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In search of a subject

By June 17, I already had a list of four potential women to interview..

.EE: a tribal leader who has spoken in behalf of Indigenous Women in various fora. In the past years, she has focused on peace building between tribes and within her own tThat she lives quite far, on the foothills of Mt. Apo, challenges me more as I do not want to meet someone in a coffee shop. I want milieu, ambiance.

RJ – the only woman on the panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that is holding peace talks with the government. She is a lawyer whose expertise and interests revolve around land reform, gender-based violence in the context of the Sharia law and Bangsamoro self-determination. It would be interesting to know how it is to be the single woman on a male-dominated peace panel brokering for peace on the island.She lives in Cotabato, seven hours away by bus.

MC: she leads a vast coalition of progressive organizations campaigning on peace, self-determination, environmental and social change. She has recently been nominated to represent her party-list in the Philippine Congress. She lives in Pagadian, eight hours away by bus.

KB: a lawyer who campaigned for land reform and human rights. During the recent elections in May, she won as Congress representative for Dinagat island, a small but resource-rich island off the northeastern coast of Mindanao. She is the only elected public official who is not connected to any influential and powerful clan or family.

But by June 20, none of those in the first list was available. The first three were out of the country and the last one was travelling to some parts of the country.

So, I made a new list of potential subjects:
--another grassroot leader who struggled against militarization in their ancestral forests in Bukidnon
-- a novelist and development worker whose causes include reproductive health rights, land reform, human rights and children's rights, press freedom, anti-militarism
-- a development worker who works among farmers and indigenous peoples and championing their rights

On June 21
I have decided to interview the writer. The idea was inspired by my mentors: Sarah, my vision mentor had earlier posted a quote from the novelist-activist Arundhati Roy, and then, my editorial mentor shared with me a radio interview she conducted with another activist-writer Sandra Cisneros. In many ways, this novelist-development worker is the Filipino version of these two remarkable women.

On June 22
I have made an appointment with the novelist-development worker on July 1, after a rally/forum on the Freedom of Information Bill in Manila. So I also booked a passage on a boat to Manila on the 29th to arrive on July st.

By June 29
The storm Gorio ravaged some islands in the country and boat trips, including mine, were cancelled. The next trip was seven days after. So I did not have enough time to get to Manila to interview my subject.

July 2
I had to think quickly of a new subject.I had met a self-effacing, cool woman who is leading the opposition against the corporate co-optation of reforestation, and other forms of development aggression. An outstanding thing about her activism is that it offers non-violent, sound, practical alternatives. She is not well-known nor is she at the center of a major national movement or cause. But like the tribal leader who was our #1 choice, her causes and choices deserve the global amplification possible only at World Pulse. The decision, supported by my mentors, placed me back on-course.

By July 3-5
I joined my subject on a trip to her hometown where she is developing a rainforest farm, and there, I tagged along as she worked and to social gatherings so that what occurred was not the usual interview appointment in the office or restaurant setting but a series of short informal interviews (using guide questions) and long conversations.


What grace you have exhibited under such unrelenting obstacles. You have taken a difficult, and potentially project-ending situation and created an opportunity. It takes courage and discernment to look for the less-obvious but more beneficial moments with uncertainty of outcome.

Secondly, I agree that so many people and causes are not of-the-moment, but remain undeniable and indispensable. Yes, environmental justice must be addressed for the benefit of our world. It is people like this who are going to be catalysts for change, and who's causes need to be seen. It is people like you who are making it possible for others to acheive their dreams.

I stand with you as you keep on this journey.

Peace and Hope-
aka: Cali gal


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