Today we reunited a bit early with the Northern Mindanao team after their itinerary was cut short due to 'activity' in the area. It's fun to have the team back together to compare notes.
Our second day in Mindanao began with a fruitful visit to Mr. Fred, a local buyer of coffee who supports his farmers with machinery, cultivation training, and subsidized social services. This on top of his time as the local pastor and chairman of the board for an orphanage. We had a great meeting with him learning about his successes and challenges while enjoying our first cup of Civet coffee. That afternoon we visited one of Nestle's mobile buying stations to better understand what the holder of 90% market share looks for when purchasing coffee. It has been fascinating learning so much about a product we all use every day, yet knew so little about. It seems like there is some real potential for a revival in Filipino production, it'll just be up to us to figure out how to do it.
Outside of our project scope we have had a very impactful visit. Travelling from Manila to Mindanao was like night and day. Manila is a bustling Asian hub compared to the much less developed, much more rural Mindanao. Even more surprising was the stark difference across provincial borders into Muslim provinces -- the difference is immediately noticeable. We were able to pass by the site of the "Maguindanao Masacre" and heard from our guides what happened in its aftermath.
We've really enjoyed the opportunity to meet with so many of these farmers and understand how they live day to day. Their strength, generosity and sense of community has been inspiring. And in return we give them the entertainment of Michelle's height. In addition to the constant stares and smiles, my favorite comments have included: "How high are you?", "What are you?" and "whooooaaaa".
Tomorrow we are meeting with coffee traders and then being passed off to the CRS Peace and Reconciliation team for two days. Should be an exciting change of pace!