He doesn’t like to be the first, but he likes to be one of the firsts.
Ruen “Datu Wen” C. Tumana at forty-five years old is a very interesting person. He is calm, kind, and always cheerful. He knows how to find a common language with everyone, and because of these attributes and his contributions to the community, the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples blessed him as “Sandigan”, a title that bears great responsibility to his tribe.
He is responsible for crafting and formulating policies of the community, educating the elders in Basa, Sulat, Pirma (Read, Write, Sign). From Sitio Leader, he is now the Vice President of Manggayahay Talaandig Tribal Association, a.k.a. Mantala.
“There are innovators – people who try things first – and then there are early adopters,” he says. “I would consider myself to be an early adopter”.
“A curious person by nature, I have been a hands-on learner for as long as I can remember. From my first job in a farm to becoming an environmental advocate, I have always had passion for the outdoors and the lessons it provides. I initiated the construction of a school in my tribe, taught Non-Formal Education to children during weekdays, and to parents and elders during Sundays. I was a Mt. Kalatungan Range “Bantay Lasang” volunteer, laborer at the local banana plantation, assigned as a bodyguard of the Mayor of Lantapan, went to Manila and was employed as security guard, and all these ten years were rewarding. I now ponder on how my work could make a difference and bring changes to my community”, said Datu Wen.
Whether it’s finding good farming practices or specialty crops to grow, Datu Wen is constantly considering new opportunities and practices to implement not just for his farm but for the community as well. He is thankful to Philippine Coffee Alliance, Inc. (PCAi) and Forest Foundation Philippines (FFP) for the introduction of the project entitled “Empowering the Coffee Value Chains of Forest Communities via Community Based Social Enterprises” through the onsite coaching and mentoring of Coffee Doctors and PCAi Staff.
Members of his community are now motivated to plant coffee. He sees the coffee tree as sturdy, can withstand strong winds and torrential rain, helps in preventing landslide, and a good source of income for his family. He encouraged his community to plant coffee by example, and taught them not to depend on external cash support for the maintenance.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” says Datu Wen. “I am proud of the small steps that my community is taking and remain confident in the future.”