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16-17 September 2021. After the six-month Inclusive Development Training, the Bagobo Tagabawa community in Barangay Binaton, Digos City begins a long-term partnership with the PBCI-CFP Tribe. This partnership involves community-based, culturally contextualized Social Enterprise Development framed in Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) principles and practices. Because 80% of the participants in this program are women, we are giving greater emphasis on indigenous women’s leadership development. We are sharing the aspiration of the Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous People to realize and enjoy their right to self-determination and to protect their ancestral domain.

The vice mayor of Digos City, Atty Johari G. Baña (blue shirt), visited the Bagobo Tagabawa village during the graduation ceremonies of PAR Inclusive Development Training. Barangay Binaton, City of Digos, Province of Davao del Sur. 17 September 2021.

Our journey with the Bagobo Tagabawa

Our relationship with the Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous People started in 14-16 November 2015. The Managa Tribal Council (MTC) and the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (BaCoFA) invited me and my team for a series of consultations. With the guidance of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the discussion revolved around the socio-cultural procedures and legal steps towards an Inclusive Development initiative that would be sustainable and community-supported. This Inclusive Development, based on the discussions, would be established in the ancestral domain of the Bagobo Tagabawa community in a specific location on Mount Apo.

The highlight of that meeting was the session when each of the representatives of the Bagobo Tagabawa tribal community were given time to express their dreams and aspirations:

  • They want their tribe to be united, especially regarding the future of their younger generations.
  • They want to revitalize their tribal culture: “The Bagobo culture is already vanishing because of cross-cultural marriages; the traditions and customs of our tribe are not being passed on to the next generation.”
  • They want to have control on their livelihood and to determine their own development: “Only 75% of the population in our place have sources of income.”
  • They want a quality education that preserves and respects their tribal identity and culture: “We suffer the social and economic limitations in sending our children to school especially in the secondary and tertiary levels; the current education system does not include teaching our children regarding the traditions of our tribe.”
  • They want quality health-care system: “Some people in our tribal communities have limited access to the health care facilities of the government. The Barangay facilitates the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), but the people needs a more adequate health care facilities.”

My PBCI-CFP Team also heard the following questions:

  • Would the Arabica coffee livelihood project, as advocated by PBCI-CFP, help in establishing sustainable economic development by the Bagobos and for the Bagobos? If so, how?
  • Would PBCI-CFP help in promoting traditional Bagobo arts and products — weaving, for example — especially those produced by our women?
  • Considering that we have the coffee knowledge and processing equipment, who will help us in the overall coffee business implementation?
  • Would PBCI-CFP willing to explore with us how we can pass-on our culture and traditions to the younger generations? If so, how?

12 April 2016. PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) received the Certificate of Compliance to the FPIC Process from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Region XI (NCIP-XI) with the corresponding resolution signed by the Bagobo Tagabawa cultural communities / indigenous peoples. Immediately, Sihaya Ansibod, PBCI Field Operations staff, started the process of community organizing.

17 September 2016. I, in my capacity as executive vice president of PBCI and concurrent chief executive officer of CFP, reported that the construction of the PeaceBuilders Community Post-Harvest Processing Plant within the Ancestral Domain of the Bagobo Tagabawa Tribe had began and was going smoothly according to schedule. The builders were Bagobo women whom Sihaya Ansibod had organized.

03 November 2016. With the bridging leadership of Sihaya Ansibod, whom by this time was serving in her new capacity as PBCI Director of Field Operations, the Barangay Tribal Council in Managa invited PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) to facilitate a one day seminar and workshop on Conflict Transformation framed on Peace and Reconciliation principles and practice.

In July 2018, Coffee for Peace introduced the Bagobo Tagabawa to a wider segment of the coffee industry through a video produced by Asian Development Bank. There, Bai Jerlina Owok — the Tribal Chieftain in Barangay Binaton, Digos City — publicly expressed her dream to be one of the excellent producing communities of ‘fine Robusta coffee.’ 

24 August 2018. We sent Aiza Wanay as PBCI-CFP official representative to the Sinub’badan Festival of Binaton. The festivities gathered all the Bagobo-Tagabawa tribal communities of Mount Apo and surrounding areas. Eventually, Wanay was ritually adopted by the Bagobo Tagabawa Tribe.

In October 2019, we were so inspired by the initiative of the clan members of the Bagobo Tagabawa Tribe. Each clan within the tribe built their model indigenous house in one village. This ‘cultural village’ became their way to teach the next generation to revive and sustain their indigenous culture in the midst of modernity. This also became their approach to make their people become more visible among the Settlers passing through and building their homes and businesses in their Ancestral Land. 

Between October 2019 and January 2020, South and Central Mindanao were hit by a series of devastating earthquakes. With our limited resources, we did waves of relief distribution around Mt. Apo as a way of bonding and solidarity with our long-term inclusive development partners. With the field direction of Sihaya Ansibod, we focused on our farming partners among a Settler’s community, among Obo Manobo communities, and among the Bagobo Tagabawa communities around Mt. Apo.

In 08-17 January 2020, we invited our Canadian Impact Investing Partners to Mindanao. One of the highlights of the visit of these 12 Canadian partners was the acquaintance fellowship and listening sessions with the Bagobo Tagabawa in Binaton.

Since February 2020, we have been facilitating a series of consultations and seminars on Inclusive Development and Social Entrepreneurship among the Bagobo Tagabawa community in Binaton. These activities were planned and executed by Sihaya’s Field Operations Team.

By March 2021, the Binaton Bagobo Tagabawa Farmers Livelihood Association (BBTAFLA) in Digos City proceeded into a six- month Social Entrepreneurial training. This is the initial segment of a long-term Inclusive Development Program in partnership with Kapiid Ka Banua, Inc. They warmly welcomed us with their Coffee Maddiger. We were also privileged to get a visit from Kublai Millan, a National Artist based in Mindanao; and, Datu Rogelio Manapol, the provincial tribal chieftain of Davao del Sur. They introduced the planned construction of the Rimpong Peace Memorial to the tribe. The plan was to build a big monument, a peace hall, and expanded cultural village. This Rimpong Peace Memorial Complex was soon completed and was publicly opened last 25 July 2021.

Yesterday and today, they completed the six-month long training. The celebration was simple but joyful, colorful, and hopeful. They invited me as the graduation speaker and I shared with them how we can proceed with this Inclusive Development journey in the next few months and years.

We will continue with Participatory Action Research

We have been using Participatory Action Research (PAR) in this work with the Bagobo Tagabawa. We are plunging into a long-term journey with them as our farming partners. PAR is crucial in this global-to-local transition, being the hub of knowledge and the workshop of participation in and appropriation of the research in agriculture over a long term.

As faith-inspired organizations, PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee for Peace (CFP) value holistic and inclusive development approaches in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I have faith in the Creator’s grace and mercy for the continuing success of this partnership. I also am empowered by the local and global support I’m receiving. Our community-based entrepreneurial solutions, for example, have been internationally recognized as an effective interventions to address poverty.

Looking at the future with the Bagobo Tagabawa

Along with my PBCI-CFP Team, I will continue to help enable Bagobo Tagabawa farmers, especially the women entrepreneurs, gain access to entrepreneurial and technical expertise to build transformative, conflict-sensitive, inclusive agricultural market systems through a market-systems approach and strategic partnerships.

In turn, we anticipate these market systems to create decent jobs, allowing the Bagobo Tagabawa women — a traditionally excluded group — to become active participants in a sustainable and regenerative economy.

Eventually, through their eyes of faith, I see these entrepreneurial women significantly contributing to the realization of the Right to Self-Determination of the Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous People. I can also foresee them taking leadership roles in the protection, preservation, and regeneration of their Ancestral Domain.

So help them O Manama, Great Creator.