Last 20-26 September 2022, Doug Klassen (Executive Director, Mennonite Church Canada), Jeanette Hanson (Director, Mennonite Church Canada Witness), and Norm Dyck (Mission Minister, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada) accompanied the Inclusive Development Team of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. and Coffee for Peace (PBCI-CFP IncluDevTeam) in our regularly scheduled field work. Our field trip included a meeting with a Philippine Army officer, with the Council of Elders of the Manobo Apao Descendants Ancestral Domain of Mount Apo (MADADMA), with the Obo Manobo coffee farmers in Kidapawan, with the founders of TriPeople Development & Services Foundation, and with the Council of Elders of the Unified Bagobo Tagabawa Tribe. They also met with our Manila-based BOT members.

Their visit was both special and regular set of events

The coming of our partners and colleagues from Mennonite Church Canada (MCCanada) was both special and regular events. It was special because we were visited by national leaders of MCCanada. Their coming was a spiritually refreshing visit from the sending church of Ama Lakan (Dann) and Ina Lakambini (Joji). Through MCCanada partnership and support, PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee for Peace (CFP) were established here in the Philippines. This is like a pastoral visitation from our spiritual siblings in Canada. This is a celebration of our global-local family who follow the Prince of Peace — Jesus Christ.

Their visit was also part of a regular set of field activities. We intentionally keep our scheduled tasks of the week even when we have visitors from Canada or other visitors from outside Mindanao. In many cases, local organizations like us are tempted to “create a show” to please or impress visiting partners or donors. We avoid that by sticking to our regular schedule of activities. Our weekly objectives are crucial to our monthly, quarterly, and yearly objectives which we believe to be critical to the fulfillment of our vision and mission. Our visitors, therefore, do not muddle or upset the continuity of our field operations; instead, their presence affirm and enhance the intended results of the field tasks at hand.

With the coordination of the field operations team under Sihaya’s leadership, all our meetings went smoothly and all our tasks were completed based on our objectives.

Here are our daily logs:

Sharing the story of PBCI and CFP

Davao City, Wednesday, 21 September 2022, 0900-1200PHT. Ama Lakan started the day narrating the story of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) as a Conflict Transformation ministry of Mennonite Church Canada International Witness. The mission was to work with a national church and civil society organizations who would help in a justice-based peacebuilding between Bangsamoro (mostly Muslim) and Settlers (mostly Christians). The national church is the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC). The civil society network is the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW). PBCI walked with the people from those armed conflicted years (2006) through the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB 2014) until the signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL 2018) that created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Ina Lakambini shared how this peacebuilding mission gave birth to Coffee for Peace (CFP) — a community of peace builders, business owners, and farmers who are practicing and advocating inclusive development principles in the coffee industry. It was established on 15 April 2008 in Davao City. The idea began in 2006 when Ina and Ama helped to facilitate an informal conflict mediation, with their whole Mindanao-based peacebuilding network, between certain Migrant and Bangsamoro farming communities. The two groups were involved in an armed conflict for the ownership of several rice fields ready for harvest, regardless of who planted the rice or who really owned the land. Instead of shooting each other, the leaders of the two parties-in-conflict were invited for a dialogue over coffee. Since then, the two communities avoided killing each other. They started inviting other surrounding communities to have coffee together — for peace.

Ina shared a more detailed business and financial picture of the current state of CFP using the slides she usually show during her seminars and public speaking engagements.

Today, PBCI and CFP are focused on conflict prevention through inclusive development and social entrepreneurial initiatives particularly among the Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.

A question and answer period was opened and led to a lively discussions on various aspects of PBCI and CFP work.

A fruitful meeting with a Philippine Army colonel

Davao City, Wednesday, 21 September 2022, 1400-1600PHT. Ama Lakan invited Col. Gerry Besana to our PBCI Office. The objective of this meeting was to follow-up the three-point agenda we discussed with MajGen Nolasco Mempin last 29 August 2022. They were:

  1. To re-introduce our peacebuilding network—Mindanao PeaceWeavers, PeaceBuilders Community, Coffee for Peace, Initiatives for International Dialogue, All-Out Peace, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict—to the 10th Infantry Division (10ID), Eastern Mindanao Command, Philippine Army;
  2. To explore the possibility of a dialogue between the Bagobo Tagabawa leadership and the AFP regarding the issue of the 100-hectare property in Kapatagan area being established as Philippine Army training camp which, from the perspective of the Indigenous People’s Structure in the area, needs to go through the process of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) as provided by the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA); and,
  3. To explore the possibility of partnership in promoting peace efforts in the Bagobo Tagabawa communities through sharing of best practices and through sustainable peace and reconciliation trainings and programs.

The meeting went very well. Col Besana showed us indicators that agenda point number 1 is being implemented. He told us that fellow peace-building organizations belonging to our network, like NonViolent Peace Force, are recognized and are being invited to visit the 10ID Headquarters.

Agenda point number 2 is being processed within the command system of the 10ID. During a briefing three weeks ago by their Division Real Estate Office, they are still “completing the research for all documents related to the 100 hundred hectares training camp,” Col Besana said. As soon as the documents are completed, they will set up a dialogue with the Indigenous People concerned. “Per instruction of MajGen Mempin,” Col Besana added, “they have to fast track the research so they can schedule the dialogue soon.”

After this meeting between Col Besana, PBCI, and MCCanada leaders, the colonel expressed his thankfulness for inviting him especially for “the opportunity to share the peace advocacy and initiatives of the 10th Infantry Division” with PBCI. “That includes, of course, my personal vision and advocacy as well,” he said.

As the meeting was about to conclude, Col Besana reminded Ama Lakan of the 10ID’s request to be entrusted with a PDF copy of our Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Training Materials for the purpose of reproduction, distribution, and use for their personnel’s training in justice-based peace and reconciliation programs. PBCI, with the blessing of MCCanada leaders, gave Col Besana to use our materials for his stated purpose.

Report to Obo Manobo Council of Elders on our coffee entrepreneurial activities

Obo Manobo Ancestral Domain, Thursday, 22 September 2022, 1000-1300 PHT. After the participation of the coffee farmers who represented the Manobo Apao Descendants Ancestral Domain of Mount Apo (MADADMA) at the recently concluded Philippine Coffee Expo 2022 (PCE2022) in Davao City, representatives of the partnering organizations — the Corporate Social Responsibility Department of Energy Development Corporation (CSR-EDC) and PBCI-CFP Inclusive Development Team — gave a report to the MADADMA Council of Elders. A lively discussion on what has been achieved were celebrated. We also heard from the Council of Elders some key aspects of this inclusive development journey that can be done better.

We introduced our leaders from Mennonite Church CanadaDoug Klassen, Jeanette Hanson, and Norm Dyck — who were traveling with us as we do our regular field work. MCCanada are our sending body as peacebuilding and inclusive development workers here in the Philippines.

Coaching Obo Manobo coffee farmers towards quality and quantity

Obo Manobo Ancestral Domain, Thursday, 22 September 2022, 1400-1600 PHT. During the recently concluded Philippine Coffee Expo 2022 (PCE2022), a number of known cuppers and buyers gave positive feedback on the Obo Manobo Coffee that we displayed for tasting. A handful of them actually signed up in our ‘prospective client list’ and made a commitment to buy our green coffee beans (GCB) at fair trade price. Although we did not promise to supply anyone, we want to make sure that the current farming, harvesting, and post-harvesting practices are sustained by the Obo Manobo coffee farming community.

So, we arranged with our field partners — the Manobo Apao Descendants Ancestral Domain of Mount Apo (MADADMA) and the Corporate Social Responsibility Department of Energy Development Corporation (CSR-EDC)— to visit our key coffee farming partners to determine our next steps of actions to produce quantity GCB while sustaining the quality that we presented at the PCE2022.

Our partners from CSR-EDC — Rich Paul Calcetas Cosio and Donskie Tormis — invited our visiting colleagues from Mennonite Church Canada, Doug, Jeanette, and Norm — to plant endemic trees that would give shade to the Arabica coffee tree. Arabica needs 25% sunlight and 75% shade and thus help in the reforestation of our mountains.

The couple who was in-charge of the Obo Manobo Indigenous Spirituality heard that Canadian spiritual leaders were visiting their Ancestral Domain. They sent word to us — to visit their sacred place. Doug respectfully entered their sacred place.

Meeting our friends and colleagues in social enterprise

Kidapawan City, Thursday, 22 September 2022, 1700-2100PHT. Romy O. Elusfa and Lourdesima “Lulu’ Pua-Elusfa, fellow advocates and practitioners of social enterprise, invited us for a dinner feast in their beautiful farm in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato. They gladly welcomed our partners and colleagues from Canada — Doug Klassen, Jeanette Hanson, and Norm Dyck. Romy was my colleague in civilian ceasefire monitoring from 2006 to 2012 as part of a peacebuilding network. His wife, Lulu, has been involved in a number of community development initiatives. She belongs to the Mandaya Indigenous People from Caraga town in the Province of Davao Oriental.

We are so blessed by the loving embrace of Romy and Lulu during that night. The food were exotic and delicious. The conversation was a celebration of transparent friendship, real life stories, and dreams of social transformation.

Our team from PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee For Peace, Inc. have been working with Romy’s and Lulu’s 3P Farm since 2020. We are mutually committed to do inclusive development and social entrepreneurial initiatives among the Mandaya Indigenous People in Davao Oriental.

Listening to Bai Jerlina Owok

Bagobo Tagabawa Ancestral Domain, Friday, 23 September 2022, 1000-1400PHT. Bai Jerlina Owok, the local tribal chieftain in Binaton welcomed us. “Maddiger!” she said with open hands. “It’s raining and the sun is shining. This means blessings!” She was specially addressing our leaders from Mennonite Church CanadaDoug Klassen, Jeanette Hanson, and Norm Dyck.

Bai Jerlina and her fellow leaders from the Bagobo Tagabawa Indigenous Political Structure prepared native dishes during a lunch fellowship during which we listened to her journey towards becoming a tribal leader.

There were exchanges of jokes and cross-cultural discussions during the lunch fellowship. Then, the conversation turned into serious dialogue when Bai Jerlina began sharing their current challenges in protecting their ancestral lands from various external and powerful forces encroaching into their indigenous lands. The jolly mood came back when we started taking ‘selfie’ photos of ourselves.

After lunch, Bai Jerlina led our Canadian guests in walking through the Peace Memorial and told the story of the Rano Massacre.

Just before we left, we, at PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee for Peace, reiterated our promise to Bai Jerlina and the Bagobo Tagabawa in Binaton that we’ll continue to help amplify their voices in their struggle towards their right to self determination and towards the protection and regeneration of their Ancestral Domain through active, nonviolent, justice-based peacebuilding and inclusive development.

Enjoying “Paradise Island”

Samal Island, Saturday, 24 September 2022, 0900-1400 PHT. We love having guests. Those are the only time our PBCI-CFP Team get to enjoy Paradise Island Park & Beach Resort which is just a 45-minute commute from our office.

We enjoyed a more relaxed interaction with our Canadian siblings in Christ while enjoying the warm ocean water and delicious island food and drinks.

We outlined our Five-Year Plan which we promised to write and submit as a full proposed strategic plan.

Here’s a video of our exit from paradise:

Getting acquainted with our legal counsel

Davao City, Saturday, 24 September 2022 at 1900-2100 PHT. We met at the CFP Cafe for a dinner fellowship with Atty. Hanan A. Romanda-Kahalan, legal consultant of PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee for Peace. Atty Hanan shared her journey as a peacebuilding lawyer, how she got involved with PBCI-CFP Team, and her legal perspective on the current state of PBCI as non-profit organization, and of CFP as a for-profit corporation.

We all expressed our gratitude to Atty Hanan for her generous and passionate service as the legal counsel of PBCI and CFP.

Sunday reflection and communion

Davao City, Sunday, 25 September 2022 at 1000-1300PHT. We gathered for reflection and communion at the PBCI-CFP Centre.

Malou Isumacher, a member of the PBCI Board of Trustees from Kalinga, shared her journey in peacebuilding and involvement with the PBCI-CFP Team.

Doug Klassen, Executive Director of Mennonite Church Canada, led us in a time of spiritual meditation and communion.

Dinner fellowship with our Manila-based BOT members

National Capital Region, Monday, 26 September 2022, 1800-2000PHT. We’re so happy to receive these photos. Our Manila-based members of the Board of Trustees of PeaceBuilders Community — Ka Boyet, Bennette Grace Tenecio Mañulit, and Emil Jonathan L. Soriano — had dinner together with the leaders of Mennonite Church Canada. We, their colleagues in Davao City, are thankful for Doug Klassen and Norm Dyck for spending time with our comrades in the National Capital Region. They missed Jeanette Hanson who stayed in the hotel room to take care of an urgent task.

In behalf of our field partners, we, the PBCI-CFP Team, thank you — Doug, Jeanette, and Norm — for your active listening tour of our partnership work in Mindanao. We’ll always remember those few days, those significant moments when you joined us in expressing our most fundamental act of love to our field partners — that is, active listening.

Thank you, our siblings in Christ at Mennonite Church Canada, for sending these inspiring servant-leaders our way to bless us at PBCI-CFP Centre and to reach out to our field partners.

To God be all the glory!

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We are sent by Mennonite Church Canada Witness in partnership with our international community.