We are still focused on our vision. The vision is that, by 31 December 2030, each of our provinces will have a circle of leaders called Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Communities. They would serve as radical, peaceful transformation volunteers in their respective families, spiritual communities, neighborhoods, barangays, cities, or municipalities. The PAR Communities would also get involved in sustainable and regenerative programs that are indigenous to their specific context.
As of 20 November 2021, we have organized PAR Communities in 35 out of 81 provinces in the Philippines: 22 in Mindanao, 4 in Visayas, 09 in Luzon.
We did establish two PAR Communities in 2021:
- the Kapeyapaan Farmers Association in Davao del Sur; and,
- the Mandaya Indigenous Peoples Coffee Farmers in Davao Oriental.
And we still have to nurture the remaining 33 PAR Communities — theologically, sociologically, economically — so that they would be firmly rooted in the respective soils of their socio-historical contexts.
Next generation leaders
Bridging leadership to the next generation is the major focus of our combined energies today. We’re working on how we can bridge the senior executive leadership from us, the Pantojas, to Twinkle “Tala” Alngag Bautista and to Jobelyn “Sihaya” Palo Basas.
Tala is the Pilipino term for ‘star.’ She is a proud member of the Kalinga First Nation and celebrates the fact that she belongs to the Indigenous People (IP). She’s a graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. In 2020, Tala completed her Master of Arts degree in Conflict Transformation at the Eastern Mennonite University—Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Tala serves as Chief Operating Officer at PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI), and as Senior Vice President at Coffee for Peace (CFP). Her dream contributions as a next-generation leader in this movement are both simple and complex:
- To challenge stock stories;
- To help in the liberation of our peace and development movement from dependence on external funding;
- To help concretize what it means to decolonize and localize justice-based peacebuilding;
- To articulate, among academics, the intersections of peacebuilding and social entrepreneurship;
- To help us move away from human-centered peacebuilding framework to a holistic framework that includes spirituality and ecology;
- To develop a beautiful example of learning from practice — praxis;
- To lead us on an on-going reflection on ‘practice’; and,
- To enhance our skills in the use of indigenous research methodology.
Jobelyn’s indigenous name is Sihaya Ansibod — The Enlightened One. She obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Community Development from Southern Christian College, Midsayap, North Cotabato. She is a proud Erumanen ne Menuvu — one of Mindanao’s Indigenous Peoples. Prior to coming to PBCI, she served as a psycho-social worker in an organization advocating and working for children’s rights. She has good working skills in dealing with various kinds of situations. In the past seven years as staff and as a team leader, Sihaya has proven herself to be highly competent in heading both support operations and field operations at PBCI. She’s flexible in adapting changes in new settings.
Sihaya currently serves as our Director of Field Operations and is being trained as the Executive Director of the currently transforming PBCI.
Under Sihaya’s present field leadership, the training and engagement of PBCI starts with relationship-building through listening. Socio-cultural engagement is her usual center of focus. PAR is the core value that she immediately introduces. A PAR community is formed based on our Peace Theology:
- harmony with Creator (spiritual-ethical transformation);
- harmony with being (psycho-social transformation);
- harmony with others (social-political transformation);
- harmony with creation (economic-ecological transformation).
Her implementation of PAR field programs respects inter-religious and inter-worldview similarities and differences as expressions of equality and inter-cultural cooperation among Indigenous People (both Christianized and those practicing Natural Spirituality), Bangsamoro (mostly Muslim), and Settlers (mostly Christians in various sects and denominations).
The participants in our PAR field programs, under Sihaya’s leadership, abides by the customary laws of the Indigenous Peoples, the laws of the Republic of the Philippines, especially the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Sihaya’s team make sure that all participants in this PAR program agrees to pursue social change as well as justice-based peace and reconciliation through active nonviolent approach.
What we’re proud of
The Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous People formally and ritually adopted our leadership team into their community and conferred honorary traditional titles based on their perception of our contributions and roles to their journey as a tribe.
Sihaya Ansibod is Bai Tigsalin. It literally means ‘Identifier.’ She is perceived by this Indigenous community as a facilitator in identifying good choices — such as livelihood products that are inherent in the context of the Bagobo Tagabawa.
Joji is Bai Kasunayan. It means ‘Peace.’ The community acknowledges the holistic and tangible kind of peace Joji brings in our inclusive development conversations.
Lakan is Datu Pugawang. It means ‘MindSetter.’ They say our training and seminars often challenge them to go back to their Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous being (spirituality, worldview, value systems, customs) as the primary set of lenses to evaluate external ideas of development and fund-driven projects. This is also an expression of trust as we are invited and given privilege to help train their next generation leaders to face 21st century realities while being strong as Indigenous persons.
Most tribal councils are very careful in conferring membership and honorary titles to those from outside their community, especially to Settlers like us. This practice of hospitality has been abused by many. We receive this sacred trust with much respect, deep gratitude, and utmost sense of responsibility.
What has gone particularly well
We have opened the Coffee for Peace Kiosk at the Ayala Abreeza Mall in Davao City. It is located at the Third Floor. This is in collaboration with the Ayala Corporation, with local coffee farmers, with the Department of Trade and Industry, and with the Davao Region Coffee Council.
Joji heard that the Ayala Corporation is supporting social enterprises by offering free space in their chain of malls throughout the country. Last 19 April 2021, she got a call from one of the corporation’s representatives, inquiring if Joji was interested in opening a 26-square-meter shop at the Ayala Abreeza Mall in Davao City as part of their Alagang Ayala Land Program. Joji’s first reaction was to pray. Then she established her objectives in light of the vision and mission of Coffee for Peace. She presented the plan to our management team, both the CFP and PBCI. Our team recruited new interns and prepared them for this opportunity. Last 16 September 2021, we opened the Coffee for Peace Kiosk at Abreeza.
What we have discovered
We experienced a spiritual and social affirmation that listening ought to be our first act of love. Love is the primary energizer of our long-term commitment towards Inclusive Development through Social Entrepreneurial initiatives. Love necessarily involves listening. Listening is the first act of love.
We listen because we love and worship the Creator who listens. We listen because it is the initial action we know on how to demonstrate love to, and to build peace with, our neighbors.
When we listen, the whole being is involved. We listen by using our ears, mind, heart, and body. We make sure that we pause from what we’re thinking and really listen to what the community is saying to us. We seek to intellectually understand the truth—the facts, the contexts, and the stories—of the social realities we’re facing. We seek to feel the emotions involved in a community’s struggle for justice and peace. We seek to share a glimpse of their physical sufferings so that our own bodies would ‘know’ their pains and their suffering—which is called ‘compassion’ in our spiritual discipline.
Listening, for us, is a spiritual discipline. At the end of the day, we learn that it’s not about how we feel about the excellence of our talk, our presentation, our program. It’s about how the people express their assessment on how much we listened.
The key area we wish to improve
We still want to improve on the implementation of our long-term strategic framework for community transformation.
Using an integrated framework for peacebuilding, PBCI-CFP Tribe will seek new approaches in the context of the “new normal” so that we can continue to serve each PAR Community to be equipped in doing spiritually energized social analysis.
We will develop teaching videos, design webinars, and conduct limited number of face-to-face meetings up to 15 people to continue doing our strategic activities:
- To serve each PAR Community by equipping them with certain spiritual discernment skills and social analytical tools to help them understand the issues causing the crises they are facing in their particular province. By having a clear discernment and analysis of their situation, they can make relevant and effective crisis intervention.
- To encourage PAR Communities to look beyond their current crises and to envision a future when there is genuine peace and reconciliation in their particular province. This vision is characterized by the kind of social structures and relationships they would desire. Such long-term vision will help them discern the root causes of the crises they are facing and will also help them look through the taken-for-granted facades of social realities that keep the cycle or recurrence of their crises.
- To walk with PAR Communities, in each ‘level of response’ and through ‘the time frame of activity,’ as they move from their crises to their desired change. We will offer how our understanding of shalom transformation (spiritual, psycho-social, socio-political, and economic-ecological) would guide their journey towards their desired future.
Barriers that frustrate our work
The major barrier that frustrates the operations of both PBCI and CFP are the government red tapes and oppressive regulations we’re encountering on a weekly basis. We’re losing money due to government inefficiency, we’re losing precious staff time, and we’re losing opportunities due to corrupt policies.
To be specific, we may refer to a recent sociological study[*] which shows that our government leadership is incompetent and rotten despite its popularity.
Therefore, we pray the following prayer, a supplication for competent and transparent leaders in our country and government:
O Creator-Sustainer, God of Justice and Peace—
We pray that all the lies, graft and corruption would be exposed!
We pray that the guilty ones would immediately be
relieved from their positions of power and be brought to justice.
We pray that the honest public servant-leaders
would be placed in positions of authorities for genuine
transformation of our country’s governance.
We pray for a new system of government with a
new set of transparent servant-leaders — local, provincial, national —
who truly love our people and would work to regenerate our land.
Heal us as one, O loving Creator. Amen.
The kind of support needed in order to follow through
We need capital funding to establish a permanent home for PBCI and CFP. The following images are designed by a landscape architect based on the dreams we have described to him.
PeaceBuilders Community have introduced Peace and Reconciliation Principles and Practices — through seminars, workshops, inclusive development consulting, and conflict transformation processes — among communities in 35 out of 81 provinces in the Philippines.
- A social enterprise called Coffee for Peace (CFP) was born in 2008 out of the PBCI work in Muslim Mindanao.
- Today CFP is providing employment to 5 women and 5 men, who cannot be employed in the formal system.
- CFP has impacted the lives of 880 farmers and have trained several individuals and groups to become farmer entrepreneurs.
- PBCI has produced 6 women peacebuilding leaders, and 4 male peacebuilding leaders.
- We are currently developing ProducePeace+ — a budding social enterprise that addresses the vegetable industry problem and up-cycling reject vegetables into another product for food security.
As we see this grow, the more we see the need of providing a home and space for this ministry. People need to see a solid structure where they can call as their center.
We’re imagining a PeaceBuilders Community Center where they can learn how to apply living harmoniously by seeking and enjoying reconciliation with the Creator, with one’s being, with others, and with the creation.
- This space and structure will primarily serve as our offices and residence for workers.
- It will be a place to bring-in, build-up, and send-out leaders of PeaceBuilders Community, Coffee for Peace, and PBCI-CFP Inclusive Development Consulting.
- This center will also be a model farm where livelihood demonstration and training are offered for food security.
- The campus will also include a research center for innovation and a retreat center for field workers.
- We also imagine this place to be a destination for learning tours.
A permanent place like this will cost a capital investment of PhP20,000,000. This is needed so that people, specifically our partners and network, would see that the Mennonite’s Peace and Reconciliation ministry in this country is rooted for a long term.
PhP16,000,000 will be used to acquire a 2-hectare land.
PhP4,000,000 will be used to develop the land and to start the basic structures—offices, staff residence, and coffee and vegetable livelihood operations building.
Goals and targets for this year and performance indicators
1. To continue our long-term relationship with the Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous People.
We are especially focused on helping the women entrepreneurs to gain access to entrepreneurial and technical expertise to build transformative, conflict-sensitive, inclusive agricultural distribution 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.
This is part of their invitation to us in 2015 to journey with them and to stand in solidarity with them, specifically with regards to –
- their struggle to protect their ancestral domain;
- their struggle for their right to self-determination;
- their programs and activities to preserve their cultural identity, like the School of Living Traditions;
- their aspirations towards a sustainable and regenerative livelihood and development; and,
- their dream of sending the youth leaders to the university without losing their Indigenous values and identity.
2. To facilitate GAP certification for the 20 coffee farming families in Barangay Alegre.
Our intention was that, by the end of 2021, we would have trained 20 members of the Kapeyapaan Farmers Association who have passed the Department of Agriculture’s certification on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). We did not accomplish this.
We first had to do major renovations in our existing training facilities in Managa to be approved by the government’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Now that the renovations are completed, we will proceed with the process of working with TESDA with the same goals we have stated at the beginning of this year. By the end of 2022, PBCI-CFP expects:
- To multiply the number of coffee value coach
- To increase consistent quality coffee production
- To encourage coaches to train others how to care for the environment
- To increase farmers’ community income from PhP1.2M in 2020 to PhP2.6M in 2021
- To develop a laboratory for other research on coffee by-products.
3. To finish the 6-month Inclusive Development and Social Entrepreneurial training program among the Mandaya Indigenous People in Davao Oriental.
We requested for prayer on this new initiative during our mid-year report. Now, we have started a six-month program composed of –
- Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Training series
- farmers association enhancement
- mentorship on social entrepreneurship, and
- quality coffee technical training among the Mandaya Indigenous People.
This program was initiated by the Tri-Peoples Development and Services Foundation (TDSF), a local Mindanawan organization, to develop a sustainable coffee production and champion Mandaya farmers in Pantuyan and Pichon communities.
4. The goal to establish a PAR Community in Cagayan Valley through the initiative of PAR Kalinga will be postponed to 2023.
Due to the worsening state of the pandemic, we are almost paralyzed in terms of our national mobility and operations. Sihaya Ansibod, our PBCI Director of Field Operations, will travel to the Cordilleras and to Cagayan Valley as soon as she meets the required public health safety protocols for air transportation. We hope that she and Tala Alngag Bautista would connect with PAR Community in Kalinga to review, assess, and further discern these goals and objectives.
Prayer of thanksgiving to the 2021 PBCI Board and our prayer requests
Indeed, Joji and I are so blessed to work in partnership with you, PBCI Board of Trustees – women and men whom we trust and who are motivated by love and joy to help transform our land and peoples towards justice and peace.
Patterning our heart’s desire from an old Talmudic prayer:
May our Board of Trustees not be daunted
by the enormity of the world’s grief.
May we all do what is just, now.
May we all walk humbly, now.
May we experience freedom
from the obligation to complete the work,
but neither we’d feel free to abandon it. Amen.
[*] Abao, Carmel and Cornelio, Jayeel, Social Development Reform in the Duterte Administration (July 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3878607 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3878607