The War-Torn Region
My love for this war-torn region of the Philippines started—of all places—in Singapore. It was 2013, and members of the One Voice team were on practical training in street missions. We usually trained in this kind of cross-cultural atmosphere during the summer, where our partner church in Singapore, Oikos Fellowship, held headquarters. The church stood at the heart of Geylang, the infamous redlight district where scantily clad ladies milled about the street corners. Oikos Fellowship, whose pastor helped One Voice unravel its vision and mission, always opened the church to the magazine team like family. They gave us the necessary tools (like baskets of cookies and Gospel tracts) to spread Jesus to the people in the streets.
One Voice doing the “glory walk” in Geylang
On one of the days there, we spent an afternoon with the Youth With a Mission (YWAM) folks. We planted ourselves along Lorong 24, the street where one can find the most drug addicts and prostitutes plying their trade. As we stood in our sneakers and jeans, we called out, “Who of you need healing? We can pray for you?” Daring, but yes, that’s what we did.
Because it was the height of the afternoon, many of the ladies weren’t working on the streets yet. Those whom we saw were mostly Bangladeshi and Hindu men, construction workers on their way to work. At first, just a trickle of them went to us for prayer, apparently more curious than believing. But as miracles started to materialize before their eyes, the people thronged around us wanting to know about this “Isa” who could heal. In the simplest of words, the One Voice team shared the Gospel to these men and prayed for their healing. Many of them, I believe, truly gave their lives to Jesus. That day, my eyes opened wide to the love of our Heavenly Father for the sons of Ishmael.
The One Voice 2013 mission team with Oikos Fellowship hosts, Pastor Gerard and Lianne Seow
More of Mindanao
“God, can you teach me more about the Muslims?” I was back in Manila when I asked God this question during quiet time.
In a comedic stroke that I can only call divine, a Muslim stranger rang the doorbell of my house and asked about the free-range chickens that my mother sold (back then, she sold frozen, free-range chicken as a business sideline). Instead of buying any chicken, he spoke to my mama and handed her a Koran. Mama instinctively went to my room and gave the Koran to me. All the more, I asked, “God, what are you trying to tell me?”
Before 2013 ended, I took a trip to Mindanao, the region where most Muslims in the Philippines reside. There, I traveled deep into the majestic mountains with a friend and a guide. I met with some tribal pastors, particularly among the Manobo and the Matigsalug.
Traveling with Ria, on our way to the mountains outside Davao
The mountains of Mindanao
A dirt road in the mountains
A view of more mountains while on a mountain
I listened to the tribal pastors say these words: “We feel forgotten. We are far from the cities.” “We want to train our people with the Gospel.” “We want to train pastors.” “We want to build a church.” I asked them how much they would need to build the church or the training center for pastors. They mentioned an amount. I told them, “Let’s pray about it.”
The tribal pastors we met in 2013
The very week when I arrived back in Manila, the magazine had a huge sale in Singapore—a church youth group (not from Oikos Fellowship, but another) decided to buy a bulk of our magazines. The total amount was a little more than the amount needed for the tribes to build their church/training center. Unanimously, One Voice gave the money to the tribes. It was only a matter of time before the church was built at the heart of the mountains.
This is the actual church they built!
Back in Mindanao
Last year, the stirring in my heart for Mindanao grew great again, and God seemed to set the stage for One Voice to be present in that region of the Philippines. A few of us hopped on a plane in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and partnered with Revival Generation, all of whom are true Obo Manobo. Our little group, which included Pastor Richard Lanzanas of Mindanao Forerunners, stayed with the Kulamanon tribe deep in the mountains of North Cotabato, and also fellowshipped with our “new” family at the outskirts of Mt. Apo. We interviewed key people—datus, culture masters, soldiers, and pastors—and ate food that one can describe as incredibly tribal (think—farm frogs as a delicacy!). It was a wonderful time of remembering our roots and marveling at the seeds that God deposited back in 2013.
The missions team: One Voice, Revival Generation, and Pastor Richard
Motorcycle rides into the deeper regions of the mountains
Worshipping with the tribes
The Kulamanon children singing by the river
Farm frogs are a delicacy among the Manobo
Ini Kos Konamin Lugaa
One of the goals we had with the mission trip last year was to produce a documentary that would showcase the wonderful culture of the tribes in North Cotabato, and to hear the sound of worship—a brave sound—blowing from the mountains and cascading down the slopes. Do we hear the sound? And do we know our roots? How are we when it comes to knowing ourselves as a Filipino people?
The documentary, INI KOS KONAMIN, which means “THIS IS OUR LAND,” will be released on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/onevoicemagazine, and the Facebook pages of our partners on July 22, 2022, at 8:30 p.m. Watch as we explore the cultural aspects of dance and song; beliefs and practices; and heritage and history among the Kulamanon, Obo Manobo, and the Tinananon. We invite you to grab a bucket of popcorn and explore the heart of our Mindanaoan tribespeople.
Teaser of Ini Kos Konamin
I believe the story of One Voice in Mindanao is far from over, and that last year was simply a milestone. Pray for us as we continue to plan for our next visit up the mountains. God willing, it happens before the year ends.
The One Voice Magazine volunteer-staff in Mindanao
One with you in this journey of life,
Janina Marie Rivera
Janina Marie Rivera is the author of the book, A Night Bird Sings of Blindness and Fear and has co-authored the devotional, Dawns, published by OMF Literature. She is a contributing poet in the books Joyful Light and Whitmanthology: on Loss and Grief by Various Authors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine.