February 2017

Ubun na Kettal reaches new community

“We, as the youth of today, have the role to cultivate, grow and develop ourselves to be rooted in our given identity and culture. We have a big responsibility to enrich this gift to pass on to the next generations.” – John, youth from Upper Tical
Photo 14-02-2017, 2 07 03 PM

This understanding that John shared, and what others also affirmed, has helped shape the leadership program of the Indigenous youth in the Tagakolu community in Malita, Philippines. Ubun na Kettal, literally "cultivating culture", through the initiative of the community, is now expanding outside the two pilot areas. A preliminary activity was held last February 3 to 4, 2017, where 27 youth coming from 4 villages gathered with their elders and leaders. In the gathering, the community identified several mentors that would lead them during phase one of the leadership program. They also determined the timeframe, availability of participants and mentors, and set guidelines that would help those involved to focus in their learning journey.

It is exciting to see the community lead this engagement together with the help of the Missionaries of Jesus and its staff, the Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference – Youth Congress, and iEmergence. It is even more admirable to witness their elders and leaders assert their role in implementing the leadership program.

For Ubun na Kettal, the horizon is ever expanding and we, as co-sojourners in this journey, continue to tread on. Padeleg Kita!

Finding Joy and Purpose

“Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.” Neh 2:17,18

Roel Arthur Ali III, known fondly as "Bob", is a young man with an incredible desire to lead his people. He is the second son of one of the most respected elders of the Ata tribe in southern Philippines. Although he was born in a village in the mountains of Paquibato, he grew up in the city of Davao. When we first met Bob, he was a shy kid but a very respectful one. During conversations, he would only sit behind his father and listen intently, and would speak only if he was asked to. More often, you would see Bob playing traditional musical instruments such as the bangkakaw and kuglung. Music was more his safe space.

Early 2016, seeing his potential as a young leader of the tribe, we invited Bob to work with us in our journey of developing Panuluanan, a traditional place for learning culture, among his own people. In our visits to the community, he began to share how he is slowly finding purpose in his journey with his people.

Bob shares: "It is different when you are helping your own tribe. There is great joy."

It was this time that people around him began to see a change in him. We began to call him "Bob the Builder” because he was helping build this space of learning. The title started in jest but it eventually became his identity in the tribe, especially among the younger generations. He now helps organize meetings and conversations with elders and community leaders, and shares his thoughts so openly. Aside from this, Bob has also found delight in another craft other than music. It is amazing to see his eagerness to learn to visually document their journey behind the camera so others may also come to appreciate their culture.

From being a timid young man, Bob has grown to be an emerging leader of the community and an inspiration to other Ata youth. Younger ones now look up to him and are encouraged to learn, engage and appreciate their unique identity as God’s gift to their tribe.

A Space for Cultural Learning

On the morning of October 14, 2016, the tribal elders gathered together to offer their thanksgiving to the Creator through a Panubad-tubad (tribal ceremony). This expression of gratitude was a celebration of the community’s five-year journey with iEmergence and the commemoration of the National Indigenous People’s Month here in the Philippines. More importantly, it was a momentous day for Panuluanan (place of learning), as we built a traditional house that will serve as model for all the other structures in Panuluanan.

The construction of the Panuluanan model house began immediately after the tribal blessing. The place was full of joy, hope and enthusiasm as the Ata community worked together in building the foundation of their place of learning. Positive energy flowed among the people as they took the next step in realizing their long-awaited desire, envisioned over five years ago. Your kind heart paved the way for this dream to come true.

In the long term, the tribal elders dream of building a Tribal Village on a five-hectare land donated by the Tribal Chieftain. They envision Panuluanan as a place where there will be an intentional transfer of cultural practices, knowledge and values to the next generation. What took place was only the initial phase, for there is much more work to be done: the development of their Indigenous curriculum and construction of other traditional houses that will complete the whole Panuluanan. The community eagerly hopes that you will walk with them on this journey.

Living and Learning in Northern Thailand (International Osmosis)

The project known as International Osmosis is a cross-cultural immersion experience that took place from October 25 - November 10, 2016. Four youth leaders from the Ata, Teduray, Tagakolu and Matigsalug tribes, alongside the iEmergence team, engaged in a two-week cross-cultural learning immersion with one of our partners in Thailand, Upland Holistic Development Project (UHDP), and their partner communities. UHDP is a faith-based organization that has been engaging in a Christian response to holistic development for over 30 years among the tribal communities in Thailand.

International Osmosis was a wonderful opportunity to gain knowledge on agroforestry, natural farming and community forest management from experts in the communities. We learned a lot from the elders of the Daraang tribe particularly on the ways in which they care for creation and keep their cultural and spiritual traditions, despite the great challenges they face as refugees from Myanmar living in Thailand.

The immersion also provided the leaders the space to have a cultural exchange with the hill tribe communities. They not only shared stories, songs and dances but also, faith and identities as tribal peoples.

Learning visits to different organizations (based in Chiang Mai City) working alongside Indigenous communities in Northern Thailand were also organized during the trip. In these visits, we heard stories of transformation from young ethnic women from the New Life Center Foundation, learned from the experiences of WEAVE in empowering women refugees through fair trade, and helped the School of Tomorrow prepare workbooks for underprivileged students.

The immersion brought a valuable lesson to the entire International Osmosis team. Everyone was excited to share the inspiring stories they learned from the various hill-tribe communities and local organizations. The experience fueled the leaders' passion to continue to serve their respective tribes. For iE, it also spurred us to commit even more deeply in the work of strengthening Indigenous leaders.

Designing a Tribal Village

Last January 2017, the elders and community leaders of the Ata tribe in Sitio Sorayan Paquibato, Davao City, gathered to collectively design their own space for cultural learning called Panuluanan. For three days, the community shared stories of traditional architecture and created a miniature version of Panuluanan. The workshop was facilitated by Gloryrose Dy-Metilla and Henna Dazo of Swito Designs, a community-based architecture firm based in Mindanao. The team from iEmergence was also present to assist and document the participatory process.

The objective of the workshop was to rediscover the Ata tribe's architectural traditions and to strengthen community participation in designing the whole landscape of Panuluanan. Gloryrose shares: “The participants are community architects already because they were able to create a beautiful and sustainable Indigenous structure even without us. They only need to refine it by adding a technical perspective.” The team from Swito provides that element.

The workshop was also a good space for identifying local resources. The community were able to identify the structures and spaces that will form this cultural village. There will be five major structures: one for worship or the Panubaran, one for learning (Panuluanan), one for conversations, one for livelihood and another to serve as a traditional Ata home. The community also hopes to develop spaces for Indigenous farming and river rafting, and an open space for cultural shows. In all of these, they are determined to use Indigenous resources and materials found within their ancestral land.

Help us build the entire tribal village! Pegdumoy kid! Join us in this big adventure!

For more on Panuluanan, watch this video: