I met Mr. Mick Feliciano during a two day hands-on organic farming training (Kasama Ka Organiko) in Batangas, Philippines. An event which I almost could not participate in because a vacation in Philippines have always been tight in schedule. But as always, divine guidance prevails and I am so glad to have met Mick along with intelligent, aware and action driven people who want to make a positive change in the world. Little did I know that later on, I became a member of KBee, an association which Mick founded to help restore the natural condition of our Earth.
Now let’s begin to get to know Mick and his experiences which inspired me so much. in terms of Faith, courage, and determination.
MICK FROM BEING A SPOILED BRAT TO BECOMING A LEADER OF TRIBES
Aileen: Tell us first about yourself.
Mick: I’m an Accounting graduate from Ateneo de Davao University, Philippines. But went into marketing job as professional medical representative until I rose to product manager-cardiovascular division of elanPharma PLC, then went back to being a Medical Rep for a French MNC, LL Servier. I am the youngest of 5 siblings. Religion wise, from birth till 21 years old-Catholic, from 22 to 42, a born again Christian, at the age of 43, am on universal wisdom. Note the 21 year gap of each transformation.
After my pharma stint, I went into the printing business and operated a medium sized printing company I owned. 1993 was the most sinful part of my life. There’s an overflow of money in printing. During my earning years, I was the usual kid-adult who would still go out on fridays with friends and do some “you know what”. We drank a lot. We took MJ for quite some time. Having excessive money and lack of spirituality at that time of immaturity lead me to go exploring the world of machoism.
Aileen: Sounds typical.
Mick: Yeah, it was the usual up and down thing but no sense of fulfillment until the trigger in June 1994. After 4 years of running the printing business, something very serious happened. It’s like I already pointed the barrel of my 22 rifle on my throat when Pastor Jong knocked at my door at 4:30 in the morning, a very trying moment in my life. I was also fed up with my Mom and brother who incessantly ask me for 50% of my business, very long and sad story.
A dream urged me to get out of the sin I was in which started my spiritual turn around – A dream of a hand made of fire on the 1st day, 2nd day hand of wind, and 3rd day, hand of water taking my sin away from me. After the 3rd day of restlessness and sleeplessness, I went over to my pastor and described every detail. He said God is working on me right now so I better clean up my act. It happened that our church began focusing on Genesis 26 for four weeks. Gen 26 is at the time of Isaac when he was told by God not to go into the land of Egypt, and that he must stay in Gerhar (a place undergoing a famine). I pondered on that chapter for about 2 weeks. I believed, that at this very onset of my calling in 1994, Genesis 26 is my guiding light. I was called to serve a famished community, opting against a good life.
At that very moment, two big multinational companies offered me juicy corporate positions. I was made to choose between the corporate work, and somewhat like a spiritual pull to serve Davao’s tribal minorities, a work which provides no assurance of income. The corporate offers came December 1994 and January 1995. The tribes came December 1994.
Aileen: How did you feel about choosing? Was it hard?
Mick: It was hard really to choose between a comfortable zone, continuing my wealth making purposes and to risk starvation by serving the marginalized sector of our society. It was a definite struggle because I also had to look into, of course, my family’s needs. It took me 3 months to decide, because I waited for something to happen from the tribal folks. The only thing I can think of then to help me decide is to challenge the tribe. To call on all their leaders, barangay officials, tribal leaders, church leaders, women, youth and NGO leaders gather all at my compound in Davao city on the 1st week of April 1995. I will then decide to help them full time. So I waited till then whether they will be able to gather all or most which will prove their longing for me to help them. They did show up, all 78 leaders of the tribes. And I committed my service to them. In front of them I called up the two companies and turned their offers down. That’s when I started organizing them.
Mick: (laughs) Beginning of great events happening in my life.
Aileen: You could have helped a different group of people, why the tribes?
Mick: I really don’t know why. Maybe it was for my better understanding of man’s relationship with nature. At first I was their assisting professional, then they adopted me through a tribal resolution which appointed me to be the administrative and development planning officer of their ancestral domain areas in 5-sectoral program management. 1) Land use and Environment. 2) Social. 3) Economic. 4) Infrastructure development and 5) Peace and order. I served the tribe for 7 years as CADC Administrator, 5 years of which I was the concurrent CADC coordinator of Davao City Local Government.
Aileen: All of these service for free and out of the goodness of your heart?
Mick: Yes. But the local gov’t of Davao helped me out by hiring me as CADC coordinator grade 21 to do what Iwas doing. No additional burden, except when getting my salary. At first they regarded me as someone who is only good at the start. So I showed them how I can mobilize the tribe. We conducted an anti-illegal logging activity which netted 7 chainsaws and 38 individuals captured. After endorsing to them our captives, they began talking to us and as a result, they ended up helping us so we can do their work (laughs).
I was forced to take up PG studies on Environmental Planning. Having been the Planning contractor for the DENR in the development of the Ancestral Domain Management Plans of two CADC areas (CADC-016 & 093) both comprising 7 barangays /49 sitios with a total land area of 33,000 hectares.
To sum it all up, all the success during that 7 years can’t be achieved without God. He pulled me there, provided all my needs, gave me the wisdom to do such grand plans, gave me the strength to handle it all, and the protection he provided. That’s why no major accident happened to me. Only minor bruises, insect bites, small flesh cuts. That was all for 7 years trudging the rugged terrain of that 33,000 hectare ancestral domain.
Aileen: Very brave. Did u have further signs from above letting you know that you made a better choice?
Mick: Yes, very, very clear or vivid signs that God was with me. There are two most vivid ones. A cloud provided shade so I can go walking under the heat of the day for 6 hours. I have a scheduled meeting with the farthest sitio of Paquibato district, already the border of Bukidnon. It’s about 8 hours of walk. When I was done with that sitio the next day, I was again off to another Sitio about 6 hours away and I took off about 10 am so I was practically walking under the heat of the sun. Walking about a third of the way, I was forced to take a rest, almost fully exhausted. I then asked one of my native companions to leave me for about 10 minutes. Then I began to pray for strength and guidance. I was singing songs of praise in tears. Then a small pebble hit my shoulder bone. It was impossible because I am on top of a high ridge. All is below me. It seems it woke me up. So I got up and gave the signal for my group to proceed. From that time until we reached the other sitio, no sun, no heat touched my skin. The natives were amazed because we are practically being followed by an umbrella cloud!
Aileen: Amazingg!! goosebumps here!
Mick: (laughs) I cried and so full of tears when we reached our destination. Two of my five native companions decided to be converted into Christianity because of that.
Second vivid experience was when I was on to another meeting at the far end of the district, about 2 hours of motorcycle ride and 6 hours of walk. Again under the heat of the sun, meaning all our bodies were steaming hot when a rain cloud caught us by surprise. It was passing our way and pouring all it got. So we all ran towards the nearest hut on top of a hill about 300 meters away. I was carrying a 30 kg backpack and it was all too heavy for me to fly. On the mid portion of the climb to the top, my legs gave up. I sat down facing the oncoming rain. I prayed, “God drench me if that’s what u want, just don’t make me sick”. A native who came back for me, heard what I uttered and when he looked up, the raincloud broke into two, moved in two directions sparing me, my group and the hill.
Aileen: This is like Moses and the parting of the sea!
Mick: You can say that again. But I didn’t publish that.
Aileen: Now it will be.
Mick: (laughs) I’d like to add another miracle that happened. We had to traversed the Ising river 7 times towards Sitio Quince-quince of Barangay Salapawan. I took off from the city late and arrived at the jump off point at around 5:30pm. It was a 3 hour walk and it started to rain 30 minutes upon setting off. With 3 natives, we were carrying watermelons we bought from a farm we passed through. While crossing the river the 4th time, the river rose so quickly that I got caught in the middle, the current tried to push me but I reacted by throwing the melon towards the bank and allowed it to pull my whole body with its momentum. I was soaked head to foot, my wallet and all-drenched. The rain poured so strongly that everything was muddy along the way. But we had to push on crawling on steep climbs and sliding downhill on our butts. When we arrived, the leaders asked me, where Mick is. My hair and face is all covered with mud (laughs). Good thing I was a trained trekker, having all my spare clothes on ziplock bags.
Aileen: Can u describe your life with the tribes?
Mick : I thought I wasn’t made up for that kind of work. But if you really set your mind into helping others, everything just falls into place. I can’t remember any day during that stint with the tribes that I felt so sad. All problems we encountered were solved and that it was a life floating in the presence of God. It was an at –one-ment moment. On the 5th year, I began losing touch with Him as the air went into my head claiming that all the results is because of my doing. I encountered difficulties after difficulties. Then for about 4 months, I noticed that I was failing. I realized that my pride overtook me and I began to reform myself again. Within that year, all troubles where solved and I got back the favors.
Aileen: Caiel(co-organizer of Kbee) mentioned you were able to provide solar panels too for the tribes. How did it come about?
Mick: Oh yes. It was just one of the projects I got in for the tribes. It was a sad and happy story too. I was meeting the district tribal chieftains at my Davao office when a call came, informing me that my father died (in Manila). I immediately decided to cancel the meeting, postponed all schedules and programs then went to manila the day after. During my Dad’s burial at our home in Project 6, I was amazed to find NAPOCOR President Guido Delgado sitting alone in one of the tables there. I approached and asked him, “You’re the NAPOCOR President aren’t you sir? He said yes. “How come you are here at my father’s wake?” I asked. He said “Your father was my good friend”. I sat down with him until he left. Knowing now that I was handling a tribe, he decided to award the solar project to me, all 5.7 million worth of it.
Aileen: OMG. Another divine guidance. Amazing journey, just like in a movie.
Mick: (laughs) After Dad’s cremation, I went to his office and started processing documents and the transfer of the solar panel materials to Davao. It gets me in tears every time I remember that. It’s a full seven year story. It will take us days to talk about it. (laughs) A lot of amazing things have happened.
Thanks to my father because as the youngest, he gave me the shittiest treatment compared to my older siblings (laughs). I mean, he made me work hard for all that I ask from him.
My father was the exclusive distributor of Komatsu heavy equipments for the whole area of Mindanao in the 1970s. There is still no Caterpillar available then, only Komatsu.
So you can imagine how much my father rakes in, in terms of money. Plus we had a family owned 311 hectare coconut plantation in Panabo, meaning we are practically well-off.
But it made me wonder why my dad made me work that hard. Only realized it when I was working and have my own family.
Everytime I ask him to buy me shoes, he will say, How much? If I say 300, he will say “Okay clean the 30 tracklink rollers then paint them as well. In order for me to get things easier, I made sure I did good in school. When I raked in medals and honors, that’s the time I can ask something that I don’t have to work for strenuously. (laughs)
MICK DEALING WITH DEATH THREATS
Aileen: Was there ever a time with the tribes that you almost gave up?
Mick: No, not a single moment. My spirits were high most of the time. However, there were some moments that forced me to stop and think of alternate ways to circumvent a potential problem or disaster. Those were of death threats were in all corners.
Aileen: Can u share with us more about your death threats?
Mick: It was because of the anti-illegal logging campaign we did, and peripheral boundary protection units activation that focus only on land and resource utilization. Some prominent figures in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon are funding illegal logging and mining. A henchman of Mr. ______, who was also a district political figure had sideline. Everytime bridges are constructed and if it requires about 7,000 bdft of hardwood. He would order cutting trees in our area to the tune of 70,000 bd ft. He says he needs the extra to pay off some powers that be. I prevented his practice and when he realized he can’t do much to exercise his political authority, he went on to spread veiled threats. But the D- Team was behind me and at most, the Divine protection is there. It was sufficient to neutralize those threats.
Aileen: Were u scared?
Mick: I was scared for what my friends did and what they are capable of.
Aileen: Wow. This feels like watching an action movie.
Mick: (laughs) There was a lot of attempts to bribe me to access my AOR before. It lead me to something I enjoyed, slapping their heads with the money they bribe me with (laughs)
All photos provided by : Mick Feliciano and Caiel Esquerida
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