Crossroads to Peace

29.11.2010 - Manila - Willa Tecson

This can be said too about the definition of peace and our ways of expressing our common desire for peace. Some would say peace is the absence of war, others would say that there is no peace if people still suffer from poverty and social injustice, others would define peace as an inner experience of heart and mind, others define it as having a meaning and direction in life or having a strong belief in God. There is also the peace that is defined as one’s connection to the environment – the love for nature.

September, declared as National Peace Consciusness Month, was such a month of numerous expressions for peace. Earlier during the months of July and August, a series of workshops called “Edukasyon Tungo Sa Walang Karahasan” were conducted by Ang Komunidad Para Sa Ikauunlad ng Tao in the municipalities of Gumaca and Lopez, Quezon. From these workshops two educators’ peace organizations were born: Gumaca Educators Peace Organization (GEPO) and Tagapagtaguyod ng Kapayapaan sa Lopez (TAGKAPLO). It was also during these months of July and August that Pets For Peace, a loose group of animal lovers and friends, were busy planning their activity in Taguig City.

Working independently, each organization came up with their own kind of activity that comes from a consensus of the members on how best to express their advocacy.

Last September 11 , the Gumaca Educators Peace Organization organized “Alay Lakad Tungo Sa Kapayapaan” where more than 100 teachers and aspiring senior students, assembled at the Gumaca Municipal Hall and proceeded to walk more than two kilometers to the Progreso Watershed for tree planting. Gumaca town suffers from having no workable water distribution system, its inhabitants having to find ways to individually supply water to their homes, usually by physically lugging water from the local deep wells.

In this coastal town of Gumaca, the early morning activity attracted the curiosity of the Gumaqueños who came out of their homes to witness their quiet walk towards Barangay Progreso. At the hilly slope of the Progreso Watershed they proceeded to plant more than 200 tree seedlings provided by the Gumaca Environmental Council with the help of barangay members , officers of the Sangguniang Bayan and army troops. It was an activity that embraced the people that composed the community. It was a symbolic activity of community members helping one another.

*”As teachers we are references of the community. The Gumaqueños see us walk and they see us plant trees and though we say nothing, our actions strongly tell them something,”* remarked Mrs. Yolanda Calleja, principal of Gumaca National High School.

Two weeks after, Pets For Peace celebrated the month with a “Dog Walk for Peace”, at Bonifacio High Street in Taguig City. Again it was a very early morning activity. If plants needed the coolness of early mornings to survive tree planting operations, then dogs also needed the coolness of early mornings for their brisk walking activity. By 6:30 am everyone had gathered. Dogs of varying sizes and breeds came with their owners and all started together to the delight of joggers who stopped to witness the unusual event. Along the way there were water stations and doggie snacks to energize the pets, provided by Hobbes and Landes. The walk took the long route around the district block and ended with the formation of a peace sign as owners and dogs sat together at the covered pasillo in Bonifacio High Street.

It is important to express our desire for peace and nonviolence, and to express it in any way we can. Why not with our furry friends? There is a social cost to the war in Mindanao and other conflict areas in the Philippines. Money that should go to health, education and other social needs to make life better….goes to destruction.

During the Pets For Peace program, different interfaith prayers for animals were read – Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and many others, while Dom-An, a noseflute player from Sagada, provided the background music. After the program, pet owners were invited to bring their dogs to the Peace Board for paw printing to signify their support. The Labrador Retriever Owners Club, the Sporting Dog Club of the Philippines, Hobbes and Landes, Cavite Mondioring all helped put the activity together.

Taking on a different challenge, the educators of Lopez, Quezon, decided to celebrate September with a big event complete with marching bands. They organized the elementary students of Lopez East and Lopez West and high school students for a town parade that started out at the Lopez Municipal Hall, circled the town, to end at the oval grounds of Lopez National Comprehensive High School. At the end of the long parade, the officers and members of TAGKAPLO organized a big peace sign at the oval grounds with more than 2000 students.

*”It was the first time we ever did this kind of activity, we only had a few days to practice and in the afternoon the rains stopped our practices, but the peace sign came out well,”* said Dr. Darwin Villaflor, president of TAGKAPLO. *”Next year, the peace sign will involve the whole town of Lopez,” *laughingly joked Nena Reyes, an officer of TAGKAPLO, *”when I saw the students in the field formation waving their blue flags, I wanted to cry.”*

For sure there were numerous other activities all over the Philippines that celebrated September as peace month. In the end, what matters is not so much the simplicity or complexity of the event, its smallness or greatness. What matters is that the activity is rooted and comes from the initiatives of the people that compose the community. It is a show of their deep commitment to do something towards bringing peace to their families, communities and workplaces.

Tree planting, dog walks, peace sign formations, all these are expressions of a common desire to live in peace in a world of nonviolence. Is it because finally in our shared aspirations we have come to realize and respect our differences of landscapes and cultural beliefs? We have come to realize that though we may share the same experiences as human beings, each takes a different road to meet again along the way.

Nonviolence and peace go hand in hand and with that comes the sharing of human experiences and the creation of new paths and roads for expression. Mario Rodriguez Cobos of the Humanist Movement, when referring to the million differences in peoples’ landscapes of formation once said: *”You go deep within yourself, and I go deep within myself, and there we will meet.”* Such is the path to peace.

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