The National Indigenous Peoples Month being celebrated this October has given the indigenous peoples community in Rizal an opportunity to reflect on what they have achieved in the last five years.
In 2014, a group of IP leaders reached out to find a community partner to help improve livelihood for their community. In 2015, Lionheart Farms found their way to Palawan and after considering several municipalities, started dialogues with the tribal communities in the barangays of Ransang, Candawaga, and Culasian about how to cultivate coconuts on the land together, ultimately leading to their partnership.
“I remember seeing the simple bamboo bridge leading to the newly established 5,000 sqm nursery in 2016 where less than ten persons worked. A very humble beginning when we started to work with Lionheart Farms to plant the first coconut palms. We were all surprised to see Lionheart co-founder and president eat lunch with us in the field and share his ambition for our future,” said panglima Quinlino Lumpon.
“Day by day we learned so much and saw the benefits spread to more and more families. Today we have seen the vision of Lionheart and our partnership come true in more ways than we ever imagined,” he added.
A strong bond and commitment in the partnership have evolved and a harmonious work environment has been established as a foundation that will benefit generations and uplift the opportunity for everyone in Rizal, especially to the tribal communities.
“This opportunity given by Lionheart to me and the rest of the Indigenous Peoples Community is one in a million and is really worth all the hard work. Having a key role as the company’s Lead Cashier, I am more than proud that we truly belong in this feat of uplifting the IPs of South Palawan. Currently, I am working with my sister under the same department which makes this work more fun.” says Regina one of the workers of the company who started in the field but now works in the main office of Lionheart with her sister Lenlen. Just two amongst the hundreds of IP’s happily working with the company.
Everyone is encouraged and committed to mutual respect, fairness and dialogues to promote better understanding. Development initiatives and conflict resolution through dialogue and community consultations in harmony with the proud traditions of the Palawan IP Communities has become a mutual commitment. Everywhere you see evidence of the fair treatment of the company to each and every person, without distinction regardless of their race, religion, education, political belief, social and economic status.
As an employee, Joan Tabi looks forward to more years in the company, “Lionheart promotes an employee-friendly atmosphere and no matter your job function you are respected and valued equally. I work in the Biofertilizer factory where the production of organic fertilizers such as cow dungs, carabao manures and green fertilizers happens. I have seen before my eyes the truckloads of compost and drums of seaweed and fish fertilizers delivered from the local suppliers in South Palawan. I never imagined to be part of anything like this and it incredible how the leaders always encourage us to learn more and reach higher levels of professionalism.” Joan is happy with her work as she is able to practice her profession as an agriculturist. She is also from an indigenous community.
IP communities here embrace the modernization and development without letting go of their beautiful traditions and culture. Lionheart have been very cautious and respectful in keeping the beautiful culture and traditions of the IP communities.
Farm Senior Manager, Ms. Ivorie dela Torre shared her experience, “As far as the company is concerned, we have been very cautious and respectful in maintaining the culture and traditions of the indigenous people.” According to Ms. Dela Torre, 98% of Lionheart’s employees in the farm are from the indigenous communities in Rizal. They are either landowners or workers in the field. She added, “Every single individual has given their free, prior, informed consent as to the agreement between the Indigenous Peoples community and the management.”
The company mandates that all of its leaders must familiarize themselves with the customary law, known as the “Adat” and the traditional commitment to dialogue, known as the “Bizarra.” The traditions of the Palawan tribe have taught them a lot and positively changed the way they work. With the help of the “Panlima” also known as the tribal elders, it is much easier to communicate with the tribal communities. Panlima’s serves as the resolving committee in the tribal communities, they are the most trusted persons in their community.
Company president, Christian Eyde Moeller, has called a lot of indigenous people to be of service to humanity and the environment, “Lacking livelihood options and social issues directly impact the environment, leading to problems such as the Illegal Logging, Wildlife Poaching and other Illegal activities. We pursue to become a voice in the forest calling out people, stirring their consciousness to make a difference for themselves, for the society and for the whole world. The choice to make is in us. We strive to educate everyone on the issues and provide a way forward making the most out of this chance given to us. Whole-heartedly we aim be of service to humanity by helping communities in Southern Palawan.”