Sulu evokes fear. It is a place rarely visited because of the enduring stigma from decades of bloodshed, kidnappings and war. Despite this, I found myself on a journey to Sulu with 200 crazy volunteers for the Gawad Kalinga Bayani Challenge in 2009. Sure, there were countless inconveniences including a 14-hour trip on a navy transport vessel under the sun and rain, the threat of malaria as we slept, holes in the ground that served as our toilets, and murky water for showers. But as we built colorful homes with our fellow Filipinos, whether they be Muslim or Christian or from different places in the country, my heart rejoiced in knowing that there was hope. Each day in that week-long experience was proof that if we overcome indifference or fear and find ways to work together, each part of our country can and will be beautiful, prosperous and peaceful.
I don't know if I will ever get the chance to visit the island again, but I'm glad that there are still ways to directly help the communities. We're proud to offer here at Manos a new blend of coffee from the hardworking farmers in the fertile lands of Sulu: Cafe de Sug. Each bold and delicious cup not only satisfies your coffee need for the day, but also brings sustainable opportunities to our farmers and hope to the children, since part of the proceeds helps sponsor GK pre-school teachers in the area.
|Clockwise from left: The Manos ladies, With fellow volunteers on the way to Sulu, Cafe de Sug, one of the houses in the GK communities in Sulu|
"Only for the Brave" was the tagline for the Bayani Challenge that year. Surely this path we are taking towards lasting peace and development will be long and trying, but we can start by making brave and bold decisions everyday - from what products we buy, to how we run our businesses and the way we view our fellow Filipinos.
Try a hot cup of Sulu coffee in your next visit to Manos, and take part in "brewing peace in the South"! :)