First Mangyan with a PhD
Last Sept. 3, the municipal council of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro honored one of its citizens, Emmanuel Guarde, an Alangan Mangyan from Paitan, a reservation area where the town’s indigenous community lives.
The citation read: “Paggagawad ng resolusyong nagpapahayag ng pagbati at pagkilala kay Emmanuel D. Guarde, MA, PhD sa Edukasyon, sa kanyang tagumpay sa pag-aaral at pagkamit ng natatanging karangalan bilang kauna-unahang Mangyan na nakapagtapos ng Doctor of Philosophy.”
In his response, Guarde said: “Wala po akong hiling kundi sana itong titulong mayroon ako ay maging inspirasyon hindi lamang sa mga kasama kong Mangyan, sa mga kabataang Mangyan kundi sa lahat, lalong higit sa mga magulang. Ang tagumpay ko ay mula din sa mga magulang ko.”
A week before the occasion, Guarde, 35, was featured on a TV channel.
When Guarde is asked about how he got to be where he is now, he tells a story with names of individuals who accompanied him in his journey. He is proof of the saying, “It takes a village.” Indeed, it took a village to make Guarde go beyond his place of birth to pursue his dreams and, more importantly, to inspire him enough to go back to his roots. The “village” in Guarde’s case was composed of persons in and outside his community who walked with him every step of the way to the finish line.
But not to forget Guarde’s own parents who cheered him on and gave emotional and financial support. His father was a community organizer and his mother a catechist. Guarde is the second of seven children. His older brother finished agriculture.
Guarde’s case is, to borrow the title of a novel, one about “the return of the native.” One day he found himself asking why he was teaching in a place far away from home. Was that what it was all for? But that is getting ahead of the story.
Although not a pure Mangyan, Guarde identifies himself as a true-blue Alangan Mangyan. He was raised in the ways of Mangyans and he grew up in a community of Alangan Mangyans, one of Mindoro Island’s eight Mangyan groups. (I had been in the Alangan and Tadyawan Mangyan areas several times and written about their way of life and the threats they faced.)
Guarde attended elementary public school, but for high school he went to the Tugdaan Center for Learning and Development started by the Holy Spirit Sisters. The center is now run by the Mangyans themselves and assisted by NGOs.
At first Guarde wanted to become a priest, but for some reason he ended up in De La Salle University in Lipa City. “I had culture shock in my freshman year,” Guarde recalled. “I thought I’d be kicked out.”
He had difficulty understanding spoken English and Batangas Tagalog. He also had a good laugh recalling incidents—his first time at McDonald’s, using the elevator, etc. But he had to prove to his parents that he could make it and in second year he became a clerical student assistant. Guarde finished college in 2006 and passed the board exams for teachers shortly after.
Guarde taught briefly in a private school and pursued a master’s degree in University of Batangas where he later earned his Doctorate of Philosophy in Education major in Educational Management in 2020. His master’s thesis was on indigenous learning for Alangan Mangyans in kindergarten using short stories, some of which he wrote himself. His doctoral dissertation is “Non-formal Education for Adults and Livelihood Strategy Management for Parents in Cornelio Lintawagin Memorial Elementary School.”
But the urge to return to his roots was too strong to ignore. Guarde volunteered to teach in the Tugdaan Center for Learning and Development for a year, after which he applied to teach in a public school. He taught in Mabini town for four years. Guarde was married by then.
Guarde is now back in Paitan as Master Teacher 1 at the Cornelio Lintawagin Memorial Elementary School, named after a Mangyan elder who donated the land. He is also district focal person for indigenous people’s education, while on the side he is “initiator of livelihood strategies” for Mangyan parents. (See Mindoro Mangyan Products on Facebook.)
How Guarde prepared to teach his pupils during this no-face-to-face pandemic school year that begins Oct. 5 for them is another story for another day.
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