Inspiring ‘Mindanawomen’

6 women from different areas in Mindanao were recognized by Mindanao Development Authority in Mindanao Women Development Awards
Six women were recognized during the first-ever Mindanao Women Development Awards of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on March 22, 2024, at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Lanang, Davao City.
Six women were recognized during the first-ever Mindanao Women Development Awards of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on March 22, 2024, at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Lanang, Davao City. Rojean Grace Patumbon/SunStar Photo

SIX women were recognized during the first-ever Mindanao Women Development Awards of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on March 22, 2024, at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Lanang, Davao City. 

Maria Belen S. Acosta, chairperson of MinDA, said in her speech that the idea of recognizing the efforts of women arose when they saw that several women have greatly contributed to promoting change in Mindanao “without any sort of recognition.” She said that through this program, they want to champion equality, inclusivity, and empowerment for everyone.

“We endeavor for Mindanawon women to constantly feel appreciated, valued, included, not only just through this award but in every work that we do in the government. More importantly, we want to create spaces where these women can position, define, and express themselves freely. I’ve met countless inspiring women throughout our work in MinDa and I can only hope we can honor and thank each one of them in one way or another,” she said.

In a media interview, Acosta expressed that the original plan was to pick only one woman so they needed to judge all six women who applied or were nominated for the awards. However, all the women were recognized since all of them were exemplary.

“So far yung six na nominees ginawa naming awardees kasi may mga nag-pledge na (So far the six nominees, we made them all awardees because there are pledges for the women’s initiatives),” she said.

She added that MinDA will help fund their initiatives and assist them in seeking for funders like non-government organizations (NGOs) and national government agencies (NGAs) since most of these women have difficulty finding the means to make their projects a reality.

Architect Glory Rose Dy-Metilla
Architect Glory Rose Dy-MetillaRojean Grace Patumbon/SunStar Photo

Promoting Mindanawon architecture

One of the women recognized is Architect Glory Rose Dy-Metilla, who uses Mindanawon culture to design structures for several places in Mindanao. Most of her work is in municipal halls, public markets, and barangay halls in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm). One of her notable works is the Datu Binasing Public Market. She is also the principal architect at the culturally sensitive design firm Swito Designs Incorporated.

Metilla added that most of her projects involved people from the community, so apart from making the structure culturally significant, it boosts the local economy because of the jobs generated by these projects’ construction. She also created toy buildings and colouring books that enlightened children on the beauty of Mindanawon architecture. 

“We have remarkable stories and experiences here, and it is a great source of inspiration. If an architect or architects and women architects and women designers would experience the entirety of Mindanao, they would have unlimited inspiration for their work as I have,” she said. 

Bai Norhata Macatbar Alonto
Bai Norhata Macatbar AlontoRojean Grace Patumbon/SunStar Photo

Voice for the voiceless

The former matriarch of the MinDA family, Bai Norhata Macatbar Alonto, is one of the women recognized for her contribution to providing platforms for Muslim women so they, too, could contribute to the pursuit of development and gender equality. She founded the Philippine Muslim Women's Council and secured landmark policies in the country, such as the declaration of Eid al-Fitr 2001 as a non-working national holiday.

“Throughout my journey, Alhamdulillah, I have been fortunate to have worked and collaborated with inspiring men and women who shared the same vision. Together, we have championed initiatives that promote gender equality as well as equity, mentorship and skill-building,” Alonto said.

She said that there is no let-up on the journey toward women's empowerment in Mindanao. She encouraged everybody to help build a more inclusive and equitable future where every woman's potential is recognized. 

Fatima Pepe Kanakan
Fatima Pepe KanakanRojean Grace Patumbon/SunStar Photo

Education for the underprivileged

Fatima Pepe Kanakan has already built two schools for the students in South and North Upi in Maguindanao. She said that before the two school buildings were constructed, the children's school could not even be called a school building with merely wood as walls and nipa as roof.

The area was five kilometers away from the highway, so transporting raw and construction materials was difficult. However, this did not stop Kanakan; rather, it fueled her determination to help the indigenous community in the area have access to education even during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Gusto talaga nating tulungan yung community upang tumaas ang antas ng komunikasyon. Isa itong nakita nating empowering sa kanila, yung mabigyan sila ng magandang edukasyon sa murang edad at madadala nila iyon sa paglaki nila (I really want to help this community increase their level of communication. It is one of the things that will help empower them, by providing them with access to education at an early age and they will carry it with them until adulthood),” she said. 

Dr. Sitti Zayda B. Halun
Dr. Sitti Zayda B. HalunRojean Grace Patumbon/SunStar Photo

Beyond seaweeds

Often, we view seaweed as something ordinary, but for Dr. Sitti Zayda B. Halun, a scientist and a professor at Mindanao State University-Tawi Tawi, it goes beyond just a sea’s weed. Halun has been one of the people in pursuit of innovative solutions for seaweed development. She helps seaweed farmers through her invention of a special solar dryer dome that makes seaweed farming easier, particularly in sudden weather changes.

She observed that the farmers in Tawi-Tawi have been using the same type of seaweed for 50 years, which is very susceptible to diseases; hence, she devoted her time and effort to creating a new one that is immune to such diseases and climate change.

“We have to capacitate young people who would one day become scientists, who will serve the people here in Tawi-Tawi and the rest of the country,” she said. 

Reggie Punongbayan
Reggie PunongbayanRojean Grace Patumbon/SunStar Photo

Women for business

Reggie Punongbayan proves that not only men but also women can dominate the business world. As president of the Iligan Chamber of Commerce since 2017, she continuously proves that business and social development are possible through her contributions to the business climate in Iligan.

Under her leadership, the chamber in Iligan has been awarded the most outstanding chamber in Mindanao City Level for four consecutive years by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Aside from this, Punongbayan, also spearheaded initiatives such as Ronda Baranggay and the Tulong Trabaho Scholarship Program for community needs. 

“Ang mga kababaihan dapat dili gyud mahadlok nga muatubang ug mudawat og responsibility kay kaya nato, mga babae baya ta (Women should not be afraid in accepting responsibility because we can do it for we are women),” she said. 

Nenita Tan
Nenita TanRojean Grace Patumbon/SunStar Photo

Similar to Punongbayan, Nenita Tan is a testament that making food and income more accessible to the community is possible despite the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic. Through her business, “The BestFriend Goodies”, she was able to assist women in probably one of the most difficult times of this generation. 

The Bestfriend Goodies partnered with the Department of Science and Technology-Cagayan de Oro (DOST-Cagayan de Oro) program for food for the survivors of natural calamities,  alternative food programs on child nutrition, and military food rations, exemplifies her commitment to progress. 

“We are not only feeding the community, we are not only helping combat malnutrition but we are also helping the economy as well. So yun yung naka-inspire sa atin [so this is what inspires us], why do we continue to upscale the company,” she said. 

Acosta expressed that she hopes the award will become an annual event and institutionalized in MinDA. It will be an event where Mindanawon women can be recognized for their invaluable contribution to promoting Mindanawon culture and community development. 

Acosta said that as soon as the 2024 awarding is finished, they will be immediately accepting nominees and applications for the 2025 awarding. RGP


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