by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

A California-based Fil-Am Supermarket chain has signified support for the “Adopt-a-Tribal Family” Program of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) by buying “Ube,” "Saba" bananas and aromatic coconut produced by the tribal communities in Mindanao.

Island Pacific Supermarket Chain Founder and Chief Executive Officer Niño Lim, in an FB messenger message to the MinDA Chairman said that Island Pacific, which has about 16 outlets in Eastern America, has been looking for suppliers of "Ube," "Saba," and aromatic coconut from the Philippines.

When informed that these products could be sourced from tribal communities now being assisted by government agencies led by MinDA, Lim said his company would be very interested to source the supplies from the tribal farms.

"That's amazing Sec. That would be an excellent program that Island Pacific would definitely want to take part in. I’ll communicate this with our marketing team as well," Lim said in his message to the MinDA Chairman.

"The demand here now is very strong but the problem is the supplies of "Ube" and "Buko Pandan" have been limited for several months now," he added.

MinDA is set to prepare a long-term marketing contract between Island Pacific Supermarket and the members of the "Lost Tribe" of Kapalong, Davao del Norte with the support of the provincial and municipal governments.

The Island Pacific CEO and MinDA were linked by California-based Fil-Ams Errol Santos and Fernandico Gonong, Jr. who both have pledged to support MinDA's initiatives and programs in Mindanao.

On Monday, Oct. 12, MinDA will lead other agencies of government in extending the initial interventions and support to the 150 member-families of the so-called "Lost Tribe" of Sitio Tapayanon, Gupitan, Kapalong.

The members of the Ata-Manobo tribe had lived deep in the jungles in the tribal-boundaries of Davao del Norte, Agusan Sur and Bukidnon were never served by government since birth.

Discovered by the Long Range Patrol of the Philippine Army in Feb. 2019 while pursuing a band of communist rebels, most of their houses were made out of round timber and tree barks and there was no school in the village.

Before the soldiers stumbled on the village, the communist New People's Army was in complete control of the community presenting themselves as the "government."

Only able-bodied men of the village served as the community's link to the the outside world and this happened only when they sold fibers of Abaca which grew wild in the forests to the nearest population centers in San Fernando, Bukidnon or Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

To do that, the men had to walk through the forests for two days carrying 15 to 30 kilos of Abaca fiber on their backs and coming back with salt, sugar, tobacco and rice.

On Monday, planting materials for Ube, Cardava or "Saba" bananas,"Buko Pandan" and Falcata tree seedlings will be brought to the area for the ceremonial launching of the Adopt-a-Tribal Family Program.

Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, TESDA Secretary Isidro Lapeña, Indigenous People's Commission head Sec. Allen Capuyan and the MinDA Chairman will represent the national government in the program.

The local governments will be led by Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib, Vice Gov. Rey Uy, Kapalong Mayor Tess Timbol and members of the provincial board.

The province's two Congressmen, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Alan Dujali are also expected to join the ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement among the agencies involved in the "Adopt-a-Tribal Family" Program.

Housing assistance will be provided by the provincial government, training by TESDA, DSWD for initial food and clothing support, NCIP for community organizing and empowerment while MinDA will provide the master plan and the linkage with donors.

The "Adopt-a-Tribal Family" is expected to provide a template for a well-planned and sustainable intervention for the development of tribal communities in Mindanao.

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