Twinkle ‘Tala’ Bautista is our PAR Partnership Designer and Inclusive Development Mentor assigned in Panay Island. Her major task is to establish connections with various Christian groups, government agencies, and civil society organizations for the purpose of sharing Peace and Reconciliation principles and practice as an approach towards inclusive, transformational development.
Through word of mouth, CPBCI heard about PBCI-CFP. Tala had the opportunity to introduce our PAR initiatives to The Rev. Dr. Jerson B. Narciso, General Secretary of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches Incorporated (CPBCI). This religious organization “is committed to provide holistic ministry that caters to the total well-being of individuals and communities.”
ABOUT CONVENTION BAPTISTS
The Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches was formed in 1935 and became fully autonomous in 1969. Its origins go back to the work of Baptist missionaries from Sweden. At a later stage, links were developed and maintained with the American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society. Originally the work was confined to the Visayas region. While this is still the centre of the CPBC, the church has spread to the islands of Luzon and Mindanao and is now represented throughout the country. Since 1979 the CPBC ordains women and almost half of the local churches are led by women.
The Convention places particular emphasis on educational programmes. Its Christian Education department has the task to help the local churches develop a ministry through which “people and communities are continuously renewed, nurtured, transformed and empowered faithfully to participate in God’s redemptive acts towards a fuller manifestation of God’s reign”. A department for theological education and ministerial concerns has been established to coordinate theological schools and Bible colleges and organize continuing education programmes for pastors. Another important area of activities is development ministries, which include work with indigenous peoples, ecological programmes, adult literacy programmes and support of work of cooperatives. The CPBC has also a department for evangelization and mission, which conducts training for the churches to do evangelization and coordinates actions related to revival work.
Last 27 January 2017, our PBCI-CFP team met with Dr. Narciso. “One of the areas that we feel we need to develop and strengthen as an organization,” he said, “is our resource generation program.” CPBCI wants to tap and maximize the use of their properties that they may become major sources of revenues that could support their various ministries. These properties include a 54-hectare camp site in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo that has been lying unproductive for many years now. Their plan is to develop the place by engaging in viable and productive agri-eco business projects.
Dr. Narciso also expressed his concern about the plight of a community of an indigenous people in that area called Ati. This people group has been victimized by historical injustices under Spanish and American colonialism, and now, by neglect and oppressive land-grabbing activities being committed against them by mining and logging corporations.
THE ATI PEOPLE OF PANAY ISLAND
The Ati, who inhabit the mountain areas of Panay and Negros, are also called Negrito, Ituman, and Negros. They continue to exhibit generally-perceived Negrito traits: short and lean body build; kinky hair, which may be very bushy in the case of women; unblemished and oily dark chocolate-brown to almost black skin; diminutive but broad noses; and round dark eyes. Negritos of pure blood still exist in northern Negros, although their number is extremely small and continually reduced by intermarriage with lowlanders. The Ati speak Hiligaynon (particularly a variant known as Kiniray-a) and some are fluent in Cebuano.
The typical Ati settlement is located near a good water supply. Houses, especially in earlier times, are of the wind-screen type with materials sourced from the forest. The structure consists of two wind-screens brought together to form a gabled roof. The height of the roof varies, but in most cases a grown-up person could stand in the middle of the room. On both sides of the 400 cm. hut, the roof extends almost down to the earth (which serves as the floor of the house) stopping at a height of 25 cm. above ground. In recent years, dwellings imitate houses of lowland Christians with a few traditional features in terms of structure and materials used.
Depletion of forest resources, brought about by the clearing of almost all the forests and the steady advance of lowland settlers, has forced the Ati to adopt a semi-sedentary life in contrast to their previous practice of wandering as bands in mountainous regions. They cultivate swiddens to a variety of crops such as rice, corn, banana, sugar cane, beans, vegetables, root crops, and tapioca. Tobacco is also raised in limited quantities. Of the produce, only the surplus may be sold for cash or bartered with products from other Ati groups and Visayan neighbors. Implements used in farming are guna (a kind of sharp knife) and digging stick. Some Ati men know how to plow but since they do not own traction animals, their knowledge is used only when they are hired by Christian farm owners.
The concern for justice and peace among the Ati people attracted us at PBCI-CFP to get involved in this partnership. With this as the main focus of this inclusive growth initiative, we expressed to Dr. Narciso our willingness to explore this partnership with CPBCI. Our initial idea is to develop a Robusta coffee plantation and processing facilities within the Camp Higher Ground. These operations would be employing the local Ati people in a nearby community. We also hope to facilitate the revival and regeneration of socio-cultural and economic-ecological life of the Ati people as a ministry by CPBCI Camp Higher Ground. Prior to this meeting with Dr. Narciso, we met with Iloilo’s specialty coffee buyer and roaster, Bodi Mijares of La Roasteria, to make sure there is a viable market for our coffee products.
“In this regard,” Dr. Narciso said as we conclude our meeting, “may I extend to you an invitation to submit to us your project proposal for the development of Camp Higher Ground in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo. We look forward to a fruitful partnership with you.”
And so, our team is busy right now preparing an inclusive development proposal that would reach out to the Ati people of Panay Island and help in the establishment of a regenerating resource base for the ministries of CPBCI and Camp Higher Ground.
More about Tala
TWINKLE ‘TALA’ BAUTISTA
We call her Tala — the Pilipino term for star. Tala is a proud member of the Kalinga First Nation and celebrates the fact that she belongs to the Indigenous People: “I’m an IP.” She’s a graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. At an early age, she dreamed to be a missionary. Now that she’s part of PeaceBuilders Community, she testifies with much excitement that she is a PeaceBuilding Missionary!
Tala serves as PAR Partnership Designer and Inclusive Development Mentor
Asked about her passion as a Peacebuilding Missionary: “I believe in the wealth of the indigenous knowledge… I dream of IPs rejoicing in their cultural heritage without shame, freely sharing the indigenous knowledge with the mainstream — the business world, academe, media, etc. The encouraging thing is, there are already steps done to uphold the IPs. We can build on them.”