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Roselyn and Lovelen: Representing the Philippines as Champions of Disaster Risk Reduction

This year at the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction hosted by Australia in Brisbane, two Filipino women representing the marginalized and vulnerable sections of Philippine society were invited to present their contributions towards achieving disaster resilience.

Let us get to know Roselyn Lagingling Castro and Lovelen Cadagdagan and how their stories are our stories, as the Asia Pacific region is one of the most affected by intensifying tropical cyclones and more frequent drought conditions attributed to global warming and climate change. The Philippines in particular was listed as the most disaster-prone country in the World Risk Index 2021.

Roselyn and Lovelen are both innovators of the Pinnovation Academy, a community-led innovation project being implemented by the Center for Disaster Preparedness in partnership with ELRHA, Asia Disaster Reduction and Response Network, and START Network. Its goal is to institutionalize local innovative DRR solutions in the Philippines.

Roselyn, representing the indigenous Tigwahanon Manobo people

Roselyn Lagingling Castro was a finalist in the Asian Local Leaders Forum for Disaster Resilience (ALL4DR). This is a common platform to recognize, enhance and link the power of local leadership from elective representatives to community volunteers. Roselyn’s award was received by the Center for Disaster Preparedness as she was not able to attend due to problems with the release of her passport.

Roselyn is a sophomore student taking up Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at the Valencia Colleges in the province of Bukidnon of the island of Mindanao. She is a member of the indigenous group Tigwahanon Manobo, who live in the Northern Pantaron mountain range, which hosts their ancestral domain covering 1,436 hectares of mostly forest land.

“I consider myself an advocate for environment and wildlife conservation. This is how I ended up as one of the community innovators developing an innovative solution for DRR,” Roselyn shares.

Together with the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), Roselyn is part of a group working on the prototyping and testing of the innovative solution entitled “Alternative Learning Modality for Indigenous Stewards into Transformative and Operational Community/ forest-based DRRM system (ALISTO)”.

ALISTO, as a community-led innovation project, combines the time-tested knowledge and strategies employed by the Tigwahanon in forest protection and management with standard scientific methods to train community-based forest guards. The innovation prototyping process involves the following:

  • Study of the current forest protection and management processes as part of forest guard training manuals;

  • Review of Tigwahanon’s traditional practices on forest protection and management since pre-colonial time; and

  • Integrate the indigenous practices into the “scientific” processes of forest management, as discussed in the current curriculum being used to train forest guards.

This is how Roselyn describes her role in the innovation development, from prototyping to testing of their product: “I facilitated the DRRM planning of our ancestral domain with the objective in mind to harness our unique, culture and tradition, reducing disaster risk and increasing the community’s resilience to disaster. After that, I led the documentation of our indigenous knowledge systems and practices related to disaster. We developed a curriculum in collaboration with different agencies like the Local Health Office, Local Tourism, National Commission in Indigenous People (NCIP), and the TESDA.”

TESDA or officially the Technical Education Skills Development Agency is the Philippine government agency that is mandated to provide technical and vocational training to priority populations and groups, which include the indigenous peoples. Those who did not have the financial capability to attend university were invited to apply to certificate courses that would qualify them for specific, high-demand jobs such as welders, hotel staff, and of course, in this case, forest guards. TESDA’s main involvement with ALISTO is that it hosts the testing of the curriculum prototype.

Roselyn, amidst the challenges of discrimination, cultural differences, and language difficulties is able to lead her tribe in the formulation of the forest guarding module. Indigenous people’s traditional practices in the protection of the environment will now be integrated into the mainstream forest guarding module. To make this accessible to their tribe, the forest guarding training materials will be translated into the Tigwahanon tongue.

Aside from being a member of the Pinnovation Academy community innovators’ pool, Roselyn manages the livelihood outputs of their women and promotes their products on social media. She wishes that more indigenous women like her will be empowered and given a voice and the opportunity to have a voice in decision-making and policy-making.

Lovelen, representing the youth of an island community

Lovelen Cadagdagan is a senior Education student at Northern Iloilo State University. She is one of the leaders of Salingsing Youth Organization (SaYO), a group of teenagers and young people from the small island of Calagnaan, in the municipality of Carles, Iloilo. The island is small and only has a population of about 900 spread out in 5 barangays

After Typhoon Haiyan wrought catastrophic destruction to Calagnaan, SaYO became one of the partners of UNICEF in its child-centered disaster risk reduction (CCDRR) program. She was one of the trainees and ever since has become one of the most active leaders in her community when it comes to CCDRR.

“To represent the voice of children and youth internationally is a great pride and honor. During my first day in Brisbane, I found myself discussing to an audience from different countries why children should have the right to participate in decision making and not merely a vulnerable sector that needs to be protected,” Lovelen says.

Lovelen (left) during her talk at the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference Disaster Risk Reduction 2022. Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane on September 22, 2022. Photo was taken by Patrick Hamilton.

SaYO is also one of the 18 people’s organizations supported by the Pinnovation Academy. It is currently testing a series of short films and vlogs that they wrote, shot, and directed on the island.

Lovelen tells us that she was able to deliver a 15-minute speech to the international community attending the APMCDRR, sharing their experiences in implementing the School Hydrometeorological Information Network (SHINe), which they developed with UNICEF. In subsequent interviews, she also talked about their innovation development project and how it naturally enhanced their CCDRR training and gave them municipal and national exposure and reach.

Lovelen (bottom leftmost) together with fellow sharers at the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference Disaster Risk Reduction 2022. Photo was taken by Patrick Hamilton.

Lovelen lists down 5 lessons and insights that she had after attending the APMCDRR.

  1. An improved social infrastructure for women and girls and other vulnerable sectors at local levels means that local context is considered, and local participation is promoted.

  2. Technology must be harnessed as a helpful tool to reach certain populations and get their demographic data to design proactive disaster resilience strategies.

  3. Solutions that are practical and grassroots-based, such household-level capacity building in DRRM, should be developed.

  4. Resilience is everyone’s business, therefore more inclusive conversations and partnerships must be built between community-based organizations, multi-sectoral regional and national partners, and international partners.

  5. Building climate-smart schools produce students who will work towards disaster resilience, especially in islands affected by seawater level rise and other impacts of climate change.

Lovelen concludes that participatory and anticipatory actions for young islanders like her can be enhanced by the support for locally-led adaptation solutions.

The Future DRRM Champions of the Philippines

Roselyn, a member of an indigenous group with an ancient history and tradition of disaster resilience, and Lovelen, a young woman from an island community, reveal the identity of DRR champions in the Philippines. They are the empowered and educated young people who will carry on the advocacy towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals and beyond.

APMCDRR’s recognition shows true representation and inclusivity. Roselyn and Lovelen’s communities are blessed for having young DRR Champions who continue to inspire other members of the vulnerable groups to be empowered; survive and bounce back better, faster, and stronger.



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