THE family’s story began more than two centuries ago when Rajah Samporna of Lanao married the daughter of Datu Bagani, chief of Kalambagohan or Cagayan as we know it today. Samporna is a Sanskrit word which means perfect. Samporna, a Malay prince, later converted from Islam to Christianity and was baptized by a Spanish priest in 1779 with the name Neri. The union of the Neris and Chaveses was believed to have ushered in a new period of peace in Mindanao where Muslims lived harmoniously with Christians.
The clan today continues to value meaningful togetherness and service to others. The enduring power of kinship and unity has enabled the clan to produce a Philippine Vice President, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, public servants, business leaders, artists, scientists and thinkers. The new generation of family members now carry on the tradition of service which includes fighting impunity and corruption in government and society.
Family members also emphasize the importance of giving back to the community. In the early days, for instance, one of the country’s first industrialists Porfirio Chaves and his wife Fausta Vamenta donated some of their farmlands to the community which later became the modern Cagayan de Oro City. Whether in business, politics or the arts, the Neris and Chaveses always strive to make a difference and inspire change for the better. (Aileen Clemente)