Matigam Kaw Iso: Mandaya Children’s Active Participation in Disaster Risk Management

Sitio Mantapay, Baganga, Davao Oriental

Percinita Sanchez, Milagros Tan, Roger Aumada, Bhebing Macpao, Donald Ray Cornelio, & Ismael Milez

“Matigam Kaw Iso” is an innovation that puts the Mandaya children of Baganga at the center of disaster risk management efforts. Mindanao Inter-Faith and Services Foundation, Inc. wants to teach the basics of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) to Mandaya children to help them cope with natural disasters that frequent their area.

We hope that our pilot community of 150 children will prove resilient enough after the introduction of our project, so we could help more children in other barangays who are in the same disaster-ridden predicament. The children of Sitio Mantipay are not the only ones exposed to typhoons and landslides in the area. We want to equip those who are exposed to the same risk to know how to handle emergency situations.


We are looking for more partner agencies that could help sustain this innovation and help replicate it in other areas. /


I saw their roofs were being blown away. Around ten children were trapped. They didn’t know what to do.

“Matigam Kaw Iso” means “you’re a knowledgeable kid.” We chose that name because the children did not know what to do when they experienced Typhoon Pablo (IN: Bopha). It’s important that children know what to do in these kinds of situations.


The “Matigam Kaw Iso” innovation is a project that encourages the active participation of children from hazard-prone and indigenous people communities in disaster risk management through a child-to-child approach.

This is done through a child-centered DRR and CCA in the curriculum, both for private and public schools. This will strengthen the capacity of parents, teachers and community Associations (PTCA) to provide for children’s needs–before, during and after the disaster. This includes sustainable agriculture and livelihood improvement that mitigates the impact of disaster and climate change.


In December 2012, Typhoon Pablo made landfall in Davao Oriental. It was considered as one of the worst typhoons to ever strike the province.
Sitio Mantapay in Baganga, Davao Oriental were among those severely hit by Pablo. About 70% of the trees and crops were damaged and almost all structures were destroyed. The sitio is located atop a mountain where a community of the Mandaya ethnic group lives.

Roger Aumada, a teacher at the village’s elementary school, recalls that fateful day. He heard cries for help from his neighbors. “I saw their roofs were being blown away. Around ten children were trapped. They didn’t know what to do.” At the height of the onslaught, Aumada went back and forth trying to get the children to safety. “The wind was really strong. I would have been blown away as well, had I not held onto a tree,” recounts Aumada.

Bhebing Macpao, another teacher at MISFI Academy, recalls her own experience. “I have a neighbor who was pushed down the stairs by the strong winds.” The typhoon destroyed most of the community’s houses, crops and even livestock.


Typhoon Pablo was a traumatic experience for the Mandayas. They lost their houses and their crops during the onslaught, and it put many people’s lives at risk. Macpao says “the trauma from Typhoon Pablo instilled fear in the Mandayas. That’s why now, they want to be more prepared for disasters.

Aumada realized that children are most vulnerable during disasters and their lack of knowledge on disaster preparedness exposes them to even greater risk. This prompted the innovation team to focus on children in introducing a new way to implement DRR in Baganga. Aumada believes that the community will later reap the benefits of training their children in DRRM because one day, these kids will take over and pass on the knowledge to future generations.


“Matigam Kaw Iso,” Aumada says, means “you’re a knowledgeable kid.” “We chose that name because the children did not know what to do when they experienced Typhoon Pablo.It’s important that children know what to do in these kinds of situations,” he said.

The innovation was introduced to five schools in Baganga, which were identified as most vulnerable during typhoons and other disasters.

The innovation team and the co-facilitators conducted numerous workshops for the children. Their feedback on the activities were later incorporated in cultural traditions, such as local Mandaya songs, chants, dances, artworks and games.

The session allowed children to express how they were able to cope with the typhoon that they’ve experienced, how they survived, and how they became more resilient. Psychosocial activities were conducted to help process the children’s emotions and to prepare them for the workshops ahead.

Macpao, also a facilitator of the innovation, said that the workshops and reenactments taught the children how to prepare for calamities. “The drama reflected reality. We saw some children cry because it reminded them of their experience during Typhoon Pablo.”

Aside from the seminars about disaster risk reduction, the children were introduced to ways to adapt to climate change. Part of their project is learning how to plant disaster-resilient crops, as well as hardwood to prevent soil erosion.

The cost of transporting 150 participants from five different schools into one location became prohibitive, especially in the highlands of Baganga. The innovation team chose to hold their activities in each school instead. They conducted a series of consultations with the community and used their feedback to improve their innovation. More than 60 children benefited from the workshops in the 12 months that the innovation was tested in Baganga, according to Macpao.


With this innovation, the Mandaya children and their parents are now more prepared for disasters that could strike their village.

Jasmin Capungas, a 12-year old student from Sitio Mantapay, described how they were before this innovation was introduced to their community. “We didn’t prepare for typhoons. We didn’t know what to do and what things we should ready for emergencies. Only our mothers were doing something. As kids, we were always just afraid until our mothers comfort us.”

Capungas says the seminars and workshops they attended were very helpful. “We now know what should be done before disaster strikes. We’re more confident now in the face of calamities, even though we are children. We know where to go to keep ourselves safe. We learned to ready things like food and clothes before we even have the need for them. If we have to leave the house, we know that we should stay together as a family.”

Aumada admitted they were clueless in preparing for disasters when Typhoon Pablo came. Macpao recalls, “We used to ignore the news on upcoming storms.” Typhoon Pablo was their wake up call. Macpao, who’s been a teacher for 11 years, recalls some of the questions that participants in the workshops asked: “‘What does disaster mean?’ We were taught them how to prepare for disasters. The community was receptive because of the trauma they went through during Typhoon Pablo. They want to know how to prepare for it in the future.”

The innovation team also saw changes in the children’s attitude towards disasters. “The children became more aware. Now they watch the news when they hear a storm is coming. They say, ‘Let’s not go to school because we might not be able to come back home,” or that “the roof of the school may be blown away,’” Macpao says. He also noted that the children have also learned where to go to keep safe in times of storms and even earthquakes.

Parents, too, have benefited from this innovation. “I already shared what I learned with my parents. They were happy because now they know how to prepare for an upcoming calamity,” shares Jasmin.

The modules are unique because it takes into consideration the Mandaya’ own experiences. “The module is appropriate for us, Mandayas, because it is written in our dialect. It’s easily understood, even by children and that makes it very effective,” explains Aumada.

The innovation team has also helped set up a tambubong or barn in the village. When heavy rains and strong winds come, the tambubong is the community’s refuge.


Macpao believes that the Mandaya children of Sitio Mantapay should be well-equipped when it comes to disaster risk management because the “children will be the ones to replace us” in the community. “Those who live here should be the ones in charge in the future,” states Macpao.

Aumada, meanwhile, hopes that this innovation will continue and that the work will not stop with just this particular program and not just in this particular sitio. “I hope other agencies will help, so that the learning will continue and that we’ll be able to reach out to other children.” He also aspires to have a source of livelihood for the parents of these children.

And the children? What do they want? Capungas summarized it well: “I wish that there will be no cutting of trees anymore to prevent calamities in the future. I wish that every child, all my classmates, will finish their studies so that we will also gain the respect of other kids.”