by Gina Cambronero and Genevieve Balance-Kupang

When partner institutions, organizations, and individuals collaborate for a cause, immense joy, and inspiration ooze into the consciousness of a community.

Such was the case during the Cordillera Day Celebration, Storytelling, and Book Donation Turnover Ceremony held last July 15, 2022, at the Bansa Elementary School (BES), Monamon Norte, Bauko District II, Division of Mountain Province. Cordillera Day is a special non-working holiday in commemoration of the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in 1987 thru E.O. 220 signed by former President Corazon Aquino. The book recipients thought it best to hold the fellowship, storytelling, and turnover day on this special holiday.

BES teachers sing the Cordillera Hymn. From L-R: Rosita Angyoc, Celia Payangdo, Analyn Jose, Janet Da-along, Carmencita Ya-os, Lolita Dosalen, Isabel Fao-ilan, Victoria Mangudang, and Rosanna Babkeg.

The ceremony commenced with a prayer by Ms. Janet Da-along, followed by the singing of “Bauko Ever” with Ms. Carmencita Ya-os conducting. The BES teachers welcomed everyone with a song and Mr. Raymundo Bila-o, the PTA president rendered the opening remarks. Then, Ms. Victoria Mangudang, the master of the ceremony called on Dr. Genevieve Balance Kupang, the vice-chair of Sandiwa, Network of Advocates for National Minorities Rights, and Chair of the Special Interest Groups (SIG) of the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction (WCCI) to introduce her Manila-based Sandiwa colleagues.

Gina Cambronero, a Sandiwa trustee introduces her organization saying “Sandiwa is a wide network of IP advocates and institutions serving as a coordinating service center of support for the IPs.”

Kupang ushered in Sandiwa secretariat and trustees Micah Cepeda and Gina Cambronero, and expressed her profound felicitations to the BES stakeholders for their warm welcome and reception as partners in the delivery of educational books and other reading materials in support of the reading engagements of the BES learners. She thanked with joy all those present- Mrs. Isabel Fao-ilan, the principal, the students, the teachers, Mr. Raymundo Bila-o, PTA president, other parents, and barangay officials.

BES stakeholders listen to the storytelling session conducted by Genevieve Kupang.

Love beyond a Magical Trip, beyond a Storybook “Love You Forever”

“Malayo ang mararating ng batang marunong magbasa.”

On filial piety: Dr. Kupang sings Robert Munsch’s ‘I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby, you’ll be’ while the BES stakeholders listen.

The story “Love You Forever” touched the hearts of those present. Some cried, smiled, and laughed at the same time. Some processing and sharing of reflections transpired after. As a response, the principal rejoined “Dr. Gen, I salute and congratulate you for being an outstanding storyteller who can touch the core of the listeners. Sana all, ganyan.”


Matago-tago tako (Long live). The PTA officers and students dance and sing their hearts out.

Principal Isabel L. Fao-ilan and Mrs. Carmencita Ya-os (2nd & 3rd fr. L) pose with Gina Cambronero(L), Dr. Genevieve Balance Kupang (4th from L), and Micah Cepeda (R) after the awarding of certificates and imparting of the message of gratitude and acknowledgment by Mrs. Fao-ilan.

Those Behind the Donations and Shipment

This act of graciousness was not done by one person or one organization alone. It was a loving collaboration of many. Impelled by the love of God and love of neighbor, and belief in the value of the “Brigada Pagbasa,” (reading) among our children, teachers, and parents, an equivalent of the DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Program, this is the second time that such storytelling session and book donation was done in Upper Bauko. Months before this, Kupang and Marichu Cominga spearheaded the delivery of donated books from St. Paul Compound Homeowners Association in Pasig to Sinto Elementary School, Upper Bauko. This one for Bansa started when Venerable Miao Jing Shih, the head abbess of the Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple (FGSMT) called Dr. Kupang and said that they are donating books for the children of her indigenous community. The 531 books, the respectable Venerable said, were courtesy of Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA). She said that the books are good reading materials. Both Kupang and Ven. Miao Jing are core team members of Uniharmony Partners Manila, an interfaith group promoting interreligious dialogue, harmony, and peace.

Because it is still pandemic with restrictions on travel, the Sandiwa team requested Prof. Denis Batoy of the Asian Social Institute (ASI) to have the boxes of books in his office for safekeeping. Thanks to Imelda Perez Tabian of FGSMT for facilitating the transfer from the Mabuhay Temple to ASI. After seeking help from friends and partners to help defray the cost of shipment fees and travel allowance, the magical trip to Bansa from Manila took off. We are expressing our special thanks to Brother Lawrence Aikee Esmeli, FSC, and the De La Salle Health and Medical Sciences Institute, Carole Caparros, Gemma Rivera, Libertine Rose Sanchez, Leonora Sugay, Lanie Garcia, Karen Evardo, and Bernadette Capulong Tia. Infinite gratitude, too, to Sir Bert Cue and Ren-ren Bogen of the Bontoc Transport Services for the kind assistance in transporting the books from Manila to Bansa.

Instant friends among our elders. Sandiwa secretariat Micah Cepeda and Daycare Teacher Marianita Rosario render a song number to celebrate the joy of meeting each other.

The warm reception, storytelling, turnover proper, hearty meal, the gong playing, dancing, singing, awarding of certificates, the exchanges of pleasantries, messages, gratitude, sharing of Pagdadaupang Palad, a Palaw-ani greeting, games, monetary gift-giving to Gideon P. Felix (a student birthday celebrant that day), and energy exchange (sacks of vegetables, delicacy, and boxes of succulents) were all magical. Gina Cambronero, a native of Cebu and first-time visitor to Bansa, Bauko rejoined “For us, the real magic went beyond our trip. It is a travel to our heart, mind, and spirit.

The school principal’s message reverberates in our minds when she said “…What a great blessing from God for making you an instrument of His abundant grace. Thank you for bringing us the ‘Sandiwa Spirit’. Wow, how great is the God who deserves the honor and glory for the strength and life we have? We are blessed by your visit, sharing your resources, talents, and skills. We thank you so much from our hearts.

Well, more and more powerful words were exchanged, and we found reasons to Love and Like them More! Thank you, our partner organizations, and donors for making this engagement possible. Thank you, Bansa Elementary School for the partnership!

The Cordillera hymn goes: “Dreams of peace of oneness and progress, cherished goals our regions’ praises, striving to build brighter dawn, for our children to call their own.” Photo credit: Rossana T. Babkeg

About the Authors:

Gina Cambronero is a Social Development worker serving the marginalized communities of workers, peasants, fisherfolks, and Indigenous Peoples; a former program implementer of UNICEF in Region IV focusing on Women and Children’s concerns. She loves to cook, visit communities, and listen to their stories. She believes that social development is the key to healthy and peaceful living. She regards life as a gift from God and is worth sharing.


Genevieve Balance Kupang is the President of Iyaman Interdisciplinary Research and Development, the vice-chair of Sandiwa, a lay associate of the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue of the CBCP; the chair of the Special Interest Groups of the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction; and an incorporator of the Asian Social Institute.