In Tabuk City, on Saturday the 14th, we met with the farmers of Asimbanglan. Hart and Ginny Wiens hosted the meeting, and they helped us to explain to the farmers that it had never been our intention to mislead them or to leave them hanging. Kuya Dann gave the farmers a rundown of the many national humanitarian catastrophes which have commanded the whole of PBCI/CFP’s attention in the three years since we last visited Asimbanglan. The farmers expressed their understanding of these extenuating circumstances, but the fact remained, they told us, that they had lost their investment in arabica seedlings from CFP/PBCI. Without the follow-up training, the farmers had not understood the requirements of Coffea arabica trees, and many trees had grown in a stunted manner. “Like bonsai!” said the farmers.
On behalf of PBCI/CFP, Twinkle and Kuya Dann agreed to swallow the financial loss by replacing all the seedlings of the farmers present at the meeting, and by providing new seeds to the farmers’ collective. They also made plans for thorough training of the farmers of Asimbanglan. At the meeting’s outset, the continuance of PBCI/CFP’s working relationship with the Asimbanglan farmers had been an open question. But, over the course of the discussion, all the farmers present expressed a desire to maintain their partnership with PBCI/CFP. Afterwards, a member of the Wiens’ Kalinga network told us that we had done well to suggest replacement plants, rather than offering to refund the farmers’ investment in the original seedlings. In Kalinga, she said, money signals the end of a relationship. You pay someone off when you want to be rid of them. By offering plants instead of money, we had made it clear that we valued our relationship with the farmers.
Next morning, Sunday the 15th, a delegation of our dear friends from Manila’s PeaceChurch arrived in Tabuk. Regina Lyn Getuiza Mondez, Bryan Jay Nahag Paler, Darnell and Christina Barkman and their children would share our Kalinga sojourn for the next several days, while deepening their friendships with the PAR Kalinga community.
In the afternoon Twinkle, Kuya Dann and I met with Kalinga elder Andres B. Ngao-I, President of the Cordillera Bodong Administration. As we drank coffee on his front porch, he told us of his past experiences with missionaries who came to Kalinga seeking to teach peace. It was the missionaries, Ngao-i told us, who ended up learning from the Kalingans, not the other way. We had been at the Bodong Congress, he observed, and so we had seen Kalinga peace culture in action. He told us that the Bodong was formed centuries before any national government. It was born of the necessity to protect domesticated animals, which roamed freely between tribal territories and had no regard for boundaries. The Bodong also allowed trade between tribes. Today, the Kalingans’ system of tribal laws and peace pacts allows them to govern themselves more effectively than the government, which Ngao-i views as superfluous. In other provinces, he said, they need the government, but not in Kalinga. For two or three hours, we listened eagerly to Ngao-i’s narration of Kalinga history both ancient and recent. We assured him that we were not just another organization seeking to impose foreign methods and power structures. We had come to Kalinga to learn.
For the conclusion of our adventures in the Cordilleras, see Part 5.