Melba Padilla Maggay

Author Spotlight: Melba Maggay

31 August 2017
Extract from the Foreword by Miriam Adeney of Global Kingdom, Global People

Love Is Local

On the northernmost tip of Palawan, the westernmost island in the Philippines, lies the community of El Nido, “The Nest.” It is so named because the birds’ nests used in Chinese soups are harvested from the high limestone cliffs nearby. Besides scrounging for nests, the people of El Nido work in subsistence farming and fishing, or in a series of tour guide businesses crammed cheek-by-jowl along the main street. There is an NGO that serves as an ecological center. That nature conservancy protects marine resources and teaches sustainable gardening and animal husbandry, marketing of produce and crafts, and family planning.Philippines Map

El Nido is part of Melba Maggay’s story. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Melba’s mestizo gentry ancestors settled in Palawan, where they nurtured genteel values on the edge of its wild timberland and coastal richness. Some of them still speak the local indigenous language. Later, the family suffered the Japanese invasion and incarceration of Melba’s father. During those war years, Melba’s mother with her then six children (she would eventually have a dozen) made and sold rice cakes to survive and brought eggs to famished kempetai soldiers as bribes in exchange for jail visits. Today, Melba and all her siblings own plots of land on this island. Someday she may build a bed-and-breakfast there, but for now her land is planted in trees.

El Nido, Palawan

El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Justice…has long been a priority for her. As a Marxist-leaning university student, Melba discovered to her surprise that the gospel condemned perversion of justice and exploitation of the vulnerable. It affirmed humane work conditions, loyal rather than transactional commitments between employers and employees, and embodied stewardship rather than absentee relations between land and people. During the peaceful People Power Revolution that ousted President Marcos, Melba led the evangelical presence in the barricades when at great risk the people faced the tanks and guns of the regime. Since the devastating tsunami in the Central Philippines, she has led professional teams devoting thousands of hours to doing trauma care and creative therapy for the shattered communities there.

On the global scene, Melba accompanies many faith-based development organizations as president of Micah Global, a network of more than 700 organizations working among the poor worldwide. Originally known as the Micah Network, it spawned the Micah Challenge, a campaign for achieving the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals. Micah Global is part of the World Evangelical Alliance, a fellowship of Christians in more than 120 countries.

Melba was her mother’s ninth child. It was a crisis pregnancy. Many years later, her mother told her that she was then so sick she could hardly comb her hair without feeling tired. She was advised to have an abortion as she could lose her life along with the baby. “The doctors stood solemnly in a row and looked at me with sorrow in their eyes. They wanted you out of me. They gave me little pills to swallow so you would come out as a little clot of blood.” But Global Kingdom, Global Peoplethen her mother and father prayed, and told the doctors, “We will trust God for this child.” Her mother gathered her in her ample arms and said, “We have always loved you, child, even then.”

That is the kind of love that flows through [Global Kingdom, Global People]: God’s love expressed in very concrete and problematic situations in God’s world.

Miriam Adeney, PhD

Seattle Pacific University, 2016

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