Going out of my comfort zone

By: Rowena Manzano

My two days visit to Sorayan, Paquibato District in Davao City, last April 26-27, 2017, was indeed one of the best experiences in my life. From the past three months that I’ve been part of iEmergence, there has been a lot of new experiences I’ve encountered and I am grateful for the chance of being part of the team. I admit some of those experience were out of my comfort zone.

The trip gave me awareness that the project site is far. It’s amazing to know that the team came to reach this community. It’s a very rural area where roads are like a trail of adventure. The visit inspired me in many ways. I witnessed the Ata tribe who were so eager to reach their dream in building Panuluanan. Their commitment to do more than what’s required of them is something that amazed me. It’s been exciting to watch this from afar, but even more exciting now that I can see this here and witness the growth of the community. Indeed, they are united and eager to reach the same goal.

I came to realize that we each are different. Like music, each one has its own rhythm. We each have our own life, language and heritage. I learned how to be more open and adaptive to what is around me. The people in the community may not have everything they need, but still you can see contentment in their happy faces, welcoming their guest with a genuine smile. I was immersed in the community and learning their way of life. This gave me creative learning. I especially valued the chance to roam the hills that surrounded the area. I enjoyed the view of the abundance and bounty of the land, long walks along country roads, and a nice swim in the river. They have abundant resources, they just need to develop and preserve what they have. As I conversed with some of the elders there, they said that Panuluanan is their long awaited dream, and that they are hopeful to make it happen.

The community visit motivated me as part of the iEmergence Team. It gave me direction in pursuing the dreams of the organization and the community. It strengthened my sense of well-being, and my learning was enhanced by my direct interaction with the people in the community. Overall, these past months have been an excellent opportunity for personal growth and learning.

Rowena (or Weng) Manzano is new to the iEmergence family. She is the Sustainable Resource Development Officer of the team. She will be leading us to build more sustainable ways of implementing the organization's vision and programs.

We are One

By: Sharon Bulaclac

The fifteen (15)-day International Osmosis in Thailand was like a classroom without walls, learning without borders, a class where everyone was a teacher an expert of something and everybody has something to share and each one was a willing learner.

As a teacher and a student of History and Culture it’s a great privilege to be given the opportunity to be part of this journey. “Comfort the disturb, disturb the comfortable” encapsulated everything I saw and experienced during this trip. As we spend time at UHDP and visit communities they worked with for many years I was impressed with one word – COLLABORATION, valuing the working together for better principle. They recognized that in reality, to fully achieve their goals they need to collaborate and provide space with other groups to work with them. Through UHDP we were able to listen to the different stories from the Lahu and the Palaung tribe. For me, I believe as we listened and give space for their stories to be told, we also allow them to revisit pages of their lives that they treasure. Showing our willingness to listen afforded those we met a certain amount of healing, a feeling that they do matter and their stories are important. Obviously they have been displaced and disturbed from their traditional homeland as they seek for safer place in northern parts of Thailand. But as we listen and share also our stories it created a bond and indelible mark with each other’s lives. Listening and sharing each other opens an opportunity for empathy which reminds me of a Jewish saying that I love - “What is truer than the truth? Answer: the story.” This kind of experience saves us from having a single story not only with the communities we visited but even among us who joined the Osmosis.

More opportunity for learning and sharing were given to us as we move from place to place to visit other organizations. With the New Life Center I learned about TEAMWORK. Pi Faye shared to us how they work together with the different institutions of the government to safely rescue women from human trafficking. It showed me the value of acknowledging the strengths of others and recognizing what you do not have. With WEAVE, it's CREATIVITY. I appreciate how the organization creatively work their way in helping the displaced, disadvantaged and marginalized ethnic women from Burma and in Northern Thailand. I was really impressed with WEAVE as a social enterprise on how they build pathways and opportunities to generate safe and fair income for women through handicrafts development and support preserving what they call time-honoured artisanship and culture. Every product they sell carries the story of the weaver. With the School of Tomorrow, I was moved with their COMMITMENT to offer education to the less privileged sector of society. How their teachers and volunteers patiently erase used materials so that those who cannot afford to buy can reuse them.

The common denominator of all the expressions of kindness and goodness of the people we’ve met within the 15-day journey was passion and a realization that we are one regardless of our color, creed and nationality. We are one in this one big journey called life. We may differ in context but by simply having a small amount of awareness that we are one as human beings and all of the wisdom of all peoples we meet can contribute to our collective well-being, we can appreciate more the beauties of life and be more giving and caring towards each other.

Sharon is an historian and academician from the Mindanao State University, Philippines who has been supportive of iEmergence's programs and activities. She has undergone the Asset-Based Community Development Training (ABCD) Level II with iEmergence last October 2014 and has since been an active champion of ABCD throughout her work and other passions. Sharon went with the team from iEmergence to live and learn in Northern Thailand for two weeks.

Our Brother's Keeper

By: Mitch Irag

As humans it is imperative that we give back a portion of what we have to the community. Then I learned that though many were living abundant lives, a few of those were just not that keen to the plights of those who don't have much. That we live in a ruthless society whose judgments of color and race divided us for generations.

I also learned that the struggle to keep people as one is a rather difficult road to take, but while we continue to traverse despite the bumpy roads, there were those who never failed to lift each other.

This is manifested on the recently concluded "KADAYAWAN 2016" where several IP from the Ata tribe gathered at the Tribo Mindanawan grounds to showcase their way of life. It is interesting to note that in this modern day and age they remained rooted to their heritage and continued to live simple lives up in the mountains, away from the chaotic routines of urban dwellings.

I've seen the apprehensions in their eyes especially the kids and although they look scared, I've also seen the undeniable curiosity beaming each time they're asked to describe their city experience. I don't get to see this kind of life everyday so I was overwhelm at the thought of meeting these kind and peace-loving people who thrive on their day to day activities. That though they have nothing and had to often fight for their birth rights, they are still the same classic Filipinos we meet in the streets every day. Smiling. Accommodating.

Not minding the daily pains of an empty stomach and bare feet to welcome strangers with wide arms. That amidst the frantic throng of people going and leaving their solemn space, they are still the same delicate group who wishes nothing but goodwill to everyone even to those who don’t speak and dress like them.

Hence I am thankful for this opportunity to give myself a chance to find balance in a life lived within the confines of the corporate walls and personal struggles. I am grateful that there were more concerned and idealistic individuals and organizations than I do, who were brave enough to fight with minimal means because of the children and the belief that they stood for.

Someone said in one of the cultural orientations with iEmergence that we have two obligations whilst we live. That of ourselves and our fellow being. That we must do our share in whatever small ways we have and we can, to at least foster a genuine sense of brotherhood with our own.

Mitch has been working at an outsourcing company based in Davao City for quite a while now. In her spare time, she often volunteers at iEmergence to help with fundraising and advocacy. Mitch's enthusiasm in engaging the Indigenous people is evident in the various activities she has helped organized. In social media, she is one of the first few who will readily say yes to our call for support and would immediately share the good news to her networks.

Kadayawan: Celebrating cultural diversity and understanding its importance

By: Cha Florece

I have lived in Davao City for 30 years and I’ve only recently participated in the yearly celebration of Kadayawan. Many celebrate the week-long festivities by partying, watching social/cultural events and even join the parade. But only a few understand the core values of this grand festival, which is to recognize the first occupants of this land, the LUMAD.


In this year’s celebration, with the help of friends from iEmergence, I got the chance to share stories with our Lumad brothers and sisters. I was glad to know that they were happy to visit the city, see some places that are new to them, and meet new faces who they will remember for the rest of their lives. I was happy when they told me they appreciate and liked the modernity of the city which makes the people’s lives easier and comfortable. Our transportation, establishments, huge schools, tall buildings, gadgets, and other communication devices. Some of them said they will visit the city again.

Then, it was their turn to ask me if I have been to their place. I said yes, and it was also my first time to visit Paquibato District. Although I have travelled to far flung places several times before, it was my first to go with the vision of a successful project in mind, and the excitement to finally meet the Lumad in the community. I told them I was not discouraged by how difficult the transportation was, how dusty and challenging the ride was. I told them that I fully enjoyed the ride seeing how refreshing it was to see lush bushes, green mountains and how simple the people are. I was happy to see kids walk going to school, making me feel nostalgic where I had to walk due to unavailability of the transportation, yet making me more and more motivated to go learn the lessons prepared everyday. Minutes passed by and we were all delighted to hear different stories.

I came to realize that they are more people of the world than me. Even at the young age of 10, or 15, they understand how important our land is. The need to preserve the trees, animals and food this land produces. They are more sensitive in preserving our culture and tradition, that this is the way we are being recognized for being a Davaoeño. I was taken aback when one of the kids said they wished for the mainland people to be more concerned in conserving the environment, so that the people can enjoy the wonders of the hand above.

Cha works at a Philippine-based firm that delivers a broad scope of marketing, analysis, and other business services to leading companies called Demand Science. She, along with Demand Science, has been a partner of iEmergence in building positive pathways for Indigenous people in Mindanao for over a year now. Cha actively promotes and supports the work we do at iE because she believes that Indigenous people should have the space to freely express and learn their ways of living.

Celebrating Reconciliation: Learning from Tedurays


By: Kathleen Lei Limayo

Last May, I traveled with iEmergence Philippines to document the 2nd Conversations on Faith and IP Culture with the Teduray community in North Upi Maguindanao . This travel taught me a valuable lesson about Reconciliation.

Reconciliation calls for celebration . I was talking to Timuay Ricky (a Teduray Tribal leader) who started telling stories about the Teduray Justice System . As he tells the story of what Justice looks like, I gaze to the mountains surrounding us with a smile. Definitely the Teduray justice system sounds very restorative. Justice isn’t something to punish a wrong doing. Justice isn’t to discriminate the perpetrator. Justice isn’t something to shame the victim. But justice is to reconcile people . He mentioned that for the Teduray people even gravest offense, which is murder can be forgiven. When someone kills another person, the family members of both the perpetrator and the dead person are summoned by the Timuays. Face to face, the families are called to talk about how the perpetrator’s family can pay for the lost life. The payment can be livestock, produce or any yield that the family of the perpetrator can pay. After settling the payment, the community calls for a ceremony. A thanksgiving ceremony is done to give thanks to the Creator for bringing reconciliation. This ceremony marks a covenant saying that everything is well, forgiven and reconciled. Hearing this story affirms my thoughts about justice. I have been struggling about how justice could be restorative. Justice is restorative if it seeks to reconcile. This type of justice doesn’t seek to forget the offense but it tries to remember the offender and the offended . It remembers that before the offense there is harmony, there is peace, there is a relationship, there is a community and there is a God.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel right to just say let's call for a celebration of reconciliation after a tragedy. A life is still a life, after all. How can we celebrate if we hear stories about pain and suffering. How can we celebrate reconciliation if we got hurt? How can a reconciliation call for celebration? Where can we base this?

Colossians 1:1520 reminds us of our reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. It reads, “ The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy . For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things , whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

This is how we are reconciled. We are reconciled through Christ. Now that we know and understand that we are reconciled with God how do we celebrate this reconciliation? What do we do with this reconciliation? We can celebrate this reconciliation by letting this reconciliation we have received flow to our communities, to our neighbors, our families, our nation, our work, our advocacies. Celebrating that reconciliation means that we, as followers of Christ, we embody that reconciliation . And as the Kingdom is here and now, there are still things that needs to be redeemed and reconciled until the New Heavens and New Earth is established. We work with God not just for justice, but we work with God for reconciliation. We work with God not just for equality, but for reconciliation. We work with God for reconciliation because of love. Because He love us. As CS Lewis says, “He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is love.” And because Jesus is love, we are reconcilable. Through Him, we can celebrate reconciliation.

*All photos are grabbed from Kathleen's Facebook

Kathleen is a storyteller, filmmaker, and designer. She has spent the past years of her life traveling, shooting videos and taking photos because she believes in the power of stories for transformation. She is also the current editor-in-chief and founder of Alive Young Women, an online community of young Christian women. Get to know more about this visual storyteller in her

Remembering my childhood with joy


By Faith Dima-ano

It was a first time in history that I traveled to Cotabato City. It was amazing,meaningful and yet reminiscing of my childhood life… being a daughter of a pioneering missionary parents somewhere in Compostela Valley, Philippines. During the Conversations on Faith and IP Culture event, facilitating logistical support was part of my work. But, when I saw all the people, I was kind of reminded how we did our missionary work during my younger years. I saw how the people there have this simple yet so amazing happiness. I felt the same way when I saw their happy faces especially when they saw people outside their area visiting their communities. That event was a big impact to their community and I feel like being there was having this thought of "Wow, there are plenty of happy people in this world!"

Faith is the Administrative Officer of iEmergence, Inc. Philippines. Hailing from Anitapan, Compostela Valley, where she and her two brothers were raised by missionary parents, she and her family have settled back in Davao City. Growing up in Anitapan, she spent a lot of time with the Mansaka tribe. This allowed her to experience a variety of things and grow in her understanding of her country especially its Indigenous peoples.

Pride in one's identity

By Bobet Dimaukom

The experience to have volunteered with iEmergence during the AI workshop in Paquibato District has greatly affected the way I understand my connecting experience with the Indigenous peoples. Having worked for a local NGO before, we have had different experiences with IP communities and have witnessed their rich culture and traditions that they want to preserve as it has proven to have effectively and efficiently worked within their society.

Having stayed with the Ata community in Paquibato District brought my whole interest to understand the culture into a deeper sense and a more personal level. Their aspirations to preserve their traditional way of living in all aspects manifests in their desire to have a Panuluanan or a school of living traditions put up in the community. This was really new to me because I felt the sincere sense of pride and ownership of the tribe to pass onto the next generations their practices and their identity in general – which made me realize the value of my own personal identity as a Moro as well. If there’s an ultimate take home from the whole experience, it’s the preservation of the pride and ownership of one’s identity.

Bobet is a project officer working with forumZFD Philippines, a German NGO working for conflict transformation and peacebuilding in the country. He works at the Cotabato City office of the organization. Bobet has volunteered with iEmergence multiple times to help in the documentation of its activities and programs.

Witnessing a community dream

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By Rhea Silvosa

I am always grateful for opportunities to be able to connect with communities and with various groups in the country. It makes me appreciative of who I am and just how truly bountiful and beautiful is my home, and how diverse my family is. Thinking back about it, I’m surprised to realize that I actually liked that I was uncomfortable in a lot of ways because it forced me to look at things as they really are. And always, the truth is not an easy thing to handle. The circumstances we’ve experienced in our three day stay in Sorayan were things I expected because I know they’re happening in many places not just in Sorayan, but the situation still surprised and shocked me. I always find it distressing to see poverty face to face and I want to learn not to look away and pretend that all is alright with the world. Experiences such as this helps me to stay firm to the cause I have ascribed myself into—helping the world become a better place for us to live in.

But one thing beautiful to see is to witness a community dream. It was a wonderful moment to be in. You know that the world is not hopeless after all when you see these people and the steadfast hope they have for the future. They are dreaming and doing something to make sure that the future is a place they could be proud of to leave their children behind. I feel really privilege to be in some way part of the process in making that dream into a reality. Once again I am reminded that no matter how small the work we are doing compared to the horrendous realities of life, of the world. What we do matter still, because it matters to one life. And that is always important to remember.

Rhea is the Annual Training Program Officer of Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute in the Philippines. She volunteers with iEmergence in her spare time to help in facilitation and documentation especially in iE's engagement with the tribal people currently encamped in the UCCP, Haran compound, Davao City, Philippines.