The appointment of OIC Mayors by President Corazon C. Aquino in the aftermath of EDSA Revolution in 1986 had generated mixed reactions among the populace and the local politicians, particularly in the Municipality of Tboli. An Ilonggo replaced Mayor Mai Tuan, a Tboli and a known ally of deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Mayor Mai Tuan and his followers protested his removal and resulted to the polarization of the populace between tribes. Several lives were lost in the ensuing power struggle.
Amidst the chaos, fresh out of school came Dr. Salvecio B. Dagang, the first Tboli medical doctor. Finding his family and people displaced due to the conflict, he immediately organized several young Tboli leaders to mediate between the group of Mayor Mai Tuan, the government and the migrant settlers. The mediation came up with a resolution where the mayorship of the town will be rotated between Rev. Capitan Manodal, a Tboli and Mr. Concordio Susarno, an Ilonggo. Although the said power sharing did not materialize it achieved peace between the warring groups.
In May 4, 1986 the Tribal Leaders Association of Tboli, Incorporated (TRILA) was organized and registered with Securities and Exchange Commission the following May 28, 1988. Dr. Dagang became the founding Chairman and Executive Director. With the assistance of his Visayan wife, Levisita T. Dagang, also a medical doctor and the officers they conceptualized the first program of the organization i.e. free medical clinic.
In 1991, with the donation of fifty thousand pesos from Tboli Evangelical Clinic, the Articles of Incorporation of the organization was amended elevating its status into a foundation. It is now known as Tribal Leaders Development Foundation, Inc. (TLDFI). Thus, it was able to access its first grant from the USAID through the Mindanao Lumad and Muslim Development Center (MILAMDIC), Xavier Science Foundation, Inc., Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City. The grant was used to revive the t’nalak industry, an indigenous craft weaving of abaca fibers.
Later, it diversified its programs to include pre-school education, adult literacy, micro-enterprise development and upland development i.e. integrated social forestry. In June 2001, the organizational self-assessment was conducted as suggested by the Children and Youth Foundation of the Philippines (now Consuelo Foundation). It was designed to identify the strong and correct weak areas of the organization.
July 2001, witnessed the transition of the leadership of the organization to the Executive Directorship of Ms. Julia C. Vestuir, as a result of the transfer of Dr. Dagang to the Local Government Unit of Tboli, being elected as Municipal Vice Mayor. Another major change happened; selected staffs were allowed to sit as members of the Board of Trustees to fill the vacuum of non-participation of some members of the board.
The second amendment of the Articles of Incorporation and adoption of new By-Laws was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission on January 2002 paving for more developments within the organization.
In November 2002, the organization’s leadership was passed on to Mr. Dennis A. Librado, after his appointment as the OIC Executive Director by the Board. Under his leadership, a new and active set of Board of Trustees was elected and it also signaled the expansion of the organization to include other municipalities inside the province of South Cotabato. The implementation of Healthy Start Project funded by Consuelo Foundation, in July 2007, a new program focusing on children based on the framework of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was started. It was followed by sponsorship and Self Help Approach under its partnership with Kindernothilfe.
In July 2014, two staff from TLDFI attended the first Break The Silence Training in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro conducted by Stairway Foundation, Inc. with funding support from Kindernothilfe. This training followed by other series of trainings, enabled the Foundation to develop its capacity in advocating for child sexual abuse prevention – this led to TLDFI adopting a new program called Child Protection Program as contained in its’ 2016-19 Strategic Plan.