NGO, US Embassy showcase success stories from Lanao provinces in #ForMindanao summit

Oct. 15, 2018

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY , Philippines – Groups that initiated projects to help their communities in the two provinces of Lanao under the #ForMindanao campaign were given due recognition for their efforts during a summit held in a beach resort in Barangay Taboc, Opol town, Misamis Oriental over the weekend.

The program was organized by Naawan Helps Inc., a local non-government organization, in partnership with the United States Embassy in Manila, which was launched last year as a form of assistance to mostly the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and those who have been helping them since the war in Marawi erupted on May 23, 2017.

The second wave took off in February and focused mostly on Marawi and its surrounding towns.

The program provided funding and technical support to locally-led projects that mobilize communities in Mindanao.

The team behind #ForMindanao campaign believes that “addressing the needs of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao requires a confluence of local and civil society initiatives that encourage engagement from local communities. From these local initiatives, #ForMindanao hopes to spread stories of hope, resilience, and unity.

The 31 projects that were selected by the organizers were envisioned to improve peace and stability, enhance access to quality education, promote inclusive and broad-base economic growth, and provide psycho-social services to conflict-affected communities.

One of the projects that were acknowledged for its contribution to community improvement is the “Palapa sa Lumba,” a livelihood enterprise of 30 out-of-school youth and mothers of Barangay Bacolod II in Lumba-Bayabao, Lanao del Sur. Their group is identified as Super Lumba.

The group was equipped with the knowledge on how to do backyard farming and how to build a business around the production of “palapa,” a condiment popular among the Maranaos made of local spices and ingredients.

According to Jalilah Hadji Sapiin, 27, the Palapa sa Lumba project head, they were given P80,000 by the organizers as a grant to kickstart the project. From that amount, the group bought equipment such as grinder and grater.

Another P20,000 was awarded to the group during the first pitching of its product.

Sapiin, a community development officer in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said they envision Lanao del Sur to be known for spices production and plantation prompting the group to go into palapa-making.

Since the palapa is a product of the Maranaos, she said it should be owned by Maranao. Promoting it is one way of getting that recognition, she added.

“At first, we were laughed at. Nobody believed that palapa could be sold,” the young Maranao said.

Through the social media, Sapiin said their brand of palapa has slowly become popular in that they could not cope with the demand during the recent Ramadan and Hajj, two major Muslim events.

One of the team’s innovations, she said, was to make a variety of palapa flavors which ranged from beef to chicken to smoked fish. They even made a “dodol”-flavored palapa. Dodol is a Maranao delicacy.

Sapiin said they also came up with the idea of adjusting the level of their palapa’s spiceness so that those who don’t like a chili-laden palapa can still enjoy it minus the hotness.

For his part, U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Counselor Philip Roskamp said the American government gave out P8.5 million to bankroll the locally-initiated #ForMindanao projects in response to the request of the Filipino alumni of the various United States-sponsored exchange programs.

Roskamp said the U.S. government just provided the funding but it was the communities who conceptualized the projects.

“These were all self-generated projects, like, the US Embassy didn’t say, ‘you need to do X or you need to do Y.’ But we responded to a request… I think, frankly, it was the best kind of project, where you have idea and if we could provide a little bit of means and make it happen, then it’s a pretty good partnership,” the Embassy official told reporters during the #ForMindanao summit held at a resort in Opol, Misamis Oriental over the weekend.

He said the amount the American government has granted to #ForMindanao was “not enough.”

“This is only P18.5 million, there are only 31 projects, the needs are pretty profound. That’s why the partnership doesn’t end with this particular program; it’s going to continue. We’re always looking for ways to develop new partnerships,” he added.

But Roskamp said there was a sense of satisfaction on the part of the U.S. government on the success of the projects that it helped realize.

“It’s pretty inspirational to see in a moment of need, in a moment of crisis, the people stood up, and they help their communities. They don’t only help the people in Marawi, but they’re helping the people in the communities that are receiving folks from Marawi. It’s a pretty fantastic example of bravery and generosity from the people of Mindanao,” he said.(

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