As a mineral-rich country, the Philippines draws significant mining investments but raises environmental and socio-economic concerns, especially for indigenous communities in mining regions. Bantay Kita (BK) partners with these communities in order to develop projects focused on providing tools for socio-economic and cultural development. One of BK's projects targets indigenous livelihoods affected by mining, promoting new technical skills to reduce dependency on mining activities. During my immersion experience, I had the opportunity to visit Jabonga, Santiago, and Anticala tribes, witnessing one of these initiatives in action. What do these three communities have in common? They all host extractive operations.
Jabonga and Santiago
Host rich natural resources and prospering through traditional livelihoods that provide most of the community's needs, it's important to avoid dependence on mining companies and find solutions that reduce this dependence. The ultimate aim of this visit was to set up a sewing and beading workshop for the women of the communities. As such, last December, Bantay Kita donated two (2) sewing machines to the Mamanwa & Manobo communities. The aim is to teach them how to use these machines so that they can first meet their own needs (e.g., their family's needs) and then eventually, when they are more comfortable, they can produce to sell. Like sewing products, the goal of a beading workshops is to teach them this new skill to eventually sell. Once this art is mastered, these traditional jewelry pieces hold significant value. For example, a necklace can fetch up to around 5,000 PHP. Therefore, the end goal is for them to be able to produce enough to eventually enhance their livelihood.
Although this initial meeting was not a workshop like the previous ones, I still learned a lot about this community and some of BK's projects. During this meeting, I had the chance to visit part of the community's land, accompanied by people from the community itself. I was able to visit the watershed and learn more about the community's resource management and related challenges. While visiting the community, I learned more about certain livelihood projects, including tree planting across their land. This project was developed with the aim of developing agro-ecological practices to diversify crop production and, in due course, develop their livelihoods.
Before my initial meetings, I had certain questions in mind about some aspects. For instance, how would these activities be concretely beneficial in the long-term and integrated into their daily lives? How would cultures and traditions be taken into account in the development of these workshop? Would the communities be receptive to these workshops and sharing their experience with me, an “outsider”? However, following the meetings, I noticed several other interesting points that addressed my questions. For example, one of the first things I observed during the workshops is that they primarily focus only on women. As a matter of fact, mining activities affect many people, but often the most vulnerable are women, particularly those from indigenous communities in this context. These specific workshops focus on integrating women into development activities and providing them with equal opportunities for growth. Furthermore, I noticed that the cultural aspect had been included in the activity. For instance, not only were the activities led by two women from the Manobo tribe, but one of the workshops focused on beadwork, specifically Panuhugtuhog (Barcena, 2023), a traditional form of beadwork from the Manobo tribe. It’s a great way to ensure that cultures and traditions are respected while incorporating new skill to ensure livelihood. Apart from that, as a foreign intern, I was a bit apprehensive about how communities would respond to sharing with me, especially due to the language barrier. However, participants seemed receptive not only to participate to the workshops but also to sharing the difficulties and challenges that the communities were facing. During my visits, I also had the opportunity to visit certain places like the hot springs in Santiago and learn more about the importance of preserving natural resources, especially as a means of sustenance for these communities. I also learned more about about the resource management process and overall resource projects such as the cacao and abaca plantation which is one of the major livelihood activities. In short, despite the fact that I was a foreigner and that some subjects can be sensitive, the communities were very welcoming and didn't hesitate to share with me and seemed mostly curious.
Barcena, Nida Grace P. 2023. “Panuhugtuhog: Keeping Manobo's traditional beadworks sustainable”. PIA. https://pia.gov.ph/features/2023/08/11/panuhugtuhog-keeping-manobos-traditional-beadworks-sustainable
About the author
Camille Thom is currently an intern at Bantay Kita. As of this posting, she is enrolled as a graduate student at the Université de Montréal.