16-20 May 2017. Three Manila-based consultants of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) went on a five-day peace learning tour from Maguindanao, through North Cotabato and Davao del Sur, to Bukidnon. The tour participants included Landscape Architect AJ Moldez, Principal at AJM Designs; Dr. Aldrin Penamora, Manager at PCEC Centre for Christian-Muslim Dialogue; and, Joseph ‘Boyet’ Ongkiko, Director of the Centre for Transformational Development, Asian School of Development and Cross-cultural Studies. I’m privileged to be the tour guide of these new consultants at PBCI.
The purpose of this trip is to strengthen the long-term relationships between the new PBCI consultants and our peacebuilding partners from the Indigenous Peoples, the Bangsamoros, and the Migrants. Each of the traveling consultants have also set specific objectives for this tour:
:: As a landscape architect, AJ Moldez will help PBCI and Coffee for Peace (CFP) plan our two post-harvest processing plants that will be built in Bansalan, Davao del Sur and in Maramag, Bukidnon.
:: As a Christian theologian, Dr. Aldrin Penamora will plan with Ustadz Abdulkadir Abubakar (Institute of Middle Eastern and Asian Studies, University of Southern Mindanao) the on-going dialogue between the leaders of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the religious leaders belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
:: As a transformational development and adult learning professor, Boyet Ongkiko will spearhead the review and restructuring of Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) materials and communication tools based on the various contexts on the ground.
Monday, 15 May. We started with an orientation day in our Davao Centre, reviewing the PBCI Dreams and our journey for the last ten years.
Tuesday, 16 May. We visited our inter-faith dialogue and peacebuilding partners among the Bangsamoro. Ustadz Abdulkadir Abubakar welcomed us and we had a great meeting with his colleagues at the Institute of Middle Eastern and Asian Studies (IMEAS) at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato. Then, we drove to Ligawasan Marsh. This place was PeaceBuilders Community’s main field of peacebuilding operations during the 2008 armed conflict between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF in partnership with the Bangsamoro Development Resources Center under Ustadz Abubakar. We were glad to see a calm Ligawasan community today. The GPH-MILF Peace Process works well and makes a lot of difference among the common people on the ground. We pray that the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) would be implemented in full, starting with the passing of an enabling law for the Bangsamoro Homeland. In Shaa Allah.
Wednesday, 17 May. We inspected the PeaceBuilders Post-Harvest Processing Plant (‘The Brick House’) in Managa, Bansalan, Davao del Sur. He used a drone to capture the immediate geographical context of our site. Aldrin Penamora and I were simply watching Aj’s drone and wanted to play with it.
This project site is within the Ancestral Domain of the Bagobo-Tagabawa Tribe at the foot of Mt. Apo. This is being implemented based on the invitation of the Bagobo-Tagabawa Tribal Council, in coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP). We’re also dreaming of building a CoffeeForPeace Farmerpreneur Training Center in an adjacent lot.
Later, we drove up to 1500 meters above sea level and visited the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BaCoFA) at Mt. Apo. We also took video shots of the BaCoFA terrain using AJ’s drone. We are inspired by the growing ‘farmerpreneurship’ among the members of BaCoFA.
Thursday, 18 May. Wendy Kroeker, Co-Director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding at the Canadian Mennonite University, welcomed us at the second week session of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute.
Friday, 19 May. We started the day early by assisting AJ in taking video shots needed for planning a one-hectare property we purchased in Maramag, Bukidnon. God willing, PBCI will build a post-harvest processing plant for coffee and cacao that will serve the farmers from around Bukidnon Province. Coffee for Peace will buy the finished products. This site will also be the home of PeaceBuilders School of Leadership where peace and reconciliation community organizers will be trained. Later in the morning, we visited our PAR Leaders in Bukidnon, Pastor Manny Alkuino of Sidlak Pinoy, Inc., who is also one of our Senior Consultants at PBCI. Clay and June Rojo, our PBCI staff members based in Valencia, Bukidnon joined us for lunch. The Rojos lead in advancing PAR principles and practices in Eastern Mindanao.
After lunch, we travelled to the Talaandig Ancestral Territories in Lantapan, Bukidnon. Datu Migketay Victorino Saway, one of our Senior Consultants at PBCI, welcomed us along with his wife, Bai Liza Saway. We spent the evening in dialogue with Datu Saway.
Saturday, 20 May. We spent the whole morning listening to Datu Vic and walking around the Talaandig Ancestral Territories. AJ took pictures of the Talaandig house designs and visual arts around the village. Aldrin continued his theological-cultural dialogue with Datu Vic, who took him to a nearby Lutya (Taro) plantation of the tribe. Boyet took notes on the wisdom and processes behind the Talaandig School of Living Tradition.
Datu Vic and I have been partners in advancing just-peace together. He’s our mentor in our search for cultural identity as indigenous people. He warns us at PeaceBuilders Community not to get entangled with funding-oriented NGO activities that merely preserves the financial survival of the organization; instead, he encourages us to walk with the people towards an authentic way of life characterized by a harmonious relationship with the Creator, with our being, with others, and with the creation.
We drove back to Davao City in the afternoon and spent the five-hour drive reflecting on our Talaandig experience. Aldrin Penamora’s reflection expressed our experience with the Talaandig people well:
Blessed to meet, the chieftain of the tribe Datu Migketay ‘Vic’ Saway, a close friend and partner of Lakan Sumulong. I learned much from him and was amazed at his calm and penetrating wisdom, which springs from his confidence in being a Talaandig Lumad. His challenge to us non-Lumad or non-IP (indigenous people) Filipinos is to find our true identity so we may know what it means to live genuinely for buhay (life), and not just for hanap-buhay (career). While being an intellectual who was one of the framers of the law on the rights of Lumads (IPRA), Datu Vic spends most of his time since 2001 cultivating Lutya (taro) for his tribe. ‘Genuine buhay is to live for others,’ he says, ‘and must not stop at the intellectual level but must be felt concretely by people.’
We arrived at our PBCI Centre in Davao City early in the evening. Aldrin flew back to Manila just before midnight.
Sunday, 21 May. We went on our respective ways after our informal evaluation. We all feel that our purpose and specific objectives were met.