Yesterday, nine days before our 18th Anniversary, I began this reflection series.
Yesterday, I retraced and revisited some of the most significant events, places, people and communities in the 18-year journey of Balay Mindanaw.
I. Balay Ani-e: the first community house of Balay Mindanaw. A testament to our humble beginnings.
When we sent out our first community organizers (CO), we called them SIADOs which means Sustainable Integrated Area Development Organizers. It also means SHADOW – unobtrusive, humble, like a shadow – not taking the lead but journeying side by side with the community. Our first SIADOs who were fielded in the rural barangays of Claveria, Misamis Oriental had nothing except courage, determination and commitment – no vehicles, no computer, no permanent homes, and instead lived and stayed with families who would welcome them. One day, the people of Barangay Ani-e offered us a hut which they themselves carried on their own shoulders from its original location to its present site more than a kilometer away. This became our very first home. We eventually established more community houses in the barangays that we worked and lived with.
This was where our community-based work for equity, development, peace and resiliency began. Until today, this is the very anchor of our existence.
II. MAPALAD, San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon: Our baptism of fire
This was where Balay Mindanaw had our first opportunity to experience how it is to work for land rights. We are indeed fortunate (mapalad) to be given the space to be part of the struggle for land.
When we arrived the place late afternoon yesterday, I was met with a tight embrace from Linda – whose face captured the nation’s imagination when these gritty farmers bravely occupied their ancestral farmlands, and eventually launched a hunger strike and a 1,700 kilometer walk to claim what was rightfully theirs.
About four dozen happy faces where also there to welcome us. Peter, one of their key leaders, is now the Barangay Chair or Kapitan. We agreed to continue our journey together. Barangay San Vicente will now be the latest addition to our list of new partners for our community-based work for equity, development, peace and resiliency.
Our journey continues….