escape enveloped by clouds on a fine day, was featured in a hit romantic-comedy film.

Reports of overcrowded roads and littering in the mountain surfaced last year after the film was shown.

“The goal of the program is really not for them to establish their own social enterprise but for them to gain the skills of a social entrepreneur and apply these in their chosen careers,” Mayapit said.

She continued, “I believe in the potential of the young people. Let me share a famous quote. ‘We do not inherit a world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ So the ones who will live in whatever’s left in the future are the young people. I want the young people to be involved in crafting a world they want to live in, in crafting communities that they will be proud of.”

Indeed, as their social enterprise’s name suggests, the trio’s coming together and extending their arms for a social cause is for the long haul.

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