PLDT Group expands mental health awareness to indigenous communities

Pastor Benny Capuno, a tribal leader in Porac, Pampanga, knows all too well the great distress his Ayta community goes through when an earthquake strikes. In April 2019, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake devastated Porac, affecting hundreds and killing 10, five of whom were from the Ayta community. For Capuno, it reminded him and the community of the fragility of life, especially as when the same town was devastated by the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption.  It also reminded him of the mental well-being of those who survived.

So when the community partnered with PLDT and Smart, they co-developed a Psychological First Aid Program that catered to the mental health needs of the community. According to Capuno, the Psychological First Aid Training enhanced the awareness of the community to better address future psychological needs

Capuno serves as a mamuun or tribal leader of the Indigenous People’s Political Structures in CADT 123 or the ancestral domain of the Ayta MagIndi and Ayta MagAntsi in Porac, Pampanga.

During the Psychological First Aid training, one of the Ayta groups act out a disaster situation and strategize on how best to address the mental health needs of the community.

Malaking pasalamat namin kasi natuto kami na kami mismo meron pala kaming kakayanan. Natuto kami kung paano makinig, ‘yung paano namin labanan ‘yung nagaganap at tsaka natutunan namin kung ano ‘yung kahulugan ng mga nagaganap [sa amin] at paano namin mapagtagumpayan at mas mapalakas pa. Natuto kami sa parte na iyon at kami mismo, kaya naming lagpasan ang mga ganitong sitwasyon,” Capuno said. (We are really grateful because we learned that we also have the capacity [to address the mental health needs of our community]. [Through the training] we learned how to listen. We learned that we can fight the difficult things that are happening to us. We learned to understand the meaning of what is happening around us and how we can overcome and strengthen these. We learned in those aspects, and we now we know that we, ourselves, can overcome these situations.)

Pastor Benny Capuno, who is one of the leaders of the Ayta community, leads the prayer to start the Psychological First Aid training.

“‘Yun ang doon sa mga pangyayaring pagkaba, takot, at ‘yung kamalayan ay natutunan namin – bagong kamalayan sa amin. Masaya kami dahil natutunan namin ‘yung akala namin ‘yung pag-aaral ng kalusugang pang-sikolohikal ay natutunan namin na akala namin, hindi puwede sa amin. Pero ngayon pala, puwedeng puwede. At kami mismo pala ay puwedeng makapagsagawa ng ganoon,” Capuno added. (Those situations [where we experience] nervousness [and] fear, we learned some awareness – it was a new awareness for us. We are very happy because we are open to learning new awareness and that we learned more about the psychological health care because we thought it was something that we cannot learn ourselves, but then, we learned how it’s possible. That it is possible for us to do it and it is possible for us to implement this kind of initiative.) 

Promoting mental health strength as fundamental to digital wellness is a key part of PLDT and Smart’s continuing commitment to help the Philippines contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) #3 that stands for good health and well-being.