The Death of Andonie and Our Creation Story
Vincent Busch

       On Feb 13th 2024 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. She 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 near their home. Some of the Subanen Crafters were able to be there.

                                                                                                        Subanen crafters and
                                                                                                                        Andonie’s family at her burial. 




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

       Jesus proclaimed that the least among us will be the greatest in the Reign of God (Matthew, chapter 18). Andonie is one of those “least” who, with her unborn child, are now in the embrace of our Creator. 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. Now, we are beginning to realize that Indigenous Peoples here have highly evolved cultures and life-styles 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.
       At that workshop I marveled at how quickly and skillfully 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 9 evolutionary births in the Story of God’s Creation. It is a Story that would eventually lead to the birth of humans and the birth of the Earth Community. 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.


The 4 original Subanen crafters in 2001 (left to right) Jovie Balido and her sister Rodilyn Balido, (Me), Marcelita (nee Balives) Balido, and her sister, Andonie Balives, at our first Mandala crafting workshop
in 2021,
holding Creation