Building sustainable futures with Mt. Apo's communities


The image of the modern city—its highly connected networks and virtual realities—is aspirational. For many of us, it is the mark of progress, especially when looking at the so-called global cities around the world.

However, this image of progress is by no means all-inclusive. Certain local realities persist, and these are realities with actual communities, with actual people, with lives that are vastly different but just as actual as ours. This is one of the emotional cores that Mount Apo Foundation, Inc. (MAFI) recognizes, especially in their efforts to preserve and support the local communities in Mount Apo. The IPs and upland dwellers have to constantly navigate lives of incongruence—they are caught between the push of their tradition, and the pull of contemporary modernisms.

MAFI Scholars in Manuvu tribal attireposing from from Mandarangan Hills, Sit. Agco. Ilomavis, Kidapawan City. Photo Credit: Edgar C. Aquiatan, MAFI
An auxiliary aspiration

Mount Apo Foundation, Inc. has been dedicated to empowering the IPs in Mt. Apo for twenty-six years. Upon sharing, we learned that their main contributions are primarily towards projects in education, environment, and the preservation of IP cultures and traditions. They help the community navigate these twenty-first century conundrums—incompatible legal ordinances, the constant allocation and reallocation of natural resources, the pressure of the information age, and so much more.

We immediately felt immense respect for their dedication, especially in their wisdom with regards to the complexity of their situation. We thought: how does one help foster a sense of progress that stays true to local realities? How does one go past the overpowering desire to impose solutions that may not fit the current context?

Humility has something to do with it, but perhaps the heavier word is respect. MAFI makes it clear—we trust that these communities have their own aspirations and goals, and they are capable of self-direction. The role for others—as they have practiced for twenty-six years—is the support role.

Our humble contribution to the path that MAFI continues to tread is visualizing that celebration, capturing it, embedding it into a symbol that translates the spirit of what they are trying to do.
Visualizing support roles

The capacity to dedicate efforts and energies into supporting a community, we surmised, is something that should be celebrated. Our humble contribution to the path that MAFI continues to tread is visualizing that celebration, capturing it, embedding it into a symbol that translates the spirit of what they are trying to do.

The logo—MAFI’s first—combines three symbols representing the sectors it supports: education, environment, and IP culture and communities. Together they create Mt. Apo’s landscape with the sun rising high above it. To match the brand mark, we chose warm, muted earth tones and elegant typefaces that are approachable yet professional, subtle yet bold.

Equally important was MAFI’s photography, which we saw as an opportunity to connect with its stakeholders more deeply. We crafted a simple photography guide, emphasizing the biodiversity of Mt. Apo and the pride of indigenous people in their traditional attire. We wanted our stakeholders to see Mt. Apo’s people as MAFI saw them: empowered individuals whose past and future we must cultivate.

Left: A Manuvu mother giving her son a good luck kiss before performing the Tribal Wedding during Allow to Sondawa (Day of Apo Sandawa) celebration.
Middle: Blooming wild berries that can be found only at the peak of Mt. Apo.
Right: Monitoring of the Maag Tinikaran Reforestation Project (Phase 1) conducted by MAFI staff and a project partner.
Bottom: Sunrise in Mt. Apo taken from Maag Area, the southwest portion of the Mt. Apo Natural Park.
Photos by Edgar C. Aquiatan of MAFI.

This works multiple ways—by strengthening how MAFI appears to the communities outside of Mt. Apo, could it help them in garnering more support and reaching more kindred voices? Can it help outsiders like us understand the multiplicities of progress and encourage us to become, in the most honest sense of the word, supportive?

Building a sustainable future together

The future of the IPs and upland dwellers of Mt. Apo is in their own hands—that is the true spirit of respect. They can fashion their communities towards what they believe to be best, and our role, similar to MAFI, is that of the one who supports. By conversing and bringing together different knowledges and experiences, we hope to help make the futures they choose available, and somehow, achievable.

Our work is towards helping sustain the future they choose direct. The images of development and progress, after all, are more diverse than we can possibly imagine.

Learn more about MAFI on their website.