TRUE GRIT IN THE EYES OF A MORO FAMILY

Two years after the Olimpain family participated in the Coffee Farming and Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) training, the PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. Inclusive Development (PBCI IncluDev) Team revisited their farm to follow-up on the development of their coffee plantation.

Last 13 March, 2021, we arrived in the Olimpain family home in Barangay Dungguan, Aleosan, North Cotabato. The whole family welcomed us with coffee and balanghoy (cassava) and it was an instant catch-up session on what everyone has been up to in the past year.

As a new member of the Field Operations team, it was heartwarming to see the relationship PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee For Peace (CFP) built with this family. They reminisced stories of their past trainings and shared news of the current crops they are harvesting on their farm. 

The Olimpain family are our partner farmers who are trained in the social entrepreneurial approach of Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The conversations over coffee went from funny anecdotes of farming collaborations with big international companies, to hopeful reports of neighboring communities reaching out to them with the intention to be trained too.

It seems that the then dreams of more ‘farmerpreneurs’ (farmer entrepreneurs) among Bangsamoro families around Ligawasan Marsh are slowly becoming a reality.

After a short trek from their house, we reached the Olimpain Farm. It was really uplifting to see their cheery smiles as they proudly showed us around. They had all sorts of vegetables and crops on their farm plus their coffee trees were growing very well.

Towards the end of our fun tour around the farm, we all gathered near a lake (that also connects to the Ligawasan Marsh), sat down, and talked for a bit. Seah Olimpain, who is also part of the Central Mindanao PAR facilitating team, shared her concerns about the recent policies and actions done around their barangay and municipality. She told us how she strived to get proper electricity connection for them in Barangay Dungguan and how they struggle to get enough support from the main BARMM office.

Kung malapit ka sa kusina, ikaw lang talaga makakakain” (If you’re near the kitchen, you’re the only ones who can eat)

Ama Zukarno Olimpain also told us that from the 10 kilograms of rice distributed to other areas, only a kilo arrives to them.

The whole conversation led to talks of Ina Pembain Olimpain running for political office as a way to make a difference in the community. It was inspiring to see a family, who truly knows poverty and desperation, still muster a concern for people.

Somehow, that gave me a good grasp of this level of empathy that can only be gained when there’s absolutely nothing to lose. A level of empathy that only the impoverished have. A level of empathy that drives them to fight to make things better, not just for them, but also for generations after them. I listened in awe of this unwavering bravery they have, whilst living through memories and traces of war in Mindanao.