Human Interest Stories
Outreach Philippines, Inc.
- Life Struggle of Sylvia
Panta, an Indigenous
Woman Leader (Retold by
- Brightened Homes,
Enlightened Minds (Ami Dasig-
Seeing, Believing and Doing
Written by Ami Dasig-Salazar; Photos: by Leah Diaz; Source: Interview with Jong of SAGANNA and Leah, HDF
In most villages in the Philippines, people only believe in development if they actually see
evidences of change. Jong of Sapang Bato village was someone like them. When Leah, the
Human Development Facilitator, first came to Jong’s community, she facilitated activities that
surfaced the issue of the broken down drainage canal. Jong, a former youth council president,
was asked to prepare the resolution for the canal’s repair. He obliged but only half-heartedly.
” I was skeptical. I didn’t really believe Leah and the things she said about solving our problems
by ourselves.” Jong revealed during the interview. “ I regarded her then as just one of those
activists. Only one of those who frequent our community and asks for a lot of information.”
During those times, Jong was also very busy with his vegetable gardens which was his family’s
source of income. His wife, who now works in another city as a househelp, became one of the
earliest members of the community’s issue-based group. Nevertheless, Jong was still distant.
He said, “ I used to tell my wife that if Leah comes to our home looking for me, she has to tell
her that I am not around. and she doesn’t know where I am. I hide when I know she’s coming
Jong explained that besides the fact that she was biased against Leah and her work, there are
also times when he can’t find answers to what Leah asks him. “ I can’t answer all her probing
questions at once. I really had to think deeper and analyze.” Jong laughingly said.
Jong’s thoughts and doubts against Leah’s work, which is called Participatory Human
Development, were slowly laid to rest when he finally understood what it was all about. The first
proof of success was the group’s project, “Repair and Improvement of the Drainage System”.
Because of the broken down drainage canal, students have to wade through ankle-high waters
during rainy days to go to school. It also troubles farmers who have to pass by this road to go to
their own farms. It’s no wonder why this was among the residents’ top issues during the
meeting for problem identification and prioritization. Once identified, the group members started
to act on the problem. They researched, planned and negotiated with the local village council
get funding for the project. After months of meetings and follow-up activities, the council
approved P15,000 while the beneficiaries provided labor for the project. The drainage system
was repaired with 35 and 100 families directly and indirectly benefiting from it.
Through all these, Jong observed and participated a bit. In fact, it was he who designed how the
drainage canal should be constructed. However, his participation was not as active as what his
fellow residents expected of him.
Until the Cow Dispersal Project became a reality. That was the clincher for Jong to start
believing. At first, when Jong heard that Leah and some men in the village are working to
access cows for farmers, he sarcastically said, “She must be strongly connected with the
government to get cows for us.” To his chagrin, the cows were indeed accessed from
government and distributed to the members. His wife told him, “See, if you only believed earlier,
we would have had our own cow now!” Jong felt regretful but drew lessons from that
experience. From then on, he decided to actively participate in their group’s activities. He is now
the president of their issue-based group in zone 4 and was recently elected vice-president of
Sapang Bato village’s umbrella organization called, Samahang Gabay sa Nayong Nagkakaisa
When asked how he feels now after going through the experience of seeing and believing, Jong
replied, “ Compared to before, I now realized that what Leah and my other fellow residents are
saying are really true. From getting involved I learned to be more considerate of our group. I no
longer think of my own gains only.”
Jong now dreams of improving the group’s soap-making and small credit projects. He also
dreams for his group to be more united and to patronize their own projects more. He knows it
will not be easy but he continues to hope, “Sometimes, I still get frustrated with some members
or some incidents but I guess, there are really sacrifices that have to made. At least now, we
have a number of projects to take care of like the soap-making project and the small credit
project. There is hope from which we can continue.”