The Tuklas Northern Luzon Lab was established in September 2017 in Baguio City. From then until the present, the Lab has always stood by its mandate to oversee and support DRR innovations that were developed with and for the community.
To achieve that, in those first few months, Tuklas Northern Luzon Project Manager Kei Valmoria Bughaw and Community Engagement Officer Amian Cariño Tauli, with support from Citizens’ Disaster Response Center network partners, made sure to invite representatives from grassroots communities or NGOs with a long track record in community organizing to information sessions and proposal writeshops in the major northern cities of Baguio, Tuguegarao and Laoag.
From these sessions came the 31 proposals that were to be reviewed for shortlisting in December of that year. Two new staff, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Officer Fernando Bagyan and Grants Officer Mendiola Mariano Malig helped Kei and Amian in selecting the top 16. All four followed the criteria of choosing proposals that could potentially have the biggest impact on the vulnerable and marginalized of the region.
On February 12, 2018, after a four-step rigorous selection process participated in by peer innovator teams, Tuklas Innovation Labs staff, selected grassroots communities, scientists and innovation experts, 10 from the 16 shortlisted applicants were announced as the final grantees. Of these, four were community-based people’s organizations, three were small NGOs (not more than a dozen staff) doing development and humanitarian work, three groups of individual students and young professionals that have no prior experience in project implementation. These 10 teams went through the Haraya 2018 capacity-building sessions, grounding them firmly on community-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM), Human-Centered Design (HCD), humanitarian ethics, intellectual property rights, and basic principles of project management. All the while, everyone, including the TUKLAS Central Coordinating Unit, was reminded of the unique composition of the innovator teams supported by the Lab. Eighty percent (80%) were ethnic Ibaloi, Kankana-ey, Yapayao, Isneg, and Kalanguya, collectively of the Igorot indigenous peoples.
In the summer of 2018, all of the innovator teams started conducting their baseline data gathering with their partner communities and officially opened their projects with inception workshops. The lab staff attended these to assist and ensure community participation and inclusivity. After the mid-year assessment, the Lab decided to focus on community engagement as its main strategy in ensuring that supported innovations were indeed developed and tested the way TUKLAS envisioned them to be. Mr. Bagyan, or Uncle Porong to everyone, became the second CEO together with Amian and the lab welcomed its new MEAL Officer May Wan Dominado.
The Northern Luzon Lab never veered far from its commitment to ensure that the innovators have enough time to do community prototyping and testing. To address complaints of being somewhat bogged down with admin or finance work, in September a Grants Monitoring and Procurement Officer, William Cawayan Jr, was hired for the purpose of assisting the teams themselves.
However, as they say, despite the most well-laid plans of mice and men, mother nature decided to give the Northern Luzon innovators special challenges. It rained for over two straight weeks in August 2018 due to the southeast monsoon. September came with the twin harbingers of disaster: Supertyphoon Ompong (Mangkhut) and typhoon Rosita (Yutu). These halted testing activities in 90% of the project areas. Mourning and burial rituals for the dead led to a total standstill in Besao, Mt. Province and Itogon, Benguet. CDRC, in consultation with the Lab Project Manager, asked for a one-month no-cost extension for implementation by the innovator teams.
The Lab fought to get back on track in November. With the teams conducting activities almost simultaneously, the staff went into full force support, traveling to project areas nearly every week, with trips taking 9-14 hours one-way to the remote communities.
At the final project review in December 3-4, the team noted how their lab’s strategy paid off. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of the recorded pivots were triggered by community feedback. Community representatives from teams Batil-ang Peypeyan Clan, Plot & Play, ICRED, ABI, and IPM manifested their confidence in presenting the impact of the project on their communities. Expert reviewers who had seen the teams develop since June were stunned at the level of improvement in articulation from the previous shy and hesitant team members.
As culmination of the Tuklas Northern Luzon experience, the Pasundayag Innovation Fair was held in Baguio, on February 20, 2019. The staff and innovators came out wearing their ethnic colors to celebrate diversity and unity at the same time, from the Igorot to the Tumandok and the Mindawon Lumad they represented. The rallying cry of the lab was, as from the beginning: let the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized indigenous peoples add their voices to the discourse of disaster risk reduction and management.
Magkaisa at itaguyod ang mga komunidad ng Ammianan tungo sa kahandaan ng Pilipinas!