AS BOARD chair of the Non-Timber Forest Exchange Program (NTFP-EP) of the Philippines and Asia, the network made it a point to interface indigenous peoples (IPs) with scientific knowledge.

The NTFP-EP is a collaborative network of over 60 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) working with forest-based communities to strengthen their capacity in the sustainable management of natural resources in the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

For example, we use indigo to make sure that we apply natural colors when we dye fabrics to preserve traditional designs and use them to make stationaries and boxes as gift items for Christmas giveaways.

This empathy for IPs is essential to our interrelatedness with each other and all living beings.

We might be accused of cultural appropriation. The dilemma is these designs might be meaningless even to the younger generation, especially in the urban markets.

Even Catholic medallions and Bibles are bought and no one is accusing the Christian perspective of promoting the commercialization of the faith.

It is the sense of interbeing with a group or place that makes us feel cheerfully responsible for it. We are called to serve it with our lives. Without feeling connected to other forms of life, they become expendable.

And isn’t that feeling of being expendable at the root of our personal exile as well?

We’ve spoken about our focus on materialism, and how it has resulted in the loss of the mythic life. But without the wisdom of the earth, as transmitted through the stories of our elders, we have ended up in an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Instead of being in daily communion with the teaching stories that come from plants and dreams, animal spirits and ancestors, our next generations are being raised on increasingly empty images. We commercialize traditional designs to put monetary value to the products.

As a Catholic, I see the value of rituals and medallions that people have to buy.

However, when we are not guided by a mythic perspective, our individual and collective lives cease to have meaning. Our goals are no longer governed by a larger quest for the good of all, but by the competitive system focused on the dominance of the individual over others, and the species over nature. It isn’t difficult to see why we bully each other out of belonging, because such a mindset requires us to isolate and serve ourselves alone.

We belong to the pagan god Baal. Peace on earth true, but we have to undergo the frenzied buying of Christmas presents and ornaments and buy Christmas food and pass the lechon, the ham and the grapes.