Fredo Basino and his rare qualities as a Blaan visionary

Fredo Basino has a positive outlook on the future. His knowledge and wisdom made lasting impacts to the people in SOCCSKSARGEN. He still continues to be an inspiration to many people, most notably to the Blaan tribe. Former Sarangani Governor Miguel Escobar dubbed him as the “Brain of Sarangani” and many describe him as an exceptional Blaan visionary because of his countless contributions in the province. 

Fred was born on October 11, 1955, in Sitio Upper Lasang, barangay Sapu Masla, Malapatan, Sarangani Province. He followed the Blaan tradition of taking the name of his father for his surname (which is Basino). In his early years as young Blaan, he was exposed to different political affairs in his community. Since his grandfather was the chieftain in their area, he got the opportunity to immerse himself in the political landscape of their community. In short, he was fond of attending Kasfala. Moreover, he likes to cling beside his grandfather because he loves to listen to mythical stories until he falls asleep. At a very young age, he became interested in Customary Law. This early exposure helps him to become an expert in Indigenous Knowledge systems and political matters of the Blaan tribe. He is the eldest among his 14 siblings. Being the kuya of his siblings, it taught him many skills like the familial type of leadership. This ability helps him to become one of the influential Blaan leaders in the region. Coming from a well-respected Blaan family, he does not use it to show off. Instead, he uses this opportunity to support his fellow Blaans and contribute his ideas to the province of Sarangani.

During his elementary years, he described himself as “basagulero”. At the age of 10, he challenged his schoolmates to fight with him. 

“That time, I’m more afraid of my father than my schoolmates. I did not feel fear whenever I challenged them for a fight,” Fred said. 

He also challenged Maguindanaon students from another school just to prove how tough he was. When he was in high school, he was the top of his class. But he easily got bored with his teachers. “Sometimes I came to class drunk. But they did not bother me because I’m on the top of the class and they loved me for it.” 

These moments in his childhood up to his teenage years aided him to become a good conflict mediator in his career. 

Student life in MSU GenSan 

When he attended college at the Mindanao State University-GenSan, he became a working student to supplement his expenses in school. “As a working student, I have learned different skills that are useful in my future engagements.”

In his stay at the university, he always shifted to different courses. He took up Liberal arts, BS Agriculture to AB History minor in Sociology, then finally settled for BSBA Accounting. But he never took the licensure exam and never practiced accounting in his career. “I was very political,” Fred said. “I am more into political affairs than numbers.” 

There was a time when he became overwhelmed by his scholarship allowance and his salary as a working student. That time, he earned a total of P600 (a large sum during that time) and forgot to focus on his studies. “Because of the large money that I had, they thought I was a drug dealer. But I did not mind it and continued to do my thing,” Fred said. 

Until Prof. Domingo Chi challenged him in the class. “It’s one of my unforgettable encounters with him,” as Fred described. 

“I always came into his class drunk and did not pay attention to his lessons. There was a moment when he called me to answer the problem on the board. Unfortunately, I did not know the answer. So he scolded me, saying that I’m wasting the money of the government. Prof. Chi ‘humiliated’ me in front of the class. He told me that I have potential but I neglected my studies.”

That incident made him realize to focus on his studies. Instead of dwelling on discouragement, he prepared for their next encounter. With the help of his classmate, he studied their lesson. In the next meeting, he was able to answer the questions given by his professor. 

“I was expecting that he would ask me again in front of the class. So I prepared for it and studied the lesson in advance. I successfully answered his questions.” 

That moment left a remarkable impression on his professor. Fred was offered a job to work for his company. 

Life after college

After college, he experienced different things. He was exposed to different jobs that helped him acquire new skills and knowledge. He became a Collection Supervisor in a Lending Company for six months and eventually got married in Kabacan, North Cotabato. He was unemployed for four months. But later on, he applied for the position of Human Resource Officer in the municipality. He got hired and made the municipality’s organizational plan. 

He studied his Master’s degree in Developmental Management in the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) and later on got hired as Planning Officer. After 5 years he was promoted as the Director of Planning and Development. At the age of 33, he became the youngest Blaan Planning Director of USM who drafted the Strategic Development Plan of the university in the 90s. 

On March 16, 1992, he was offered to be the Planning and Development Officer of the newly formed province of Sarangani. “It’s ironic that they did not know me until they searched for my background. They were surprised because I’m from Malapatan and I’m a Blaan,” Fred shared. 

That time he was torn between the Netherland scholarship program for his Ph.D. and the opportunity to be the Planning Officer of Sarangani. 

“I was torn between the two opportunities that came into my life. But I chose to be the Planning Officer of Sarangani because I realized that not all experts or professionals go abroad. Some remain and contribute their expertise in their country," Fred said. 

“If you are an expert, you can break the system. You can challenge or change it; as long as you come up with the best and successful strategies and concepts.” 

Many international agencies such as USAID and JICA got surprised by his abilities. He becomes in demand in terms of conceptualizing developmental projects and strategies. Furthermore, his contributions have great impacts on the province. For example, he is the co-organizer and adviser/member of Sarangani Provincial Tribal Council (SPTC) and Sarangani Indigenous Peoples Professional Association (SIPPA). He also advocates IP involvement in governance and development in Sarangani. He had a project called the Indigenous People Development Agenda in Sarangani that helps his fellow IPs attain empowerment. He supports the local industry and advocates for sustainable development. 

His unconventional concepts and advanced mindset made him unique in his own right. “If you are an expert, you can break the system. You can challenge or change it; as long as you come up with the best and successful strategies and concepts," Fred said. 

“It’s weird when some of my colleagues brand me as the ‘magician’. Whenever there are problems that need immediate action, they always say – ‘give it to the magician’.” 

In 2001, he resigned for his position as the Provincial Planning Officer and went back in 2004. He became the Vice-gubernatorial bet for People’s Champ Movement (PCM) in 2009. But he did not win over Governor Steve Solon in the 2010 election. Instead of whining for his defeat, it motivates him to do more great things for the province.

“I don’t compete with people. I compete with myself. I have full control of my life. I don’t want others to control it. Even without the position, you can be a leader in your own way.”

What is great about Fred is that he’s not doing the noble things just for the sake of doing it. He is not competing with other people just to be noticed or recognized. 

“I don’t compete with people. I compete with myself,” Fred pointed out. “I have full control of my life. I don’t want others to control it. Even without the position, you can be a leader in your own way.” 

He considered himself an activist. “I still considered myself an activist, but not the one who always complained about the status quo. I described myself as a matured activist who contributes solutions instead of problems.”

He also supported the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in informing and educating the Blaans in Tampakan, South Cotabato. He served in the Communications Relation Department of the company. 

“Instead of complaining about the possible negative effects of the mining project, I help the company to be responsible. I made a point that it should have fair and balance treatment for every decision they will make. The company should be transparent and accountable on its operations in the area.” 

He also became a mentor to the Blaan tribe in Tampakan. He created the Lihok Tribo Inc. for the benefits of the people inhabited in the mining site. He served as an intermediary between the company and the Blaan tribe. 

“In this kind of project, it is important to have IP sensitivity. It is important that the company practices Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) to the people living in the mining site,” Fred said. 

His leadership and organizational concepts help the tribe to realize their collective power. “It is important that I help them strengthen their organization or community. My role is to educate the tribe in order for them to have the right mindset. It creates personal change that eventually leads to individual mission. This individual mission will evolve into a collective mission.” 

“You cannot do it alone, so it is important to walk together towards the destiny we all wanted.”

Fred believes in a collective mission and co-creation. He made them realize how important taking one’s destiny is. “If the tribe knows how to take their own destiny, they will be able to build or acknowledge their own identity. If they will realize it, then they will make strategies on how to reach their destiny.”

Fred emphasized the importance of working together to achieve the desired goal. “You cannot do it alone, so it is important to walk together towards the destiny we all wanted.”

“Don’t underestimate what a person can do. He may be small or poor, but he has the potential to change the system.”

Fred also highlighted the importance of individual contribution. “Don’t underestimate what a person can do. He may be small or poor, but he has the potential to change the system.”

Fred acknowledged the fact that some Blaan practices are not applicable in this time. He also reiterated the importance of a clear vision for the future. “We have customary law, but we don’t know where to go. I help my fellow Blaans to be empowered in order for them to have an informed decision. Some of our old ways are not applicable in today’s modern world. We need to adapt new ways to become sustainable.” 

Many opportunities continue to come into his life and it helps him in a great way. However, Fred is also aware of the risks in these opportunities. “It’s not all about the opportunities. I also consider being transparent and accountable in every step I make. Every opportunity connotes responsibility," 

In his career, there have been times when he felt discouraged. But he asks the help of the Almighty to guide him in his journey. He never thinks of quitting his life-long advocacy to help other people. He is a man with rare qualities. He is a man with a genuine heart to help his countrymen. Truly remarkable and still continues to inspire the people for a better future. 

“I want to mentor and produce more empowered leaders in the future. These leaders will bring social cohesion and propagate peace and sustainable development.”