15 Jul
  • By Tim Fijal
  • Cause in

Networks and Powers of Attraction: The Philippines (Part 2)

Just a couple of days prior to touching down in Manila, we still didn’t have any specific plans for what we would be doing with our time there. All we had to go on was a kind and generous soul named Sangeetha that met me as her guide on a Green School general public tour. She opened her tiny studio apartment to our family for an overnight, welcomed us with tea and conversation, and set us off in the right direction with an Uber booking. Bless your soul, Sangeetha!

Another connection came through a friend of a friend who put us in touch with Raf at MAD Travel. How could we pass up an overnight trip to visit an indigenous tribe on their ancestral land? What’s more, the focal point of this tour is learning about what the Yangil tribe is doing to restore their beleaguered forest, and also contributing to their efforts by planting 341 literal guyabano seeds of hope. Could we have contrived a more perfect first day of our 6-month TRI journey?!

What we didn’t expect at all was to be accompanied on this MAD (Make A Difference) Travel tour by two young Filipina travellers who were equally as passionate about sustainability and social enterprise as we are.

Mon, our Airbnb host in Palawan.

Mere coincidence that Jella and Lerizze would occupy the only two other seats in the car and that within moments of meeting one another we’d be scheming together about getting TRI off the ground in the Philippines. Incredible.

And then, we found out on arrival that our Airbnb in Palawan was surprisingly located in a place called the ‘Pocket Forest’ as it was the last remaining stand of original forest in the area. Not only that, the owners are from a Palawan family of conservationists that are passionate about forest protection!  Mon, our host, told us everything we could possibly want to know about indigenous people in the region, their relationship to the forest, and the history of the forests in what is referred to as the Philippines last frontier.  

Claudia, the owner of Hineleban Cafe in Manila.

With only a half a day to spare in Manila between connecting flights to Taipei, we thought we’d convene with Raf, Jella and Lerizze for an early-stage collaboration planning session.  After a yummy lunch, we went over to a Hinelaban Cafe where we met the proprietor, Claudia.  She explained to me that her cafe is set up as a social enterprise that supports seven tribes of indigenous people in Mindanao who are (yup) reforesting their ancestral lands in the north.  A future TRI Philippines partner project, perhaps?

And while Claudia and I were talking, a familiar face enters the cafe.  It’s Allen, whom I had met in Bali only two weeks prior during a John Hardy trash walk!  Complete coincidence!  Allen, it so happens, is starting his own ethical fashion company and is eager to support TRI in our journey by plugging us into his network in Manila.

Ben explains TRI to Tom, the author of “Genius of The Poor”.

And that’s not all. As I’m chatting with Allen, in walks Tom, the author of a book I am presently reading titled ‘The Genius of the Poor’ which discusses the things I am passionate about too – sustainable community building, the empowerment of marginalized people, the art of doing good. Nice to meet you, Tom!

It was with no small degree of trepidation that I hopped onto that first flight en route to Manila, not really knowing what would be in store for us and feeling ill-equipped to meet our journey’s objectives.  And yet somehow, that leap of faith seems to have been validated through this incredible string of solid connections we managed to establish during our first week on the road. So while we don’t have this journey nailed down as of yet, and I’m not sure we will until it’s over, we’re feeling inclined to keep on stepping out and discovering where our intentions will lead us next.