Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee

Stories From Barangay Miatan, Zamboanga del Norte

Like most of the hinterland barangays of Mindanao, barangay miatan was once a haven of violent armed conflicts. Stories of communities sandwiched between forces of the Military and the rebels, stories of abuse and fear. This is what Mr. Bonifacio Cabasag, the barangay Captain of Miatan told us. He is glad those horrific times were over and have become nothing more than grim memories.
Miatan is a 1,000 hectare barangay of the Municipality of Katipunan which is part of the province of Zamboanga del Norte. Located deep into the mountains, a river welcomes you as you enter the place with a hanging bridge suspended over it. It is passable only by people and with motorcycle, any four wheeled vehicle has to pass right through the river.

In 2003, the GRP-RPM-M Peace process begun and one of its unique features is the local peace consultations. Barangay Miatan was one of those identified to go through the process. The local peace consultations are where communities identify problems and the same time identify solutions. The main objective of the process is to have 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. These livestocks are an added income and security of families in times of need.

Barangay Captain Bonifacio Cabasag said that one of the problems in their barangay is the lack of access to capital. There are loan sharks however who charge high interest to those that avail them, resulting to people drowning in debt. He said that the livelihood project which is funded by The Asia Foundaiton was well received by the community and there were very happy about it. Through the project, people were able to avail of livestock like chicken, goats and pigs which if not for the project, they would have difficulty availing.

What is more advantageous to them, he says, is that a local Peoples Organization is the one that manages the livelihood project and the small earnings from the 2% interest goes back to the community. These processes have given people the confidence that they could manage and implement projects arising from their initiatives. This confidence is necessary for empowerment.

The people’s organization, Barangay Miatan Livelihood Association, has been eager to learn all that is needed in project management, attending seminars and capability building activities. They are also represented in their Barangay Development Council and has established good relations with the barangay local government unit.

These are but bits and pieces of the thousands of stories from the GRP-RPMM peace process. Stories of communities struggling for development, families struggling everyday to have food on the table, farmers attending to their farms, children walking kilometers to go through school, horses carrying farm products to the market. The GRP-RPM-M Story has gone beyond the story of the two panels agreeing and disagreeing, it has become also a story of the people’s struggle, expectations, gratitude and hope. Some good things have come into their abrnagay because of the process but more is still being expected. The livelihood project is one of those small victories unseen by the public eye.