March 15, 2022. This is the day we officially launched the food sovereignty campaign through the support of our partners from the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS). But for me, who has been with Global Seed Savers Philippines (GSSP) for less than a year, this was an important day for a different reason. It was the first time I personally met the farmers whom I’ve only seen in photos. It was also the first time I came to Tublay, and the first time I experienced first-hand the work of GSSP. I was both excited and anxious, but also, determined to observe and learn the ways of the community.
The activities were pretty simple, with the blessing of the soil and seed as major highlights. We had planned for a ritual to express our gratitude to the land and the seeds that enable our farmers to continue producing food for our communities. And of course, there was a lot of music, dancing, and food! Here are some photos and videos from the event:
This, however, was not a simple celebration. It was also a coming together of two communities, both devastated by typhoons in the recent past, one that has recovered, the other, still in the process of recovering. A major objective of the activity was to bridge the connection between the farmers of Tublay and the farmers of Cebu. As you may already know, Cebu has recently been devastated by Typhoon Odette. But this is not the first time that farmers in the Philippines have had to rebuild their farms (and lives) after a typhoon. In previous years, it was the farmers of Benguet who needed help. Farmers from Cebu readily sent their seed stocks to help re-enliven the farms of Benguet. Now it is the Benguet farmers’ turn to help Cebu rise up from the devastation of Odette.
Through this event, the farmers of Benguet sent their compatriots from the South, prayers of strength, healing, and nourishment so that they may overcome their current challenges. In one part of the program, Karen, our Philippines Executive Director, asked all attendees to stand and touch the seeds and the soil which was going to be sent to Cebu. She said, this was so we could share our “microbes and microorganisms” to our partner farmers in Cebu.Perhaps in future posts, we will have the opportunity to discuss the microbiome and its connection to agriculture. For now, we hope you read this resource to better understand the value of this … Continue reading This held a lot of meaning for me.
And though simple the entire event was, it led me to a lot of realizations and lessons. For one, it helped me realize how the land, and agriculture in general, represent the interconnectedness of Filipinos. Agriculture and all the traditions and knowledge systems built around it are what makes our communities thrive.
Another realization I had during the activity was this: farmers recovered from the climate disruptions they have experienced in recent years because they have not forgotten the spirit of bayanihan.
“This spirit is indeed the heart and soul of our work at Global Seed Savers! Seeds, seed saving, building a community committed to sustainably feeding itself and resisting the ever growing stronger corporate and chemical take over of our food system, is only possible when done together…in community….with a true spirit of bayanihan!”
— Sherry Manning, Nourish Celebrates Bayanihan Spirit
As I say these words, I realize that there are so many ideas, concepts, and insights here that would need time and space to unpack. Perhaps, in future articles, we would be able to expound on these ideas as they appear in the Philippine context. For now, however, I want to center on this one idea: There is so much to be done in terms of food sovereignty in the Philippines, but our communities already have the foundations to make it happen. Our communities have all the elements to make food sovereignty a reality in the country. It is only a matter of utilizing the knowledge we already have, and remembering the power they hold. As I leave Tublay, a single thought echoes in my mind: “The heart of the Filipino is in the right place”. As our world is currently in turmoil, I realize just how valuable this is. Though many of us are caught up in feelings of turmoil and hopelessness, the community and the lessons of the past ensures that our hearts will continue to beat together, in search of a better future.