Interview with Rev. Job & Phoebe Santiago, KPM Administrators
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Rev. Job & Phoebe Santiago, KPM Administrators, at the request of Tidings Magazine, a publication of Atlantic Baptist Women. A portion of the interview was published in the April 2022 issue of Tidings Magazine, and the entire interview can be read below.
Interview with Rev. Job & Phoebe Santiago – KPM Administrators
An Excerpt of the full interview was printed in the April 2022 issue of Tidings Magazine,
which is published by Atlantic Baptist Women.
- Job and Phoebe, how long have you been part of Kabuganaan Philippines Ministries Inc. (KPM)? Why does this ministry excite you?
We are Job and Phoebe, a couple and both pastors. Phoebe works as a guidance director at a local university, and Job works as executive minister of Capiznon (Kasapulanan) Baptist Churches, the provincial association of churches in Capiz province.
We have been part of KPM since 1989. KPM began as Kipling Philippines Mission, initiated in Lucero by a couple who are also both pastors, Revs. Robert and Norma Coe, who were Canadian Baptist Ministries strategic associates from Kipling Avenue Baptist Church in Toronto. In 2010, KPM was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a mission program with a new name, Kabuganaan Philippines Ministries, Inc. From then on, the programs were expanded and extended to other areas.
This ministry excites us because it reaches out to the least in society and vulnerable people, including children and youth. As pastors, our passion is to serve the poor, deprived, and oppressed people in our churches and communities. This is why our mission areas are the remote, mountainous, depressed, and urban poor communities. We reach out to vulnerable, poor children to provide early childhood education, and to poor, deserving, and determined young people to help them finish college, earn a degree, and get a good job to improve their and their families’ living conditions.
- Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM) and KPM have a long history of partnership that began during the ministry of Rob & Norma Coe (former CBM Strategic Associates from Kipling Avenue Baptist Church) and eventually led to the signing of a partnership agreement in 2019. Duane and Carin Guthrie served as CBM field staff in Manila (2015–2018), and Michael and Melanie Waddell served in Manila and the Roxas City from 2015 until returning to Canada in 2020 due to COVID considerations. How has co-operation between KPM and CBM benefited both partners?
KPM’s partnership with CBM began when Rob and Norma started the ministry in Lucero. When the Coes returned to Canada, we took over the leadership, administering and managing the program the best that we could. By God’s grace the ministry grew and is moving towards its full bloom stage.
The signing of the formal partnership agreement with CBM has greatly strengthened KPM as a mission program. Added to this, the presence of the two couples who served here as CBM field staff—Duane and Carin Guthrie (2015–2018), and Michael and Melanie Waddell who decided to move to Roxas City (2015–2020)—significantly contributed to the growth and development of KPM. The presence of the CBM missionaries greatly impacted KPM. They imparted valuable knowledge and helped develop our skills in running our programs and projects. With their assistance, they made our work easier and faster, especially in preparing project concepts, proposals, and reports. Honestly, KPM has no financial resources to sustain its programs and projects. What we have are people deeply committed in doing God’s mission, people willing to volunteer, sacrificing their time and needs to reach out to the needy people in their churches and communities.
- How have the typhoons in 2021 and COVID-19 affected the people you serve in Capiz province?
Calamities such as typhoons are common to us in the Philippines. We have several of them—weak, strong, and super typhoons, hitting the different parts of our country every year, and the damage they leave to our lives, crops and properties takes years to recover from. The COVID-19 pandemic however is such a unique kind of disaster. We thought at first that it would be short-lived. But just like it is for the rest of the world, it is still here, having different strains, causing much fear, pain, and trauma to our people.
It is in this area that we are so very grateful to our partner CBM. CBM is always there, to journey with us even when we walk “through the valley of the shadow of death.” The disasters brought by typhoons are really heartbreaking, especially to the poor and vulnerable. Their houses that are made of light materials are flattened, their crops destroyed, some of them have lost their loved ones. But when they receive relief assistance such as materials for their houses, food for the families, and psycho-social and spiritual support, you can begin to see smiles on their faces.
COVID-19 has claimed many lives of our people. Some with mild cases were quarantined either in the homes or in facilities; others with severe cases were admitted to the hospital, and some died, including our fellow pastors. KPM had readily extended assistance and support to them because of CBM. CBM’s support just came on time—it was just there when our affected sisters and brothers needed them the most.
- The Food for Life initiative seeks to improve the lives of farmers (rice, coffee, peanut, etc.) as well as produce healthy food that enhances life. Can you tell us more about this Faith + Work initiative?
We got so very excited when Rev. Michael Waddell started to introduce the Faith+Work initiative and made it the primary focus of his work, especially in the Philippines. In our holistic approach to ministry, we do not have so many problems translating our faith to tangible things. We are resolved to not draw a demarcation line between faith and deeds or dichotomizing faith and deeds. But with the Faith+Work initiative, things have become clearer and are easier for a layman’s understanding.
Our concrete expression of this at KPM is our Food for Life (FFL) and BUGANA projects. Through these projects we attempt and struggle to do things as an expression of our faith. FFL attempts to do farming the natural way or “God’s way.” It’s not destructive to the environment and God’s creation, keeping and protecting the ecological balance, and producing healthy foods that enhance life. We would like to break the idea and understanding of doing farming as an agri-business, where a farmer can gain much profit at the expense of producing food that is dangerous to health.
BUGANA on the other hand is selling food products produced naturally and handicraft products for personal and household use—doing business as mission, advocating fair trade. Economic justice is observed in buying products from the producers and in selling them to the consumers. Workers are paid justly. Doing this in a society that has embraced the culture of consumerism and fast-food products is a big challenge for us.
- KPM operates childcare centres for children aged 3 and 4 in several poor communities in Capiz province. Why focus on this age group? What sort of challenges do these children face, and how do the childcare centres meet their needs?
KPM has five Child Care Centers, three of which are in remote, mountainous, rural communities and two are in depressed, urban, poor communities in the city. Except for one, the child care centres are church based. KPM would like to help local churches strengthen their ministry for children. It understands that one of the basic universal rights of children is access to early childhood education. We don’t want the children to miss this opportunity even during restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for once they miss it, they will miss it for the rest of their lives for they only pass through childhood once. It is the duty of the church and any mission program, for that matter, to provide for and take care of the needs of children. Our missionary teachers are community based. They live in and are part of the community. As they understand the dynamics in the community, they don’t only take care of the children, but their parents and their families as well.
The Child Care Centers are designed to make learning and growing up conducive for them [the children]. The curriculum includes learning, playing, and feeding. Through this program KPM would like to contribute to the development of children so that they may become the kind of children and grown-up persons in the future that God wants them to be.
- KPM is also very involved with youth and college students. Can you share some of the programs that are happening now?
With the Youth Development Program, KPM is assisting poor, deserving, and determined young people coming from its mission areas. The name of the program is Percy Buck Educational Aid which was started by Percy Buck, a CBM missionary to Bolivia. Under this program the recipient receives financial assistance for their tuition fees and other needs, and spiritual and leadership formation as part of discipleship. A youth pastor is designated to take care of the program and the scholars have monthly fellowship meetings for updating and the sharing of their situations and concerns, for leadership development, and spiritual formation. The scholars are challenged to actively participate in their local churches and communities. They do volunteer work during the summer through organized gospel teams going to different churches and communities and teaching Vacation Church School for children.
Since the start, the program has been able to help nearly 200 young people who have pursued and finished college, earned degrees, and landed a good job. This has greatly impacted them and their families as well, improving their living conditions and [helping them] become productive citizens. Successful scholars are now helping other poor young people in the community as their way of gratitude for the free assistance they received.
- KPM’s BUGANA Livelihood Centre in Roxas City, Capiz province, holds workshop space, a store to sell local products, and provides a spot for people from poor, urban neighbourhoods to receive skills training. How has BUGANA adapted to COVID-19 challenges?
KPM’s BUGANA Livelihood Centre provides space for skills training, meetings, and seminars. Several women and youths have received the training—sewing, handicrafts from coconut shell products, up-cycled paper jewelry, paracord bracelets, etc. These women and youths have now become productive, earning income for their family while they produce products to be sold by BUGANA. The training activities were greatly hampered by the pandemic. Due to the lockdowns and health protocols and restrictions, we were not able to continue training other women and youth who are interested and willing to develop their skills. With the downgrading of the COVID cases in our city and province we hope to continue with the training activities this year.
- Tell us about some things you’ve celebrated over the past season of ministry.
We have so much to thankful for and celebrate. The growth and development of KPM as a mission program for the past years is really amazing. We have found CBM to be a genuine partner who has committed to journey with us to reach out the least of our sisters and brothers in this broken world, that they too may find and experience life in its fullness through Jesus Christ our Lord. In the midst of the pandemic, we did not stop doing mission work. We feel we are much more needed in these very challenging times: when people are experiencing deep trauma and pain, when people are losing their hope, when people are dying and separated from their loved ones, at least we were there to walk with them. We are so grateful that God in his grace has sustained us with his love. He heals us when we get sick, he inspires us when we are weak and down, and gives us strength and good health to go on with the work he called us to do.
- CBM and KPM are a team, but you two, Phoebe and Job, are a team, too! What helps you work well together?
As a couple, we work as a team. When we got married, our theme was, “Each for the other and both for the Lord.” We feel our calling strongly binds us together to work for the least of our sisters and brothers. God has gifted us with compatible skills: Phoebe can do financial work and Job is an experienced community organizer. To strengthen our teamwork, we organized volunteers and encouraged KPM’s working Board to help us in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating our programs and projects.
We developed and exposed our three adult children to our work. We expressed to them and showed them our commitment for the Lord’s work. By this, we gain their approval, support, and their participation in what we do. We experience joy and satisfaction with our work as a team, and we commit to continue the work God has entrusted us as long as we can. Praises and glory be to God!