Edgar T. Elago believes that dreams do not stop even when heartaches begin. From the 90s to the early 2000s, his father worked as a carpenter, while his mother was a farmer. They used to plant vegetables and corn on land they do not own. Mr. Elago had to cross a river and walk 3.5 kilometres each day just to finish elementary. On his last year in college, just 3 months before his graduation day, his father tragically died while working in a construction site. Despite the adversity, Mr. Elago was inspired to do several acts of kindness that aided underprivileged children of indigenous communities at Agusan del Norte.
In 2011, Mr. Elago began an advocacy project called Project Scholar – an initiative that aims to aid financially challenged high school students to pursue a college degree. Using his own resources, he eagerly volunteered to facilitate the students’ college applications and helped them look for the best scholarships. Project Scholar has supported over 60 scholars that come from various backgrounds such as out-of-school youth and indigenous communities. Fortunately, the scholars have become professionals in different fields; some are now teachers and engineers.
Mr. Elago also has another advocacy project called Project ADAMMS, which stands for: “Adopt a Mamanwa, a Manobo Student”. The project has helped children from the Mamanwa and Manobo communities with their miscellaneous fees on school supplies, clothes and other needs. Since its inception in 2018, Project ADAMMS has more than 15 students from the indigenous communities who are proud recipients.
To gain more funds for the scholars and children in the indigenous communities, Mr. Elago established a social enterprise called Cooltura Couture in 2019. It is a small shop located in the heart of Agusan del Norte that specializes in designing and producing indigenous Filipiniana gowns, barongs, and other formal attire that are inspired by Mamanwa and Manobo culture. The indigenous attire from Cooltura Couture has been exported to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States of America. Not only does he and his staff make culturally-inspired formal clothing from scratch, but they also offer event managing services for weddings, pageants, debuts, and other formal events.
Funding the two other projects is not the sole purpose of Cooltura Couture. It also helps with preserving indigenous culture and rich history of their locality, not only within their tribe but also to spread a sense of belongingness and identity as a Filipino. According to Mr. Elago, the development of our nation lies in the proper conservation of its cultural heritage and providing proper education and opportunities to the underserved.
Currently, Mr. Elago works as a Master Teacher I at Jagupit National High School in Santiago, Agusan del Norte. He has risen through the ranks in the academe by attaining a Graduate Diploma in Cultural Education, Master of Arts in Education and is currently taking his PhD in Management.
Throughout his studies and career, Mr. Elago was recognized as one of the 10 awardees of the 2017 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos. This prestigious career-service award is bestowed for public servants in the police, military, and academe for providing service beyond their call of duty. Similar to how Ramon V. del Rosario made the Philippines a stronger nation, Mr. Elago transforms communities to have a brighter future and has a lasting positive impact on our nation.