Kites for Peace
Kites for peace is a creative response to the rise in children casualties of conflict especially in the Middle East. Inspired by the kites flown by 13,000 children of Gaza in 2011, Kites for Peace is a simple but powerful restorative movement led by children for children.
This campaign continues from the children-led rituals that I've co-designed for the Resumption of the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Talks in 2011 and the sacred intertribal Peace Pact called Sapa during the singing of the peace agreement in 2014.
The goal is to inspire children around the world to fly their kites not just for Gaza but for children affected by conflict around the world and amplify a powerful voice which are often unheard in decisions designed and made by leaders and elders leaving them vulnerable in times of violence.
The creative and collaborative global art action aims to go beyond the 13,000 kite mark that was flown by the Gaza children by November 20, Universal Children's Day for a global collective action on the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.
Click here to visit the campaign site.
*Photo from Google Images
Lights for Peace
"When I was a child, my parents would pull me out of the bed when the bombings take place and we would run for our lives to safety. Now as an adult, I found myself running with my own son and daughter as soon as I hear the bullets and choppers go. Nothing has changed except that I am now a parent and no longer a child. I wonder, will my children grow up with the same story all over again?"
These were words by peace workers and former Internally Displaced Peoples or IDPs that a I often heard in conferences and workshops I helped organize and ones that I participated in as a peace worker for 3 years.
This story of a never ending cycle of violence murmured in my heart for 3 days as I sat in the consultative planning committee for the Presidential ceremony of the resumption of the Peace Talks between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in 2011. After a pause for 2 years for MILF and 7 years for NDF, this event was very potent as it marks a new era in Philippine history. People had faith in the new President so hope was abound. When I raised my hand to speak up, I was no longer just a peace worker but I was also an artist. "What if children made the call to end armed conflict in their generation?" With this question, I suggested that a ceremony had to be done led by children, the present descendants of this generations - old conflict. Thus, the Lights for Peace Mandala project was born with the mandala (which means sacred circle in Sanskrit) being an intergenerational gathering of elders, youth, and community bearing witness with each other just how our ancestors sat together in their traditional peace talks.
In 3 days, using Facebook, 52 people crowdfunded and raised Php 25,910 so that 400 interfaith children from Tala Caloocan could craft candle and flower holders out of clay for the candles that were to be lit during the ceremonies. The clay holders with seeds represented the shared earth that the different parties are negotiating about whether in the form of ethnicity, identity, land ownership, and governance. In the mandala circle, children asked leaders from the military, the government agencies, schools, NGOs, with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III bearing witness to commit to ending armed conflict in this generation. It is our fervent hope that this commitment continues to be held by the peace leaders and stakeholders involved since the peace talks resumed.
The Lights for Peace Mandala Project is an artist and people led initiative. It was made possible by the Mandala Earth Story Project, Tala Elementary School, the youth of the Muslim-Christian Peacemakers Association of Tala, SangHabi, GINHAWA, the Peacemakers Circle, and the 1Mandala Project with a crowdfunding mechanism that helped raise funds to get the activity done in 3 days in time for the Presidential resumption of the peace talks in 2011.
Learning to Live Together: Interfaith and Intercultural Ethics Education for Children
A beautiful experience with beautiful spirits working for children and diversity during the South Asia Regional Train the Trainers Course on the Learning to Live Together Manual developed by Arigatou International in close cooperation with UNESCO and UNICEF. Organized by the GNRC South Asia Secretariat and hosted by Sarvodaya. 24 participants from 9 different countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. 12-18 August 2011.
Here, I helped contribute to artmaking process and came up with a special module on diversity and identity. To know more about the module, click here
A Place for Peace in Displacement and Conflict: Life Stories from War-Torn Mindanao
I organised a story sharing of experiences of displacement with IDPs of Pikit, Cotabato and students of Ateneo de Manila University for the Mindanao Week of Peace. Read the story here.
Mandala of Mindanao Weaves for the New Story of Peace
Coming full circle. That's what it felt when we co-created another mandala for the peace process between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) after doing one for the resumption of the peace talks in 2011.
I've always wanted to do street art out of the beautiful designs of Philippine weaves and patterns where the story of the people are embedded in symbols and colors and so when I heard that the peace agreement would be signed, this was the first thing to do in my mind.
For this gathering at Mendiola, we did some creative placemaking using tribal (Islamized and non-Islamized) weaves of Mindanao ethnic groups to co-create a sacred space for the SAPA, a ritual of forgiveness, the letting go of past hurts, and a pact of promise led byDatu Migketay Saway Victorino of the Talaandig tribe together with Babaylans and elders of the Teduray, Talaandig, Subanen, Higaonon, Matigsalug, Arumanen and Manobo and other tribes
The sacred pact took place after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro at the Malacanan Palace.
Before the creation of the circle, the ground was blessed by the noon-time prayer of the Muslims present. Right before that we had a bomb scare because of some exchange between the National Democratic Front and the activists and movements present.
In front of the stage and right smack in the middle of many Mindanao/ Moro POs (people's organizations) and movements, we quietly created our circle, children, youth, even older people present collaborated with us. Shouts, statements, cheers in Filipino and some Arabic praises to Allah surrounded us. Yet the children stayed put, careful not to get in the way of the footsteps of people cheering on with their plackards. Reflecting back, I believe we created a vibration from the heart of all things, in the middle of the Mendiola grounds.
Paralell to this was having a station where children and youth drew, wrote their messages about the new story of peace on paper bags which would serve as luminaries for the evening's peace pact to keep to the same meaning of the light for peace ritual led by children when the peace talks were resumed. The idea is that, since children are not signing on the legal papers of the CAB, they are writing theirs on these light bags.
In the evening, the SAPA took place in the middle of the circle, a perfect shape to hold space for unity as Datu Vic affirmed "where people are not above or below each other - a space where people are equal." Peace Panel leaders and members along with the media came from Malacanang to witness this important component of restorative justice, the healing of the past and a forging of a new future held in promise.
Afterwards we asked the leaders to stay so that the young people can show their support and their commitment to partake in this important agreement for the future generations to come. It was a time to also thank them for keeping their promise to end armed conflict in this generation as requested to the leaders during their ritual for the resumption of the peace talks in 2011.
Everyone shared the light and passed them on so other peoples' candles will be lit and radiated light for each of the children's luminary bags lighting up the evening and closing this important day in Philippine his/herstory.
Deep thanks to the following for helping make this possible:
Mindanao Solidarity Network for organizing the event and Mindanao Peoples Caucus for organizing the SAPA.
OrlandoJr Tiu de Guzman of the The Peacemakers' Circleand Angelo P. Herrera of Binhi ng Kapayapaan Inc. for co-facilitating and designing the activities.
The beautiful young people from the following organizations:
The Peacemakers' Circle,
Muslim-Christian Youth for Peace & Development Mcypd Tala Caloocan,
United Muslim-Christian Peacemakers Assoc. Umcpa Tala,
Muslim-Christian Unity for Peace & Progress of Taguig,
MyPeace youth of Balay Rehabilitation Center-Cotabato,
Binhi ng Kapayapaan, Inc,
and many more...
***Click here for more photos.
Day of Prayer and Action for Children
I had a beautiful time working with gradeschool students of Maharlika Elementary School in burying toy water guns, crafting seed eggs for peace, and painting a mural of tri-people symbols on November 20 for the global observance of the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. The event kicked off the annual Mindanao Week of Peace celebrations in Metro Manila.
On this day around the world, countries engaged religious leaders in calling out to stop violence against children including the end of child marriage and child slavery. In the Philippines, the end of armed conflict in the present generation was called out by children and for children through prayer and art.
Piece by Peace Interactive Exhibit and Presentation for the ASEFUAN
I was one of the speakers for the 11th Asia - Europe Foundation University Alumni Network (ASEFUAN) Annual Academic Conference and General Meeting on CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION AND PEACE-BUILDING IN ASIA AND EUROPE held on 31 July- 1 August 2012 at Ateneo de Manila University. I was invited to present about art-based peace building.
To add to my talk, I prepared an interactive art installation called Peace by Piece for its accompanying travelling photograph exhibit called Shared Heritage: As We See It.
Rituals, Arts Relief, and Workshops for IDP Leaders, Youth, and Children Affected by Conflict
Above are some short art activities I've conducted with interfaith leaders, youths, communities.