In behalf of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI), I’m happy to report that I have signed the final plans of a small structure to be built in Valencia City. This is made financially possible through an impact partnership with GiversTrust, Inc. I’m grateful for the release of this fund to start the building construction next week. This building is expected to be completed within six months based on a Memorandum of Agreement between PBCI, GiversTrust, and our architects, Swito Designs. This simple structure will be the home of the Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) movement in Eastern Mindanao, Kalinaw Youth Movement, BeyondBorders Christian Community, and Kapeyapaan Coffee Kiosk. Kapeyapaan is a division of Coffee For Peace, Inc. for our low-cost shops yet serving high-quality coffee.
This humble project is part of a national vision to establish at least one PAR community in every province in the country. It will particularly provide a better space and facility for the students of Central Mindanao University (CMU) who are being trained as PAR leaders and community organizers in the central and eastern parts of Mindanao. For PBCI, PAR is the heart of our ministry.
Beginnings of the dream to build this center. Central Mindanao University serves as a major hub for advanced education in Mindanao because of its excellent academic standing. In the 2011 ranking of the Commission on Higher Education, it was placed as the 8th university in the whole Philippines, attracting many of the best minds from Mindanao and from the rest of the Philippines.
In 2008, Pastors Clay and June Rojo started their ministry with the students of CMU. They called it Kalinaw Youth Movement (KYM). Every school year, an average of some 50 students are being reached by KYM. The best and the most committed of those students serve as volunteer leaders and have become part of their team.
In 2011, PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) sent a team of PAR community development workers to serve the pastors in Bukidnon and to share the Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) principles and practices. This PAR development workers immersed themselves serving as secretariat for the pastors’ fellowship in the province. They demonstrated PAR Theology in their words and actions until a group of 32 pastors and Christian leaders requested the PBCI PAR community development workers to train them. 27 Christian leaders embraced PAR Theology and formed the Bukidnon PAR Community. The Rojo couple was chosen by the new PAR community to lead their group. PBCI was invited to be a partner in mentoring the PAR leaders in the province.
They integrated PAR principles and practices as the framework for the ministry of KYM. Two of its alumni became volunteers in the budding Bukidnon PAR Community; thus, began a relationship between PBCI and KYM.
Bukidnon PAR Community became actively involved in the conflict transformation processes in some of the land-based conflicts in the province. PAR Bukidnon was invited by the Talaandig tribe and the Unifrutti Group Philippines to help as part of the mediation team towards a conflict resolution. PAR Bukidnon was also invited by both the CMU and the Talaandig tribal community to help in the conflict transformation processes regarding a dispute involving the former’s research activities within the latter’s ancestral territory. Both the CMU and the Talaandig tribe have indicated a desire for a long-term relationship that is contributing to the development of a just and holistic relationship between the educational institution and the indigenous communities in Bukidnon.
The Rojos, in partnership with PBCI, introduced programs that provided the students hands-on training on community-based peace and reconciliation work. Those peacebuilding programs became a positive alternative for young people to draw them away from destructive vices and violent activities.
An example of the programs we’ve introduced is training the students to be a part of the inclusive development initiative. This is done in partnership with Coffee For Peace (CFP) — a social enterprise arm of PBCI wherein I serve as CEO. We give students opportunities to work as part of the coffee processing plant which provide extra income for them. These part-time employment opportunities are offered to most academically-qualified students who are committed in the cause of just-peace, and who cannot afford all the necessary expenses involved in university education.
As the Bukidnon PAR Community grows, the Rojos and the KYM felt the crucial necessity for a place that will serve as the home of all their PAR initiatives and activities. The group has been growing and has the potential to really make an impact in the community, starting in Maramag and Valencia City. The students meet every Tuesday in the campus, and every Sunday afternoon at the Rojo’s residence. A house-church has sprouted from this ministry called BeyondBorders Christian Community, which was incorporated last 25 May 2015.
A youth center for just-peace. This building will be the home of Kalinaw Youth Movement. Kalinaw means peace. This will be a center for peace education and will house other KYM activities during the week. For the past few years, the average attendees of KYM ranges from 25 to 30. Weekly activities consist of regular training sessions on spiritual transformation, psycho-social transformation, socio-political transformation, and economic-ecological transformation.
Looking back at the history of the Philippines, the youth movement has always played an important role in bringing change in our society. My husband, Lakan, and I have seen it during that time he describes as “the darkest period in recent history when the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, imposed Martial Law.” The revolutionary movement, according to Lakan, “was sustained and enhanced by the university students’ national and social democratic movements in collaboration with the labor and peasant liberation movements.”
“Our humble PAR movement,” Lakan adds, “believes that the youth, when conscienticized—along with the other sectors who are socially-aware and who loves our people and our land—will bring change for the better in our society.”
In a consultation meeting with CMU executives and faculty a few years ago, we heard that their students are looking for an alternative to get involved in a positive and non-violent approach towards radical social change.
A center to learn inclusive development by practice. Since my team and I introduced Coffee for Peace to the farmers in Bukidnon, the quality and the quantity of their produce improved. We were able to tap the government’s resources to assist us in improving the coffee production in the province. PBCI got a grant of P3.9M worth of equipment. We’re currently using those equipment as a learning-and-earning activity for both the entrepreneurial students and coffee growers who dream to be farmerpreneurs.
The Kapeyapaan coffee shop will also be employing youths from KYM and at the same time, will be the source of income of the PBCI operations in Bukidnon. This way, we can assure that the growth of KYM would have some funding coming from the net proceeds of coffee.
Finally, June and Clay Rojo, representing PBCI-CFP, will be helping the farmers to have an effective marketing outlet for their coffee produce, and in turn, would provide farm employment and regular income for coffee farming families in Bukidnon.
Pastor Clay and June Rojo have been journeying towards a larger vision — beyond the borders of Valencia City, beyond the borders of Bukidnon province, and throughout Eastern Mindanao. These developments harmonize with their vision to go beyond national borders. They already have a nucleus of young movers, their spiritual children, to continue the vision beyond themselves — BeyondBorders Christian Community.