18 November 2020 — Earlier today, Aldren Banal and Sihaya Ansibod exchanged their marriage vows before the Creator and before a limited number of family members and friends. The wedding was held at the Ascension of the Lord Parish in the Archdiocese of Davao. There were only 25 people who were invited due to the necessary public health protocols. However, the rest of the family and the community joined later and celebrated the new united life of Aldren and Sihaya.
SPIRITUAL PARENTS. “Would you consider standing-in as my parents during our wedding?” Our hearts leaped with joy when Sihaya asked us this question. She originally planned to have her uncle and aunt to do this. Her mother passed away when she was a little girl. Her father had remarried and has a family of his own. The present pandemic and the militarized checkpoints — requiring health certificates, identification papers, and other legal formalities — in almost every towns or cities make it very difficult for Sihaya’s family to travel and to come to the wedding.
We answered with an excited “Yes!” Our relationship with Sihaya, the Director of Field Operations at PeaceBuilders Community and Board Secretary of Coffee for Peace, grew from being employer-employee to becoming a spiritual family to each other. We are ‘Ama’ (Father) and ‘Ina’ (Mother) to her — the traditional Tagalog terms of endearment for parents which she chose to refer to us.
SIHAYA. Sihaya Ansibod is her indigenous name. It means “Enlightened One”. Her legal name is Jobelyn Palo Basas. Most Filipino names are influenced by the colonial history of the Philippines under Spain and America. At PeaceBuilders Community, we encourage the use of our indigenous names as an expression of the decolonization process of our identity and of our being. Sihaya finished her Bachelor of Science degree in Community Development from Southern Christian College in Central Mindanao. Though baptized as a Catholic, she is a proud Erumanen Ne Menuvu — one of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples. She continued practicing her indigenous culture and customary practices. She started as an intern at PeaceBuilders Community in March 2015. Her initial field assignment was to go to the Bagobo Tagabawa Tribe at the foot of Mt. Apo to organize a Peace and Reconciliation Community. That PAR Community now runs the post-harvest processing plant of Coffee for Peace, employing a number of local Indigenous families.
COURTSHIP. Sihaya and Aldren Joy Banal met in a spiritual community called ‘Singles for Christ.’ Their friendship developed into a healthy romantic relationship. “When I first saw Sihaya,” recalls Aldren during an after-lunch conversation at PeaceBuilders Community Center, “I saw a strong woman, a person with a strong presence. She’s the most beautiful person in that gathering.”
“Aldren’s spiritual leadership at the Singles for Christ set him apart from other men,” said Sihaya. “The more I got to know him, the more I sensed that we both want to serve God and to serve the people,” she adds.
ALDREN. Early in life, Aldren felt called by God to serve his Creator and to serve people. He was raised as a Roman Catholic. Aldren went to a seminary for a couple of years but did not continue into the priesthood. He graduated at The Holy Cross College in Davao City with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Literature. Aldren became an active leader at the ‘Singles for Christ’ ministry.
We first met Aldren when Sihaya invited him to our family dinner. That’s when we had initial glimpses of his journey as a person. His job experiences include marketing in a pharmaceutical company and doing public relationship in a telecommunications industry. Soon, we got to know him better.
Aldren and Sihaya started making plans for the future. They blessed us by sharing the general aspects of their dreams with us and by inviting us to pray with them towards the realization of those dreams. Aldren felt the need to secure some seed money for their dreams. He worked in Japan for a year. Upon his return, he applied into the 2-year, full-time insternship program at PeaceBuilders School of Leadership. Their discernment process led them to purchase a farm. With the help of Sihaya’s Uncle Allan, they started developing this property together. They call it A&J Mahayahay Farm. Mahayahay means restful, calm, relaxed and characterized by a quiet, inner joy.
WEDDING. Last 18 November, they exchanged their vows. It was a solemn and joyful wedding ceremony attended by 25 people — the maximum number of people allowed by the government and by most institutions to gather in these kinds of gatherings. It was followed by a simple and joy-filled wedding lunch at a popular traditional restaurant in Davao City.
IMMEDIATE PLANS. Aldren is about to finish his internship at PeaceBuilders School of Leadership. His focus is on Inclusive Development and Social Entrepreneurship. He hopes to further develop A&J Mahayahay Farm into a permaculture zone consistent with our economic-ecological transformation principle — one of the major advocacies of PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee for Peace.
Sihaya expressed her desire to continue serving as Director of Field Operations at PeaceBuilders Community and as Corporate Secretary of Coffee for Peace.
We praise God for the lives of Aldren and Sihaya. We pray for shalom as they start their journey together as married life-partners.