As the call connects from Valencia, Bukidnon to the nationwide livestream, the sound of nature rings, and a representative of the oft-forgotten voices are heard–clad in traditional Bukidnon clothing and equipped with the passion to make a change, Ckyr Leonardo stood as a proud representative from the indigenous people’s community of Bukidnon in his speech at the opening ceremony of this year’s 4th National Climate Change Conference.
Despite the unforgiving clutches of the COVID-19 pandemic, young climate activists around the nation band together in a collective virtual call demanding climate action. This year’s climate change conference by the Department of Education displays the theme “Alpas: Channeling Youth Eco-Anxiety to Climate Action”.
Alpas, meaning to move forward, urges the youth of the Philippines to move towards a brighter environmental future. Being one of the four student speakers invited to the conference, Leonardo shares his sentiments and urges the nation to move forward with a moving 12-minute speech as a representative of the Bukidnon Tribe in Mindanao.
“It’s time for us to decide whether we leave the responsibility to take part, or we choose to live and start being the steward of mother nature,” says the 16-year-old student from Valencia National High School, Division of Valencia City
The world has been given a deadline, 12 years to be exact, until the effects of climate change may take their irreversible toll. And until the world manages to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C, the Philippines will be one of the most vulnerable countries affected by climate change.
“No nation, whether big or small, developed or underdeveloped, wealthy or poor – can escape the consequences,” says Leonardo, pertaining to the simple but harsh reality of what the current climate crisis may bring upon each and every nation of our planet.
Hand bunched up in fists, proof of the urgency in his words, the Grade 10 student says that the threat of climate change needs to be taken seriously and that awareness about the climate crisis shouldn’t be confined to scientists alone. “Especially that in this predicament, all of us are part of the solution.”
When asked about how the indigenous people of the Philippines may be affected by the climate crisis, Ckyr responds by saying that different indigenous groups have different vulnerabilities to climate change. In their community, there are numerous programs in action that promote reforestation such as Bantay Lasang (Forest Guard), the National Greening Program, and the active protection of these indigenous groups of their land.
“Trees are our allies,” he says as he mentions his desire to start a program that he’s dubbed as “One Man, One Tree”. With billions of people around the world, it is an efficient way to reforest the land by planting one tree per person. “It lies in our hands to make a difference,” he adds.
“This is real. The age of fury is gone, and we are now at the age of consequence,” he says, “We already know what to do – stop those big companies who (that) are responsible for emitting massive quantities of gases. The leaders in the world know what to do, yet still, we pretend we know nothing.”
There is an undeniable truth to acknowledge when said that there are those who still choose to stay ignorant in terms of the climate crisis. A heavy task it may be, it is our choice to either leave the fact that we must take responsibility for the damage that our species has caused or to live and be a steward for Mother Nature, just as Leonardo emphasized.
This feature story was written and prepared by Eunice Pineda (Student-Journalist) and Alma Pantaleon (School Paper Adviser) from Information and Communication Technology High School, Division of San Fernando City, who are graduates of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.