iEmergence: Finding Joy and Purpose
Roel Arthur Ali III, known fondly as "Bob", is a young man with an incredible desire to lead his people. He is the second son of one of the most respected elders of the Ata tribe in southern Philippines. Although he was born in a village in the mountains of Paquibato, he grew up in the city of Davao. When we first met Bob, he was a shy kid but a very respectful one. During conversations, he would only sit behind his father and listen intently, and would speak only if he was asked to. More often, you would see Bob playing traditional musical instruments such as the bangkakaw and kuglung. Music was more his safe space.
“Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.” Neh 2:17,18
Early 2016, seeing his potential as a young leader of the tribe, we invited Bob to work with us in our journey of developing Panuluanan, a traditional place for learning culture, among his own people. In our visits to the community, he began to share how he is slowly finding purpose in his journey with his people. Bob explains: "It is different when you are helping your own tribe. There is great joy."
It was this time that people around him began to see a change in him. We began to call him "Bob the Builder” because he was helping build this space of learning. The title started in jest but it eventually became his identity in the tribe, especially among the younger generations. He now helps organize meetings and conversations with elders and community leaders, and shares his thoughts so openly. Aside from this, Bob has also found delight in another craft other than music. It is amazing to see his eagerness to learn to visually document their journey behind the camera so others may also come to appreciate their culture.
From being a timid young man, Bob has grown to be an emerging leader of the community and an inspiration to other Ata youth. Younger ones now look up to him and are encouraged to learn, engage and appreciate their unique identity as God’s gift to their tribe.