A beautiful space for sharing stories


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Last August 15, the day after the opening of the KADAYAWAN 2017 at Magsaysay Park, the team together with other partner organizations and with several interns from The Netherlands and Vietnam, participated in a traditional oral storytelling with the elders and deputy leaders of the Ata , Matigsalug and Obu Manuvu tribes.

The conversation concentrated on three particular Indigenous Peoples, mainly, the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources, the rights to cultural identity and rights to their special and important spiritual relationships with their lands, waters, and resources and to pass these rights to future generation.

All of the elders emphasized the essential role of oral tradition as a way of passing down their culture and beliefs to their children especially in the aspect of nurturing the land and their traditional ways and rituals. The elders hoped to lessen the gap between them and the young who have gone distant from the ways and the culture of the tribe due to the influences of social media. The elders and the young leaders of the tribe are working on preserving their cultural identities through strengthening oral traditions and reviving their old ways that can still be adapted unto the present times.

The listeners were also able to share their own insights as well. For Eric Peter, the activity was like a beautiful space where people get to listen and tell stories. According to Serge Hollander, having differences is given and there is beauty in that. Diversity and being able to share it is where people learn most from each other. For Nam, the activity widens her perception about the indigenous people and their struggles for cultural identity and preservation.

As a whole, oral storytelling hoped to provide insight into the way in which the tribes identify and understand their own cultural identity and beliefs in relation to the present changes and struggles of upholding their cultural rights. Moreover, the occasion hoped to strengthen a sharing conversation among the visitors and the tribes through listening and understanding cultural narratives.

Cultivating Leaders

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August is the month that kindled the heart of the emerging Tagakolu youth leaders from the three villages in Malita, Davao Occidental. The activities were made possible because of the unwavering support of our partner, the Missionaries of Jesus, the Malita Tagakolu Mission who has been working in the community for years.


The youth leaders have tilled the lands of their respective communities. There were 20 youth from Kalatagan who ploughed the land where they can plant rice, and, 32 youth from Kangku who cleared of the grass. While 24 youth of Upper Tical started to rediscover their ways of traditional farming or "pawa". These processes are part of the Tagakolu traditional sustainable land care. However, before they even start the process of traditional farming, a "panawag-tawag" or a traditional prayer is offered to praise "Tyumanem" God, and seek guidance and encouragement to continue to cultivate these emerging Tagakolu youth leaders.

In this month of September, we are inviting you to join us in nurturing and cultivating leaders towards a culturally appropriate growth and life-giving development, and for more rewarding harvests in the coming years ahead.

Pathways to Harmony and Reconciliation

The inauguration of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Canada was a critical moment in the country’s history. It ushered in a new stage of reconciliation between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who both call Canada home. As a result of the stories that were shared through the 6-year process, the TRC made 94 recommendations as their Call to Action to all sectors of the Canadian population. These recommendations have inspired Canadians from all walks of life to explore new pathways to reconciliation and to envision what true harmony would look like for all people in Canada.

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On May 30, 2017 the Jaffray Centre participated in an event hosted by iEmergence Philippines and the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia in Davao City, Philippines. The conversation was entitled: “Reconciliation in Canada: Pathways to the Restoration of Harmony,” and Jaffray First Peoples convener Ray Aldred was the main speaker. Ray is of the Treaty 8 Cree First Nation in Canada and is the Director of the Indigenous Studies Program at the Vancouver School of Theology. He is also the chairperson of Indigenous Pathways and the North American Institute of Indigenous Theological Studies.

Using the Canadian experience to inform the discussion, the practical steps local communities can take to live out peace and reconciliation and the important role education has for Indigenous communities were discussed. The focus of the conversation was on the context in the Philippines as the local Indigenous and non-indigenous community begins a similar process of dealing with the past and works to develop concrete ways for healing and reconciliation particularly in communities where indigenous peoples remain vulnerable to violence and injustice.

30 participants representing 12 organizations and 5 different people groups joined in the conversation and brought their unique insights to the discussion. They each expressed how the Canadian experience echoes their own experience of abuse and violence. As much as it reminded them of their struggle, it also gave them the hope to persist in working for peace and reconciliation in the Philippines.

Pastor Val, a Timuay (Leader) from the Teduray Tribe commented, “What you shared was an eye-opener for us. It reminds us of the challenge to look into the past to move forward into the future more positively. “

Althea Esmael also commented, “As Bangsamoro, we can relate to what you were saying about repentance as taking responsibility, to heal the relationship with the land and with others.”

We look forward to the continued conversation both here in Mindanao, as well as around the globe, on what peace and reconciliation can look like for all of Creation.

Building a future together!

In a night filled with love and inspiration, people from different walks of life gathered together to hear stories of hope from the Ata tribal leaders during the Pag-inambitay sa Bulan sa Gugma. Pag-inambitay was a dinner for a cause event co-organized by iEmergence, Swito Designs and Balik Bukid Farm and Kitchen, in partnership with the Ata Community in Paquibato, Philippines. Pag-inambitay, the Cebuano word for “sharing” was conceived out of the desire of iEmergence and its partners to create a space where people can freely share their stories, while contributing to a great cause.

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Our venue was perfect. Balik Bukid, literally "going back to the mountains," was teeming with the beauty of life in the mountains. Surrounded by a diverse set of upcycled interior decorations and furnitures, it was not hard to feel that you were indeed in the rural areas of Mindanao and sharing a feast of native organic food with the Indigenous people. Not only were we visually engaged, we also felt the kindness and thoughtfulness of the people behind Balik Bukid. It made the space even more open for conversations and interaction.

Three Indigenous youth leaders performed tribal songs and dances to fill the room with more life. The Ali siblings, clad in full Indigenous regalia, entertained the guests with their kuglung, agong and flute. Rhyan Casiño, artist and musician from Northern Mindanao, also played different types of Indigenous musical instruments for the crowd. Their beautiful music gave us a glimpse of the richness of the cultures of the Indigenous people in Mindanao.

The highlight of the night was the elders of the Ata tribe sharing their stories and dream of a cultural regeneration among their people. Their openness made the gathering all the more meaningful. One of the guests shared that it was "great to personally see and hear their stories, and feel their passion for their tribe." Their vision was then brought to life through a 3-D animation by the team from Swito Designs. The team took us all on a visual tour of 'what would be'. It was amazing to see Panuluanan so close to reality like that.

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At the end of the gathering, it was evident how, at that moment, people shared one goal. Our collective commitment with Panuluanan was artfully depicted by Rhyan when he drew a sketch of a traditional Ata house on a white canvas. This image represented our commitment to work together to build a life-giving future with the Ata people through Panuluanan.

Truly, despite the cold February air, our hearts were warmed by the stories and hopes we shared.

Pag-inambitay sa Bulan sa Gugma!

iEmergence, Swito Designs and Balik Bukid Farm and Kitchen, in partnership with the Ata Community in Paquibato District, Davao City, are organizing a fund-raising event on February 28, 2017, 5:30 PM-9:00 PM at Balik Bukid Farm and Kitchen (Sandawa Plaza, Quimpo Boulevard, Davao City). The event, dubbed as Pag-inambitay sa Bulan sa Gugma, will be an evening of music, food and stories with the Indigenous People of Mindanao.

Pag-inambitay, the Cebuano word for “sharing” was conceived out of the desire of iEmergence and its partners to create a space where people can freely share their stories, while contributing to a great cause. The proceeds of this fundraising event will be donated to the Ata community’s Panuluanan (Ata for “place of learning”) in Paquibato District, Davao City.

Today, the Ata community, like many Indigenous communities in the world, is facing a great challenge to keep their way of life amidst environmental, economic and social changes, especially among the younger generations. Panuluanan, from the word “panulu” which means “to learn” in Ata, is a place where elders can intentionally pass on their Indigenous knowledge, values and practices to the younger generations. It began when the elders of Sitio Sorayan in Paquibato, made a collective decision to build a tribal village where the Ata tribe can reclaim and preserve their culture, as well as strengthen their community relationship. Through Panuluanan, the community hopes to achieve this dream of cultural regeneration.

Last October 2016, the community was able to construct the initial structure for Panuluanan and has already designed the whole tribal village. This year, the community, together with iEmergence and Swito Designs, non-governmental organizations working alongside Indigenous communities in Mindanao, hopes to build five other structures, two other learning areas for natural farming and traditional water rafting, and an open space for cultural presentations.

We are inviting every one to join us in creating this space of learning by taking part in Pag-inambitay sa Bulan sa Gugma! In this month of giving and receiving love, let’s build a future together! This February 28, enjoy sumptuous meals prepared by Balik Bukid Farm and Kitchen, watch local artists perform and hear stories from the Ata tribe. For more information, contact Faith at 09173017312 or check out iEmergence in Facebook. Tickets are sold at Php600 per head.