Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee

Small Victories

People empowerment starts with people believing and gaining confidence in themselves.

One of the unique features of the Peace process between the GRP and the RPMM is its inclusive and consultative nature. While the formal peace talks between the panels are being done, local peace consultations are conducted with the communities.

The local peace consultations are where communities identify problems and at the same time identify solutions. The main objective in the process are empowered sustainable communities. In these consultations most if not all of the barangays always identify livelihood projects in addressing the need to increase income of the families.

The Asia Foundation is one of those organizations who answered the call to journey with the process. TAF provides start up capital to People’s organizations in the barangays, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. CONZARRD the implementing NGO for the TAF projects says that beside the distance that they have to conquer, they also had some resistance from the communities of the project.

Like most of the communities who have experienced violent conflicts before, they are already suspicious. Barangay’s like Miatan and Carupay are one such barangays. Though the Community organizers of CONZARD have already done the protocol of doing courtesy calls to the mayor, the communities were hesitant at first, memories of conflict between the military and the NPA in the 80’s and 90’s come to their mind.

With persistence, they finally cooperated and have undergone a series of capability building seminars on handling or managing the project well. The livelihood project is not only anchored in the PO’s but the barangay local government also has its strong support. Barangay Captain Bonifacio Cabasag of Miatan said that it really helped his constituents in having access to capital and acquire livestocks such as goats chicken and sows. What is also important he says is that the PO’s are the one managing the project, giving people the confidence to stand on their own.

Esmeraldo Tomas, PO chairperson of Barangay Carupay, said they are very enthusiastic about the prospects of their project. Barangay Carupay is a subanen community and is about 40 kilometers from the national highway going up to the hinterlands. Most of the beneficiaries preferred to have horses which esmeraldo says helped them a lot in transporting their farm products. The road going to the barangay is really dilapidated and is inaccessible to Public utility vehicles.

The barangay is also under threat to mining companies. TVI or Toronto ventures incorporated have been visiting barangays, since these areas are positive with gold. One such barangay they have visited is barangay Miatan, luring barangay officials with money but the barangay captain resisted knowing the effects and what mining can do to the barangay. Farming being the major source of income would be gone. These are but some signs of empowerment.

With the peace process, they said that their barangay have become peaceful, no more military operations and armed encounters. While the journey towards peace is but long and arduous, communities are beginning that journey.

The livelihood project of TAF complements projects from other stakeholders, like the Kalahi-cidds of DSWD which implemented a hanging bridge and road gravelling of barangays miatan and carupay respectively. The building blocks of peace are there, we just have to continue building.