Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Flower Power

"Flower power" was a slogan used in the late 1960s as a symbol for the anti-war and non-violence ideology. The term was coined by poet Allen Ginsberg as a means to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Real Peace

What is real peace?

Is it sitting comfortably in your chair? Waking up everyday with your routine schedule ahead? Eating three times a day? A life revolving around work, house and night-outs? A life unaffected by the gun shots, the hunger, the discrimination and the suffering? For some people, all is peaceful and just because they’re living comfortably everyday, untouched, untroubled. But is this really peace?

What some people may not know, or may not care to know, is that there are thousands who have been fighting the government for decades because of injustice. And there are thousands who have been leading insecure lives as they fear being caught in the crossfire between warring parties in their community. These realities do not only happen in the Philippines but also in other countries suffering from armed conflict.

You can say that I was one of those people who thought there was peace, at least there was in my own little world where I moved in. I thought that conflict happened elsewhere, far from me, and therefore I should not be troubled. As far as I was concerned, my life was peaceful and those conflicts were someone else’s problem.  I believed that only the military could resolve armed conflicts because they were the only ones who could fight the insurgents. I thought if those rebels would be killed or captured, there would be peace. But this never solved the problem.

It took a one three-hour class to show me that violence was not all about guns and wars and fighting, and that peace was not all about the absence of such either. Rather, violence could be physical, cultural and structural. Violence could mean deprivation of services that you are entitled to or being discriminated upon because of your religious or cultural identity. Peace could mean not just having a ceasefire or killing your opponents, but also solving the deep-rooted causes of why there was conflict in the first place.

In that class I learned that peace was not all about winning; it was about compromise. Peace was not all about actions but also about listening to what other people had to say. As my professor showed us videos of the people in Mindanao, of the women in Bangladesh and the kids in Israel, I suddenly understood, even if just a tiny bit, of why they fight, what they believe in. And I remember thinking right then and there, how much I wanted to go to Israel, to see for myself what happens there and what I can do to help.

I’ve always heard people say about the issue in Mindanao: “Just bomb the whole place. With them gone, who would be there to fight the government?”Or “It’s far away. It doesn’t affect us here.” But pause and imagine, what comes after you bomb them? What comes after you kill the person who killed another? What comes after you turn a blind eye and look away? Will it solve the problem? Will that really give lasting peace? Peace is not just defined by the lack of violence but the freedom from fear of violence. If your people continue to live in fear, then peace is far from being achieved. 

So instead of giving comments without thinking, why don’t we pause and listen to the real situation. Instead of criticizing the actions that have been done towards attaining peace, why not do something in our own little ways to contribute, like tweeting or posting on Facebook about peace. Though little steps, these, I think, would be a much better use of our time. And maybe, just maybe, the ‘world peace’ cliché that everybody speaks of would come true. Peace that lasts. For me, this is real peace. #

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Social Media and the peace process

Angel Santos | With the current developments in the peace process, I cannot help but be amazed by the wave of support from the online community. From the #iamforpeace to #Bangsamoro to #givepeaceachance hashtag, two of which went trending in the Philippines. Suddenly, everyone wants to take part in peace building. Everyone is affirming their stake for peace. And that is something.
Some people think that tweeting and Facebook-ing for peace are not as significant as immersing oneself in conflict-affected areas. Some may think that posting online about peace cannot bring about change in the lives of those people on the ground. Some may think that social media is “all talk, no action,” because most of the people affected by war are “offline.”
But hear me when I say, social media matters in peace work. We live in a time when information technology is at its peak. Information is on our finger tips. Many Filipinos have Facebook accounts where they stay not only connected with their family and friends but also updated with current news. Based on a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2012, the Philippines is ranked 54th out of 70 countries with high prevalence of Internet-connected consumers, businesses and governments. It also pinned #7 in Asia in terms of number of Internet users in 2011.
In our country, there are about 33.6 million Internet users as of 2012 (from, in which 73.9% use Facebook, 18.1% YouTube, 6.1% Twitter, and 3.8% utilize blogs.  And that is an amazing and overwhelming number of Filipinos online—sharing information, telling stories, and connecting to each other on a real-time basis.
By taking advantage of  social networking sites, we can raise the awareness of these 1 million users on the situation of people affected by conflict. Through Twitter and Facebook, we can bring the “ground” closer to the online community. We can give face to individuals or groups and their struggle to live in peace through stories, photos and videos accessible to people in the virtual world.
The social media is an arena where people can pitch in ideas and exchange opinions on how to improve the peace situation in the Philippines. The effect of such may not be direct, but the mere act of creating a venue for engagement and raising awareness onpeace to other people who are “living in peace” is still an act for peace.
By letting those who have access to the Internet know about what’s happening on the ground, we are not only building an online community of peace advocates from different backgrounds and walks of life, but more importantly we are fueling change. By engaging these people, we are not only enforcing the number of peace builders but also supporting the peace workers on the ground.
In which I quote Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles: “Every new voice, every new tweet, every new Facebook post that comes out to support peace is a bead of ambrosia that will inspire and strengthen our quiet, conscientious, heroic peace workers on the ground who may be obscure or little known beyond the communities whom they serve.” #

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Despite his busy schedule, Sec. Jesse found the time to join OPAPP in delivering peace projects to those who need it the most despite the risks. Here is a photo of him visiting one the housing projects for internally displaced people in Sulu.

He was that one public servant whom a lot of people silently loved. He works with not so much noise, but he has touched so many lives in so many ways. Even Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles acknowledged this saying, "The support given by Secretary Jesse to the peace process will live on; not many knew that he was a quiet peacebuilder who made sure conflict-affected communities feel an honest and responsive government working hard to deliver the fruits of reforms." 

Mananatili s'ya sa puso ng marami. Salamat Secretary Jesse.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stand for Peace in Mindanao

Statement of Moro Youth on the Clashes in Marawi City and Maguindanao

We express deep concern and value to the lives and welfare of our fellow Filipinos, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, who are in difficult situations because of the flood in Luzon particularly in the National Capital Region on one hand, and on the other hand, those who are affected by the recent armed clashes in areas in Maguindanao (as well as in North Cotabato) between the government troops and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), a rogue breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last August 5, 2012.

Moreover, we are saddened with the news that lawless elements supposedly linked to a politician in Marawi City had caused armed clashes to break out last night, August 8, 2012 in the perimeters of Mindanao State University campus, as they attacked military   unit which was conducting mobile patrol  in the area, which caused deaths of three soldiers and wounded civilians.

Amidst these untoward incidents, we call on sobriety. There is neither war nor martial law declared in Mindanao. The government pursues lawless elements while maintaining the ceasefire with the MILF—whose leadership since 2011 dissociated from their helm the rogue BIFM. We note that the MILF has joint cooperation and mechanisms with the government to pursue against lawless elements through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

As the 30th GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks are ongoing since August 6 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where the Parties are pressed on substantive discussions to push the gains in the negotiating table, let us be vigilant that the situation on the ground and that the spoilers do not derail the peaceful means of achieving just and lasting peace in the south that aims to address the political and socio-economic conditions of communities.

Some could twist and turn the events or facts, make blame game, or engage in mere criticisms while communities suffer, let us strengthen our resolve to advance the peace process for meaningful and sustainable peace that aims to establish both genuine self-governance and good governance.

Strongly in unison of achieving peace in our time, we persist in our support to the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF which is now at the heart of peace negotiation for a political settlement of the 15 yr-old negotiation, which the Parties and partners and supporters from the civil society painstakingly worked on in order to resolve the decades-old armed conflict.

At a time of Ramadhan, a Holy Month for Muslims, we strongly oppose the attacks initiated by lawless groups who defy the Islamic values of humanitarianism and peace.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

My First-Ever Muslim Friends

Janessa Tek-ing | I grew up in a city where mostly Catholics lived. I'm a Catholic all my life. I've never had any Muslim friend or classmate. And the truth was, I never even bothered to listen to news about them or to even visit their communities just to get a taste of what it's like.

I thought it was enough to live my own life, to deal with my own problems, and to focus on my own dreams. I knew I was a part of a bigger world but I never cared to truly take part on it.

I once told myself, "I can't solve everybody's problems. I'm only one and there's nothing I can do about it." So, yeah, I was a spoiled brat with selfish motivations in life.

Then, one day, I realized I wasn't happy. The world I was trying to create was unreal. It was superficial, meaningless, and shallow. One time, my dad yelled at me (for some reasons I cannot disclose here), "You're better than this! Is this all you can do?" Then, a sudden realization revealed itself to me.

I suddenly altered the path I was taking in life. I can never undo the mistakes I've made, but I can always create something new. I can start all over again. And that's what I did. One day and one step at a time...

I took part in several community projects and joined some organizations. I immersed myself into the world that I ignored all my life. I never thought it was the kind of world I wanna be a part of. I used to believe I had it all. This one big bold step alone made me discover everything that I've been missing.

There came a point when some of my friends would ask, "Why do you do such things?" But I never answered because I figured out, they'll never understand. I have been blessed with a bunch of good-looking friends. Friends with money. Friends with cars. Friends who know their way around the city. However, no matter how much I love them and enjoy their company, there was something I should do.
I had to do things my way because that's the only thing that will make me truly happy. So, despite some discouragements, I didn’t look back. I continued searching for myself even if most of the people around me tried to pull me back to who I was...

My zest for new and meaningful adventures has taken me to what would be the most memorable moment of my life. It all happened in Cugman, Cagayan de Oro City where several PeaceTech ambassadors (both Catholics and Muslims) have gathered to start their journey as peace advocates of the country.

I was wrong to think it was just one of those workshops where you'll go home after and forget everything you've experienced. It never occurred to me that this is something I'll never forget my whole life.

Of course, there were discussions and resource speakers whose knowledge about peace is unquestionable. But what I value the most are the relationships I have created with these wonderful Muslims. They opened a whole new spectrum of learnings and made me see things differently. Before, Luzon was the best island for me. Now, I see it as equally great and magnificent as the two other islands of the country - Visayas and Mindanao. 

Honestly, it's hard to be yourself around people who grew up in the same environment as yours. You always want to compete with them, prove to them that you're better than anyone else. I never imagined that those who understand you better are those who never lived your life. Why? Because they don't judge. They just listen. And that's what these people have given me. They've given me a time to speak and never judged me for whatever I said.

Those five days have been meaningful, so meaningful, that for the first time in what seemed a long time, I became myself again. My first Muslim friends (I cannot name names because they're so many and I'm thankful for that) have made me laugh. And it was real. Not the kind of laughter brought by green jokes or anything like it. And they made me cry the kind of tears you shed only for friends you'll miss and cherish. They changed my life in a way that I'll never be the same girl anymore.

When I got back to Manila, my parents were not at home. I called them up and the instant I heard my dad's voice, I began to cry. Like really cry. I was only able to say, "Daddy, ang babait nila." ("Daddy, they're so kind.")

That’s when it all dawned on me. I fell in love with these people because they're so kind and so real that you don't even need to pretend when you're around them. You only have to be yourself.

It's priceless. The chance to be myself, even just for five days, was a luxury to me. Funny, it may be. But it's the truth, a very sweet truth. Who would've thought that I would get the one thing I wished for just because of my very first Muslim friends?

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's unfair for Tawi-tawi

I was surprised by how warm this island province was. Surprisingly warm. We were going down from Bongao Peak that early morning as hordes of people bearing picnic boxes were going up for the Saturday ritual. My Muslim companion was curiously inquiring as this was not typical of a Muslim community. It was a native practice, we were told.  

 I can’t imagine how the locals could climb up with their little kids hanging onto their arms, while I needed to rest after our first 10 minutes of hiking. A few old men greeted us a fine morning. It was steep and slippery. A friend even offered to carry my bag.

Standing on the highest point of Tawi-Tawi was magnificent. You can see bridges connecting some islands, the airstrip standing by, a plane taking off, waters enclosing us all, as if leaving this island was a no-coming-back. A few structures stood out from that height, mostly beach resorts owned by rich families.

Along the trek, we encountered some monkeys swinging from one branch to another. They were aloof, but bananas can win their trust. They reminded me of a scene from Planet of the Apes where the biggest of them all bully the rest in catching food. Nearby, a female was carrying an offspring underneath her belly; it was creepy to see two eyes staring upside-down. I tried to give her extra bananas because maybe she needed them more. 

Also joining the locals’ weekend expedition were fresh high school graduates whom it was the first time to hike Bongao Peak. I saw the excitement in their young eyes, the same kind I hold whenever I set foot in far-off places. 

Down the mountain, the beaches were equally serene, and the houses practically on water. And yes, household wastes go straight to the water. I wonder how the waters remain crystal clear.

What also draws me to Tawi-Tawi is the serene ambience of retreat houses where one can meditate and reflect on their life. In this peaceful town, approximately 23 crimes occur in a year. Imagine that! The police said that’s like the daily count in Manila.

Well, what was the last thing I heard about Tawi-Tawi? There were two foreign birdwatchers recently abducted and still unreleased by their captors. (Crazy as it seems, but incidents like these fail to unnerve me.) I was so prepared to be kidnapped, rehearsing my poker face. 

I find it unjust how Southern Philippines is generalized into a dreadful place: 

“…were abducted Wednesday during a bird-watching trip to Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines’ southernmost province. They were the latest kidnap victims in an impoverished region infested with al-Qaida-linked militants and criminal gangs that often seek ransom for their foreign hostages.” – 

An acquaintance said, “These are places we won’t normally want to visit.” How about Turtle Island, where one can lie on the pristine white sand and watch sea turtles come ashore and lay eggs?