Tribute to Subanen Crafter Who Died in Childbirth

Feb 21, 2024

Fr Vincent Busch pays tribute to Andonie, one of the four original Subanen Crafters in the Philippines, who died recently in childbirth.

On 13th February2024, Andonie, one of the four original Subanen Crafters, died in childbirth.  She died in her hut, on a remote hillside, in the middle of the night. Her husband, Golyo, was with her.

Andonie is also survived by her two children, Melanie 14 years, and Bernabe, 11 years.  She and her unborn child were buried on the same day as she died near their home. Some of the Subanen Crafters were able to be there.

Jesus proclaimed that the least among us will be the greatest in the Reign of God (Matthew ch18). Andonie is one of those “least” who, with her unborn child, are now in the embrace of our Creator.

Subanen crafters and Andonie’s family at her burial.

Andonie was a Subanen, and like other Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines, the Subanens see their homeland as a sacred gift from God and relate to their habitat through their songs, stories, dances, and rituals.

Most of us in the Philippines have come to depend upon an economy that hungers for the water, minerals, and timber that happen to be on the homelands of Indigenous Peoples.

In the past logging and mining activities were allowed to freely plunder their homelands. It was common to think that Indigenous Peoples were primitive (the least among us) and that they stood in the way of national prosperity and progress.

Andonie’s children, Melanie and Bernabe, in front of their home.

Now, we are beginning to realise that Indigenous Peoples here have highly evolved cultures and lifestyles that nurture the upland rivers, forest and soil of the Philippines. Such nurturing cultures are much needed in the Philippines if we want to have an ecologically stable and economically sustainable future.

One day, twenty-three years ago, Andonie and her three companions hiked many hours from their remote hillside homes to get to the site of our first Mandala-crafting workshop in the town of Midsalip.

It was there, during our first crafting session, that I noticed a smiling Andonie squatting in front of an electric fan. It was the first time she had seen a devise that could create the wind.

The four original Subanen crafters in 2001 (left to right) Jovie Balido and her sister Rodilyn Balido, Fr Vincent Busch, Marcelita (nee Balives) Balido, and her sister, Andonie Balives, at our first Mandala crafting workshop.

At that workshop I marvelled at how quickly and skilfully these young women could thread beads into the complex designs of our Creation Mandalas.

Clearly they grew up in a culture that had a long tradition in weaving skills. The designs in the Creation Mandalas represent nine evolutionary births in the Story of God’s Creation.

The first design in the Creation Mandala represents the flaring forth of the Universe, entitled, ‘The Birth of the Universe’.

It is a Story that would eventually lead to the birth of humans and the birth of the Earth Community.

The Birth of the Universe
In the beginning the Spirit sang:
“My Love’s ablaze and from its warmth
Let all creation come flaring forth.
Let matter and energy converse
And sing the hymn of the Universe,
And through the course of time and space
I’ll cherish all in my embrace.”

I feel blessed to be working with the Subanen People whose cultural way of life respects and nurtures our human bond with our God’s Creation.        

May Andonie and her unborn child live life in its fullness in the embrace of our Creator.

If you would like to support Fr Vincent Busch’s work with the indigenous Subanen people in the Philippines, please donate here:  Alternatively, you can send a cheque payable to ‘Columban Missionaries’ to the Far East Office, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co Meath C15 AY2Y.

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