Joji & Dann Pantoja

Joji & Dann Pantoja are peace building missionaries commissioned by Peace Mennonite Church and administered through Mennonite Church Canada. They are assigned to the Philippines to lead a team of Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Specialists called PeaceBuilders Community Inc. They also co-founded Coffee for Peace Corp. to help indigenous farmers in the Philippines produce, process, and market their products in accordance with inclusive and sustainable development principles.

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Const. Jana McGuinness of the Vancouver Police Department announces the charges against Oi Ling Nicole Huen and Franco Yiu Kwan Orr for illegally smuggling a Filipino woman into Canada.

According to CTV News, a Filipino woman was smuggled into Canada by a couple from Hongkong and forced her “to work for them as a domestic servant and nanny.”

The 38-year old woman kept quiet for many months for fear of being deported. The Vancouver Police Department soon discovered her situation. The human traffickers, Oi Ling Nicole Huen and Franco Yiu Kwan Orr, who illegally smuggled the Filipino woman to Vancouver, British Columbia, are now charged under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada.

We praise God that the victim remains in Canada. We thank God for the Canadian authorities for granting this Filipino woman legal status.

In the Philippines, the Department of Justice is strengthening its fight against human trafficking.

This particular story may have a happy ending.

But we wonder how many more of our poor fellow Filipinos are victimized by human trafficking?

According to a web resource combating human trafficking,

Philippine men, women, and girls were trafficked for labor and sexual exploitation to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Africa, North America, and Europe. The government and NGO estimates on the number of women trafficked range from 300,000 to 400,000 and the number of children trafficked range from 60,000 to 100,000. Many Filipino men and women voluntarily migrate to work abroad but later coerced into exploitative conditions.

Why are our people forced to diaspora, or dispersion outside our home country?

The most obvious reason is economic:  Our per capita income in the Philippines is still one of the smallest in Southeast Asia. The average Filipino cannot find a descent income in our own country.

Injustice is also a major reason why Filipinos want to go abroad. Income inequality in the Philippines, according to International Labor Organization, is still one of the worst in Asia. It hurts to be poor in the Philippines. The rich flaunt their wealth in the face of the masses who can barely eat three times a day, while social and political structures are marred with corruption.

This sad reality challenges us to work harder and smarter in advancing the peace and reconciliation ministry in our land.


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Today, The Rev. Norman Naromal, senior pastor of Davao Bible Community Church (DBCC), entrusted to me his ministry of preaching. This happens at least once every two months. It helps him get a break from his preaching routine, and it gives me a chance to serve God and the people through biblical teaching.

Under Pastor Norman’s leadership, I prepared and delivered a biblical message based on his sermon-series on the Epistle of St. James.

The particular passage I used for community reflection was chapter 1 and verses 19-27:

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Here’s the outline of what I shared:



Our religious talk must be authenticated by our positive walkPositive walk is demonstrated by listening with pure and humble attitude, applying biblical principles in our lives, being always conscious of the consequences of our words, serving the people in need, and living a lifestyle that is not polluted by the corrupt standards of this world.

1. Listen with a pure and humble attitude. (vv. 19-21)
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry… get rid of all moral filth and evil… humbly accept the word planted in you…”

2. Apply what you’ve heard from the Word of God. (vv. 22-25)
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

3. Practice the religion that is acceptable to God. (vv. 26-27)
If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

I praise God for such a privilege sharing the Word to DBCC.

For me, worshiping God with my Davao community is always an act of God’s grace. I do not deserve to be loved and cared for by these people, but God showered Divine Favor not because of me, but rather, despite me.

Joji and I enjoy this congregation. We celebrate the relationships we have developed in this local church. It’s great to have a community where we can be at home, and where sanctuary can be experienced after weeks of intense field work.

Praise God for DBCC!

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We thank the Hon. Datu Kharis Baraguir and his family for inviting us at the Grand Opening of Datu’s Brew, the first Bangsamoro-conceptualized fair trade coffee shop in the Philippines.

Joji and I are a native Tagalog couple. Through the Baraguir Family, we have learned to love, respect, and appreciate the history and culture of the Bangsamoro in general, and of the Maguindanao people in particular.

Our experience at Datu’s Brew encapsulated — through sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste — our formerly-abstract and academic idea of the term Maguindanao.

As a social enterprise, the Baraguir family explored the values that are relevant to them. The three terms they chose to characterize their advocacies are history, art, and peace.

History. At Datu’s Brew, we got immersed in this people’s time, memory, and territory. “Time, memory, and territory,” according to a Bangsamoro statesman, “are the historical antecedents of a people’s identity.” Identity results in community. The blood and soil of the Bangsamoro and of the Maguindanaons characterize their nativity.

Inside Datu’s Brew, we had a grasp of the Moro people’s nationhood. A nation is said to be a territorial community of nativity.

Datu’s Brew is not just a story of business interest which is merely characterized by labor and market.

Datu’s Brew is the story of a native people’s journey in their native land — that of blood and soil.

Art. Datu’s Brew re-tells the journey of Mindanao through the lenses of the Bangsamoro narrative using arts and crafts. The pieces of artistic items and textiles presented to their guests represent certain segments of history and aspects of their culture.

Products of Ginis Arts and Crafts are displayed for sale at Datu’s Brew.

Ginis Arts and Crafts and Datu’s Brew both bring light and understanding to the Bangsamoro’s vision of a land where beauty and freedom is Reality.

Peace. Our experience at Datu’s Brew gave us the indicator that the visionaries behind this social business understand that genuine peace comes from Salaam.

The Arabic word “salaam” basically means “completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace.” Completeness has the idea of being whole — that is, all the parts are connected with each other. Soundness can be understood also as safety of the body and clarity of mind. Welfare can be viewed as wellness — that is, holistic health and prosperity.

Peace can be read as tranquility, contentment, and healthy relationships.

The ultimate meaning of Salaam is total submission to the Creator.

Peace is harmony with other human beings, and thus, the absence of any hostility or war.

Having said all these essential characteristics of Datu’s Brew, it must be emphasized that Datu’s Brew serves the best 100% Arabica beans that has been ranked as Premium Coffee in accordance with global cupping standards.

The food menu and serving at Datu’s Brew is at par with international standards, appreciated by foreign aid workers and peace building executives in Mindanao.

In our role as co-founders of Coffee for Peace, we are privileged to be a partner in this business: we supply Datu’s Brew with global standard quality and fair traded Arabica coffee beans.

Again, we thank the Baraguir Family for inviting us in this social entrepreneurial endeavour.

::  May 10, 2011  ::  Davao City  ::


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A report by
MS REGINA MONDEZ, Development Communication Specialist, PeaceBuilders Community

The muddy trek going to Brgy. Asibanglan, Pinukpuk, Kalinga


On the third week of January 2011, PBCI team had an extraordinary experience in the Province of Kalinga. From Tabuk City, we had a three-hour roller coaster ride on a jeepney loaded with pigs, chickens, and rice. After the ride, we hiked a distance of 6 km uphill from 230 m/asl up to 680 m/asl.The hike took us 3.5 hours, due to the muddy and slippery trek. We were all tired when we got to Brgy. Asibanglan, Pinukpuk, Kalilnga but the warm welcome of the people in Asibanglan was a good prize for us. We were served with a delicious rice cake and brewed coffee, prepared in their traditional way.

We were hosted by the Agustin family, who had a traumatic experience years ago, when their father was killed. Their family’s story is one worth writing about in another article.

There, Christy Agustin Sacayle, our host in Tabuk who also hiked with us, and the eldest son of Pedro Agustin (who was killed years ago), showed us the rooms where we would rest for two nights. She managed our trip so well, that everything we needed, especially the food for the whole barangay, are complete. We also met Doleng (Christy’s mother), Dominga (Christy’s aunt), and Doleng’s mother. They were all so friendly and accommodating to us. Together with us are Hart and Ginny Wiens, who lived there for 6 years doing Bible translation in Kalinga language, Dave and Debbie Wiens (Hart’s brother and sister-in-law), and Kyoko Torakawa, a Japanese missionary who also lived there for four years. It was sort of a reunion for those who lived there before, but a totally new experience for us who were there for the first time.

The highlight of our stay there was the dedication of the Asibanglan Reading Center, which was dedicated in memory of three courageous people who started doing the Bible translation in their language. Before their works, there was never a written word in their language. Thanks to Pedro Agustin, Dorothea Bantor, and Benito Aggueban for starting a difference in their community.

This plaque was made to be posted in the library, to honor the three people who made a difference in their community

The dedication was blessed with a mass led by Father Francis Gella. After the mass and communion, the second part of the program was enriched with a message of peace delivered by Rev. Daniel Pantoja, whose message inspired the teachers and community leaders. They were all challenged about the four harmonies and how to apply it in dealing with their students. After the message, was the speeches of the three daughters of the people to whom the library was dedicated. A feast followed after this. The whole community enjoyed the two pigs that were killed the night before. Those are the two pigs that were with us from Tabuk, and that the locals carried up to Asibanglan.

In the afternoon, was the most exciting part, wherein we experienced their culturally preserved community dancing, and they even invited us (guests) to dance with them. It was an awesome, fun-filled afternoon. We are very much pleased with their native music and dance, decorated with smiles on their faces and enhanced with the laughter of the children as they enjoy watching the performers.

Kalinga girls while performing their cultural dance

We really had a complete Kalinga culture experience. Their hospitality, music, dance, and tribal attire– they showed it all to us and reminded us that the Philippines is indeed a rich country. There are still lots to discover, only if we are willing to take difficult challenges such as hiking in deep mud for three and a half hours.

See Facebook Album

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Reported by
MS REGINA MONDEZ, Development Communication Specialist, PeaceBuilders Community

On November 8, 2010, PeaceBuilders Community Inc (PBCI) Field Operations Team traveled to Cotabato City to explore the possibility of organizing a Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community in this area. The team met with 15 participants from various Churches and Christian organizations to discuss and reflect on PAR ministries.

The meeting began with a presentation of PBCI’s vision to establish at least one PAR Community in each of the 81 provinces in the Philippines.  Rev. L. Daniel Pantoja, Founding President of PBCI, shared the sad realities we are currently facing: “Unjust Globalism—poor countries are oppressed and suppressed by powerful nations and multinational corporations.  Conflicted Land—our government is wasting huge amounts from our scarce resources due to armed conflicts against our own people.  Violence of Injustice—our people are enslaved in poverty while warlords run many of our local governments.”

But he also emphasized the fact that God is at work in our land and we are in a crucial time when God’s waves of grace and mercy are sweeping our land towards a taste of God’s shalom: “This is a kairos-moment for the Church in the Philippines.  We, at PeaceBuilders Community, sense that the Spirit of God is prompting the Body of Christ to be a mediator among various conflicting groups in our land.  What would be your response as Christian leaders in Cotabato City?”

An open forum followed.

During the forum the pastors expressed their reactions about PAR ministry. They confirmed that PAR ministry is needed in the area both within the church and with the greater community. Generally, the participants felt that PAR is both important and time sensitive for the area. They acknowledged their need to come together to have a voice in the conflict situation in their province.

It was also mentioned that getting involved in PAR ministries will require a change of mindset among the Christian community regarding their Muslim neighbors. They are aware of the gap between these two communities due to Christian prejudice against Muslim, and the need for efforts to be made to overcome this.

During our time together, we observed that the Christian community is confused about what some Muslim groups are fighting for in terms of territory and how that would affect their lives. Therefore, more dialogue between the Muslims and the Christians  is required to build mutual understanding.

The pastors in Cotabato City and surrounding areas embraced the idea of peace building and PAR ministry during this exploratory meeting. As one participant put it, “I am so happy!  With all my heart, this is the kind of peace building that I long for. This is concrete.”

The participants have confirmed, through the chairman of Cotabato City Ministerial Fellowship, Pastor Valentin Juan, that they are interested in training and will begin PAR Seminar Series in January of 2011.

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