Our relationship with Edsal Edres started when our peacebuilding network visited our Meranaw partners during the Marawi Crisis. We got involved in peacebuilding activities together, including: fact-finding mission at the very heart of the war zone; Christian-Muslim inter-faith dialogue on peace; joint peacebuilding strategic planning among leaders of civil society organizations; lobbying at the Congress and Senate of the Philippines; and, livelihood initiatives among families affected by war. We are now focused on Inclusive Development and Social Entrepreneurship as an approach to help the war affected families to rise-up from the ravages of armed conflict.
The present Inclusive Development and Social Entrepreneurial exploration with our Meranaw partners is consistent with our envisioned long-term journey with them in the context of their needs and based on our limited capacity and scarce resources.
It was in 23 May 2017 when the Marawi Crisis started. We immediately gathered as a community and reflected on our identity and capacities as a small organization in preparation for our response to the enormous challenges facing us. We decided to work closely with the Mindanaw PeaceWeavers (MPW) as we directly engage with Meranaw peacebuilding leaders.
It is our conviction to pray for a person of peace with whom we can work closely every time we engage with a particular community. In our journey with the Meranaw people, this person came to be Edsal Edres.
We met Edsal during one of the MPW consultation meetings. Since then, we became friends and colleagues in advancing justice-based peacebuilding in Mindanao.
During our network’s visit to Marawi at the height of the armed conflict, he was part of the local field guides going ahead of the main group, making sure that our meetings and activities are well coordinated and relatively secured.
We’ve been enjoying his presence every time we meet as a peacebuilding network, especially when the chosen venue is at Coffee For Peace Café in Davao City.
Edsal was also one of the key Muslim leaders who coordinated, along with key Christian leaders, the Young Christian and Muslim Leaders’ Inter-Faith Dialogue to prevent a religious conflict in the midst of the Marawi Crisis.
As members of a national peacebuilding network, Edsal and I also worked together lobbying for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the House of Representatives and at the House of Senate which eventually passed as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Part of our struggle in the process of conflict transformation is the need for a long-term, sustainable livelihood for the Meranaw families who have been affected by the Marawi armed conflict. Edsal and his colleagues, both Muslim and Christians, visited us at our coffee shop in Davao City. We shared our imaginations and ideas towards an inclusive development program through social entrepreneurial initiatives. The Meranaw people are known as excellent merchants and traders. We all agreed that establishing a social enterprise movement among them would be so natural.
Last year, Edsal helped us coordinate a meeting between key business leaders in his Marawi network. Immediately after that meeting, he sent me photos of possible farms whose owners are willing to establish partnership with us at PBCI and CFP.
But then, CoViD19 came and almost paralyzed our operations. We waited for the Creator’s right timing to pursue this endeavor.
A few weeks ago, 12 July at around 1400PHT, Edsal sent me a text message. “Hello po Kaka,” he wrote. Kaka means older brother. “May gusto po makipag usap one of days, na introduce ko sa kanya ang Coffee for Peace (There’s someone who wants to meet with you one of these days. I introduced Coffee for Peace to him).”
When I inquired further, Edsal replied: “He is the newly enthroned Datu sa Bayang (Chief of Bayang), member of our clan, Descendants of Diwan… He is Atty. Malic M. Umpar.”
Bayang, one of the municipalities of Lanao del Sur, is so well respected in the Maranao Taritib and Ijma as one of the 16 Royal Houses of the Four Prefectures of Lanao (Isa ko 16 Panoroganan ko Pata Phangampong ko Ranao.) It is the home of the Maranao brave and martyrs. The Battle of Bayang in 1902 was the ferciest battle the Ameican invaders had encountered in the archipelago. In this battle thousands of Maranao datus from various parts of Ranao region were united to fight against the invaders… (The Ranao Star)
Last Thursday, 05 August, Edsal, Atty. Umpar, and their team visited us at our Davao office. We had great time getting acquainted. They shared with me the story of Meranaw resistance against American imperialism and colonization based on their oral tradition known as Padang Karbala. I sense the authenticity of their story compared with the American biased Wikipedia entry labeled as the Battle of Bayang.
Our coffee staff, a roaster and a barista, gave them an orientation seminar on quality preparation and service. Joji shared with them the coffee industry value chain.
As a result of our conversation, we were able to draw a tentative plan of action towards Inclusive Development and Social Entrepreneurial initiatives among Meranaw business folks and coffee farmers, starting in the Municipality of Bayang.
We are now in the process of documenting those ideas towards a formal partnership. In Shaa Allah.