It is in the nature of the Tboli to help one another. Sesotunawa is a value we all live out, but I never expected it to pave the way for us to be able to start our own business. Sesotunawa is indeed a blessing.
From our own experiences, the market does not always work in our favor because we cannot dictate the prices of our own products. In an attempt to sell directly to the market, my siblings and I put up a small store, but it did not last. I always felt that we did not have enough knowledge and capital to run a business.
When the Sesotunawa volunteers offered to help us without asking for anything in return, I did not believe them. They said the business is going to be built upon the value of sesotunawa, of working together, and all I needed to do was create the products and they would take care of marketing and sales.
When Sesotunawa started in 2017, Sir Noy and his friends often came here to teach us how to create designs based on our culture and our stories, and they also taught us how to price our products properly. Through these learning sessions I came to understand the value of hard work and why this is an important factor in determining the cost of our products. I also came to understand that inspiration is within and around us, and we do not have to rely too much on others to be able to create our own designs.
The volunteers helped us a lot. They set up our Facebook page so we could sell online and they even brought our products to Davao City. In 2018, we flew to Manila to join a crafts fair and that was when I rode the plane for the very first time in my life.
My heart is filled with joy every time I look back on our experiences with Sesotunawa. All these things used to be just wishful thinking. I never expected them to become a reality.
Today, I am more confident in myself and in my dreams. “Kaya gid basta mag buligay!” [If we help each other, there’s nothing we can’t do!]
To celebrate this unique process of cultural transmission, we share with you the story of Kuya Joel and his journey in becoming a Tau Temwel and co-founder of Sesotunawa. This narrative is a translated version of what he shared during one of our capability building/mentoring sessions in Lake Sebu.