Last year, we were invited to listen to local folks from a coffee farming community in Central Mindanao. They expressed their desire for a long-term inclusive development initiative. We shared our social entrepreneurial approach framed in Peace and Reconciliation (PAR). Now, more coffee farming communities have invited us to work with them.

The PAR Inclusive Development Team takes time to have this souvenir photo with the coffee farmers among the Indigenous People of Mount Agkir-Agkir in North Cotabato. PBCI Field Director Sihaya Ansibod (blue shirt, blue hat) have been leading this team. The team includes Seah Olimpain (checkered shirt, seated behind Sihaya), and Wanay Baluyan (maroon shirt, white hat, seated at Sihaya’s left side.)

We think of Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Principles as seeds that are planted in the historical and cultural soil of a community. PAR is the heart of our work — that is, harmony with the Creator (spiritual transformation); with one’s being (psycho-social transformation); with the others (socio-political transformation); and, with the creation (economic-ecological transformation).

Sihaya Ansibod, Director of Field Operations at PBCI, who is also a member of the Erumanen Ne Menuvu Tribe, believes that this worldview that seeks harmony with the Creator, with one’s being, with others, and with the whole of creation — is inherent in the consciousness of most Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in our land. “It was the colonizers,” she says, “who tried to erase this worldview in the collective memories of various IP communities. What PBCI is doing,” she adds, “is to listen to the cosmology of each IP community as the starting point to understand their worldview.”

An IP coffee farmer works with Sihaya in starting a seed bed in the ancestral domain of the Erumanen Ne Menuvu.

It was our Ama (spiritual father), Lakan Sumulong, who taught us that “any attempt to facilitate inclusive development must start with listening — that is, active listening specifically to the creation story of each IP community. When we listen to the tribal elders’ narrative of their creation,” insists Lakan, “we are actually listening to their ‘being’ as a nation. That innermost identity of an indigenous people would lead them to what might they choose to do; and what might they choose to do would determine what they will have.”

The most visible iconic product of PAR, as far as PBCI is concerned, is coffee. With the visionary leadership of our Ina (spiritual mother), Lakambini Mapayapa, PBCI initiated Coffee for Peace (CFP). This is the concrete demonstration of our understanding of Inclusive Development.

According to our Ina, Inclusive Development is based on three pillars:

  • high, sustainable, regenerating development and growth to create and expand economic opportunities;
  • broader access to opportunities to ensure that members of society can participate and benefit from development; and,
  • social safety nets to prevent extreme deprivation.
Local IP coffee farmers work together in setting up a model seed bed.

Sihaya has been encountering various challenges in spreading PAR seeds. “This is not merely a job for me,” she muses, “this is my calling and I see the field challenges from the perspective of the Creator’s will in my life.”

In her recent post, she said: “I will choose to find joy in the journey that God has set before me.”

Sihaya and her team are presently conducting PAR and coffee training to three Barangays in North Cotabato:

  • Sitio Manili, Barangay Dunguan in the Municipality of Aleosan;
  • Sitio Agkir-Agkir in Barangay Sinapanagan in the Municipality of Libungan; and,
  • Sitio Mimbalawag, Barangay Dado in the Municipality of Alamada.

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