Recently the Subanen women, who work in the Subanen Crafts project with Columban Fr. Vincent Busch, on the island of Mindanao, Philippines, went on an exposure trip to the island of Negros to visit Fr. Brian Gore and the Negros Nine Demonstration farm. It was the first time for the women to experience flying in an airplane, hearing the Ilonggo language, and eating new kinds of food. The trip was a mutually enhancing experience for the Subanen women and for the staff of the demo farm. Mercy Gawason of the Subanen Crafts group reflected on her Negros experience:
When we arrived in Bacolod, Negros, everything was new to us. The language of the people there is Ilonggo and is beautiful to hear. It sounds so musical. We heard that Bacolod is called the “City of Smiles.” But also we experienced it as a “City of Love,” because the people showed us deep respect and concern. We felt safe in their care.
The best place we visited was the Negros Nine demo farm with Fr. Brian Gore. Fr. Brian gave us a short introduction about the farm in which he explained how the farm uses sustainable ways of producing food and livelihoods for the poor. After his talk we traveled to the farm site in the mountains. The road was very difficult but was worth it, because it is such a beautiful place and because of the warm welcome given to us by the staff.
At the farm we saw how the staff cares for the plants, trees, and the whole mountain ecosystem. They loved and respected the plants and animals by providing a place where they could all live together in harmony. We saw the wind turbine which produces electricity for the farm. We also visited the reforestation area where we saw the “Mother Tree” of the forest. The staff called it the “Mother Tree,” because it was the only remaining tree from the original rainforest. Then, we climbed above the reforested area where we could see all the way to the sea.
We also had a briefing from one of Fr. Brian’s staff members about the serious problem of human trafficking. Human trafficking is also a problem for the Subanen people. Illegal job recruiters entice poor tribal women like us with jobs in bigger cities in the Philippines and abroad. Sometimes the women they recruit are never heard from again.
After our experience at the demo farm our Subanen group bonded together at a mountain park. There we experienced wall climbing, zip lines, and swimming in the pool. As part of our reflection we became more thankful that we are Subanen Crafters. Our Negros experience was filled with so many happy moments and profound experiences. We thank all who have supported our Subanen Crafts and those who help make our trip possible.
May God always grant us His peace and blessings.
Originally appeared in Columban Mission Magazine