Books for Raising Conflict-Sensitive Peace Promoting (CSPP) Kids #3

Why are there intelligent individuals who are corrupt? Why are there talented people who use their gifts to  exploit other people?  There could be many ways and reasons to answer these questions but one simple argument and perspective is that we have the power to choose. We have the gift of free will, yet so many people use this to serve their own selfish interests at the expense of others, right? As the great Dumbledore  once said, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

In my earlier post, I highlighted the importance of an education that strongly supports raising children who would choose integrity, fairness, and generosity so that he or she might contribute to a just society; choose dialogue, collaboration and other peaceful means of resolving conflict so that there would be no more war; choose to protect this earth so that all may have enough.

To raise children who are conflict-sensitive, who are able to identify manifestations of violence and conflict, we have to encourage their inquisitiveness and sharpen their ability to critically think about relevant social issues such as human rights, gender equality, social and economic justice, non-violence, sustainable development, etc. To empower them as peace-promoting kids who could act for peace, we must also nurture them to learn courage and compassion and skills to resolve issues using non-violent means (i.e. dialogue, negotiation).

On this note, I launched in this blog a series called ‘Books for Raising Conflict-Sensitive and Peace Promoting (CSPP) Kids.’ My intention is to popularize the use of children’s stories to promote a culture of peace and help shape values and skills on conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Today, on the event of the National Children’s Book Day, I am glad to revive this blog with this favorite series. This special day is also being celebrated to commemorate the date of the publication of Jose Rizal’s “The Monkey and the Turtle,” which is also my featured story. He made a publication of the story in English in the July 1889 issue of Trübner’s Oriental Record in England, which is considered to be the formal beginning of Philippine children’s literature.

Story Overview

The Monkey and the Turtle (Tagalog: Ang Matsing at Si Pagong) tells the story of two friends who had a serious fight because of a banana tree. One day they saw an uprooted banana tree and decided to cut it horizontally into two. Monkey chose the upper part while the Turtle was left with the bottom part. Both of them planted the tree but only the Turtle’s banana grew and bear fruit. Monkey volunteered to climb and get the banana fruits but his greediness got the better of him and ate them all. The plot thickens here as the Turtle got mad and decided to teach Monkey a lesson which also hurt the Monkey who then threatened to kill the Turtle. In the end, the Turtle was able to outsmart the Monkey.


The photo above is based on the original illustrations of Dr. Jose Rizal. To read the full story and see Rizal’s other illustrations, check this link:

Processing Questions for Kids

  1. What was the initial conflict in the story? How did this conflict escalate or worsen the situation?
  2. What could the Monkey and the Turtle do differently so that they both enjoyed the fruits of the banana tree and avoided hurting each other?
  3. Do you think the Monkey and the Turtle became friends again? Why or why not?

Peace AHA!

This story which was made popular during the Philippines colonial time is understandably highlighting how the seemingly weaker creature such as the slow Turtle could outsmart the more superior animal portrayed by the Monkey. In the modern times there are many similar circumstances where the strong and powerful exploits the weak and their resources (i.e. personal possessions, land, etc.). These create conflict (resource-based) and often times even escalate into violence. For older kids, teachers and parents may further explore this topic by citing concrete examples such as the marginalization of indigenous people in their own ancestral land or the degradation or exploitation of natural resources due to irresponsible economic activities which in turn threatens food security of people in the area.

For younger kids, teachers and parents could focus on exploring the value of collaboration and sharing. Instead of dividing the banana tree, the Monkey and the Turtle could actually have chosen to plant the tree together and divide the chore of taking care of it. Then each of them could have an equal part on the fruits of the tree or even the income should they decide to be more enterprising and grow a plantation.

Processing question number three above is an entry point to exploring the topic of reconciliation and peace with justice. Teachers and parents could deepen this discussion by asking how each of the characters felt during the story and the underlying circumstances that brought forth those feelings — when did they get hurt and get mad…what was happening when these feelings surfaced? It is important to understand the context because this points to the circumstances that drive the conflict. It is equally important to acknowledge the feelings which could make or break any relationship as these usually alter the dynamics of the relationship.[1]

If we further dig into it, feelings are also rooted in the needs of individuals. In the story, it’s not just about the loss of the banana that angered the Turtle. He has a need to be in a trusting relationship which the Monkey unfortunately chose to violate when he betrayed the Monkey’s trust.  Any meaningful reconciliation must be rooted in respect and acknowledgement of what were lost and broken and an effort to mend all these. Parents and teachers could challenge the kids on what the Monkey and the Turtle could do to show their sincerity to make amends.

Reflections and Application

Role play is one fun way to learn the skills of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. In class, kids could be divided into smaller groups and instructed to prepare a role play of an alternative subplot to respond to Question number 2 as cited above. The following are some processing questions that could be used during class debriefing:

  1. What did the characters do differently that resulted to a more positive outcome?
  2. How did it affect the characters and their relationship?
  3. What words or phrases were used to support the actions of the characters? What meanings were conveyed by those words or phrases?

The proposed objective for the post-activity processing is to deepen the discussion on dialogue, collaboration and sharing and hopefully model these skills. The use of role play allows students to explore these ideas on their own and provide avenue for kids to learn from each other. The teacher could wrap up session by emphasizing that there are many ways to resolve conflict. Non-violent means even have the power to transform this conflict into growth opportunities such as the benefit of collaboration in the relationship of the Monkey and the Turtle.

I hope this gives you an idea on how you could use a simple story such as the Monkey and the Turtle to sharpen the sensitivity of young ones on manifestations of injustices which is at the root of many conflicts and to create awareness on non-violent means of resolving conflict such as dialogue and collaboration.

Let’s always choose peace 😉.

-ems #iamforpeace


[1] This discourse draws much from what John Paul Lederach calls the relational dimension of conflict. In his book, The Little Book of Conflict Transformation, he talks about what changes happen in this dimension because of conflict and what could be done to transform conflict.

Check an abridged version of the book at this site:

Building peace is like a marathon.

“Building peace is like a marathon.” It’s always complicated and difficult that it requires long-term commitment and a lot of patience and determination.

That is the nagging message I got from an event I attended weeks ago. It’s a gathering of peace educators “Sharing Stories of Hope and Challenges on the Three Decades of Peace Education in the Philippines.” Hearing from those passionate individuals and their inspiring stories made me want to dream again about contributing to the education for peace even through humble efforts of blogging.

This message reminded me of all the times that I joined fun runs. I would always set my heart into finishing strong no matter the distance. Since I am certainly not an elite runner and I often have only a few weeks of practice before any run, what I would do is pace myself and reserve energy to last me the whole stretch. I would walk-jog the whole race and then sprint for the last 100 meters to finish line. It wasn’t for show. I just love the exhilarating feeling of running to finish line, of accomplishing something that’s not really my turf, of breaking barriers to achieving more.

In the last few months though I felt like a discouraged runner…I’ve reached an impasse in my blogging journey. My routines changed…I returned to full time work, got my share of traffic agonies, adjustments to new work, and lost the comfort of my usual writing area and motivation to write. I tried to write but never got to editing and posting. Then, the longer I keep away from writing the more difficult it gets to start again. I also lament that after I bare my heart and plans for the year I disappeared. It’s too awkward to reappear. But then I realized my mantra, finish strong! It matters not so much that I faltered in the race; what matters more is whether I picked up myself from falling and strived to get back on track like how a true athlete should – with grit and passion!

Incidentally, on this day, eight years ago, the implementing guidelines for Executive Order 570, Institutionalizing Peace Education in Basic Education and Teacher Education, was signed. It was an exciting and momentous day. I was filled with hope and dreams on that day for I’ve always believe that we have the opportunity to break the cycle of violence someday if we start educating and nurturing the minds and hearts of children towards building culture of peace.

So today, I choose to recommit myself to this blog…hoping that I’d be able to write more ‘ideas and stories worth sharing’* and raise awareness and interest towards building and advocating for peace…so help me God! 🙂

ems, #iamforpeace


*TED Talk

2016 Blogging Dream Board

New Year signifies new beginnings and to many, a time to write and commit to a new set of New Year resolutions and dreams. I usually do mine on my birthday week in September but I felt inspired during the wee hours of January 1 and created my 2016 Dream Board!

I was full of excitement and hope for 2016 that I wanted to visualize how happy it could be. While being spontaneous is really fun, the introvert in me loves reflecting and planning. The past few years also taught me in quite dramatic ways that time is a precious blessing so I’d rather spend it on people, causes and things that matter to me most. With a lot of things that compete for our attention it’s good to have something to remind us of our priorities, sources of joy and inspiration, hopes and prayers.

Some meaningful verbs to go with my ambitious adjectives and images :).
Some meaningful verbs to go with my ambitious adjectives and images :).

My Dream Board contains three aspects of my life that I’d like to work on this year. Each of them has corresponding activities and happy projects that are reflective of my gifts, personality, and needs. Blogging of course is one of those happy projects.

To help me visualize my desired blogging experience this year, I borrowed TED Talk’s tagline[1]: write “ideas worth spreading.” Tough one, I know, but I believe you’ve got to set your dreams high to make them more exciting…and work hard and pray about them to make them happen.

So how do I know that my ‘dreams’ will come true? According to planners who perhaps talk about results-based monitoring even while they are sleeping, I need to have some objectively verifiable indicators (OVI) that will help me monitor my progress. I agree, so here are four of my optimistic and ambitious blogging OVI’s for the first semester of 2016:

  1. Created/joined a Facebook page on peace education
    To know what are ‘ideas worth spreading,’ I think it’s important to know what is important and useful to my target readers. Facebook provides a good platform where I can directly engage with them. However I’m usually shy about this so let’s see how I fare on this by end of March!
  2. Followed at least 10 new blogs related to peace, education, conflict resolution, conflict transformation, and responsible parenting.
    To keep me motivated, I think it would be helpful to draw inspiration from those who share my passion and interests.
  3. Participated in at least two blogging classes.
    I’m a newbie blogger and have a lot to learn. Most importantly, WordPress blogging classes are really cool and classmates from around the globe are extremely talented, inspiring and supportive. They make blogging more fun.
  4. Written at least two regular features monthly
    I enjoyed writing my features on ‘Books for Raising Conflict-Sensitive and Peace-Promoting (CSPP) Kids’ and ‘Peace Quote Musings on a Monday.’ I’ll continue to work on them as they are the ones that also got more comments and likes so I suppose, they are ‘ideas worth spreading.’ I would also like to include more features of peace education or peacebuilding initiatives that hopefully would inspire others interested in these causes. Last year, two readers expressed interest on volunteering/doing peace education activities. I hope to share with them more ideas and opportunities to pursue this and what better way to do this but to volunteer myself.

Working to achieve these four OVI’s should keep me very busy and I’m beginning to panic here. I’m quite behind already on my editorial calendar and my blogging class! I better start working on no. 3 and 4! Self-talk mode: I can do this, chill.

So what are your dreams for 2016? I hope they all come true. Have an amazing and blessed year ahead!




[1] TED Talks at

A Confession

Since my last post weeks ago, I’ve been hoping to write about essential communication skills for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. One of which is active listening. Lately though, I find myself wanting in this area that I couldn’t bring myself to seriously write about it…not yet.

Certain things are bothering me these days and these I suspect affected some of my interactions. My humour/coolness tank needs a bit of tending; I think I would need a ‘me’ time soon to refill it. Well there’s nothing major happening actually, just some recent everyday encounters that didn’t work out well. So there, I humbly acknowledge, I’m no saint or angel, just human, always a work in progress, always in need of divine providence.

Not wanting to brood much about my drama, I embarked on a garage sale/donate-your-pre-loved items project few days ago. I’m quite embarrassed to admit, I’ve too many stuffs accumulated through so many moving, from living and working away from home. It’s a daunting chore and at times frustrating as there are too many items to sort out. Where’s a Salvos Store when you need one? 🙂

Well, some good things came out of this decluttering task. For me, it’s coming across a potentially good book that I haven’t actually read; finding an item I thought I’ve lost; reading through my old journals that surprisingly hold relevant valuable insights for today; and of course, finding a lot of stuff to give away or sell or must go to the trash bin (promise, they’re going!).

Letting go of stuff and clearing space feel liberating. On hindsight, I realized too that to hone my listening skills, I would need to clear my mind of assumptions and preconceived notion about people and to also manage thoughts that only stress me out. It’s difficult to listen and connect with others when you’ve got these burdens in your head.  These are unnecessary distractions that hinder me from actively engaging the other person, from being fully present and generous of my time.

Decluttering  our mind is also a daunting task. We would need vigilance in making sure that no trash or unnecessary thoughts go back. We need persistence in purifying our thoughts and seeking the best in people. While I’m generally quite successful with this, I also lose my cool and give in.

It’s humbling to think of these things and then to publicly admit it. Although I spare you all with other  details, this is more than what I would usually be comfortable to share in social media. I had to remind myself that an advocacy is something personal too. We cannot distance ourselves from the message, we must be the message. We must strive to become what we hope to teach about. I also believe, every moment is an opportunity to learn– whether struggling or winning, everything counts as part of the journey.

As parents, teachers, adults, we sometimes struggle in becoming a role model to the young ones, in ‘walking the talk.’ But let’s cut ourselves some slack and acknowledge that we are merely human, needing nourishment, time-out. Somebody told me before that to be an effective peace advocate, I must take care of my own needs too, and schedule regular ‘care for the self’ or ‘me time’ sessions to recharge. ‘Care for the self’ personal checklist could include anything that will bring you inner peace or refill your humour/coolness tank and make you the ever gracious better version of yourself.

Happy feet at Puka Beach, Boracay, Philippines. April 2014.
Happy feet at Puka Beach, Boracay, Philippines. April 2014.

It’s a good massage, communing with nature, and walking for me. Of course, prayer and reflection are essentials too. What’s your top three in your ‘care for the self’ list?

-ems, #iamforpeace

Books for Raising Conflict-Sensitive and Peace Promoting (CSPP) Kids, #2

Some people have habits that annoy us and challenge our patience, sense of humor, and kindness. Some have bad reputation — whether labels thrown at them are true or not, becoming friends with them comes with some social risks. Will you still be friends with them?

My featured books today tackle this predicament and give us entry points to explore with young ones concrete actions to promote peace. These books are also two of my favorites. They remind me of happy memories, of many firsts and of discovering the joy of peace storytelling.

Aside from the usual ‘in a nutshell,’ peace AHA!, and possible processing questions that I used in my first post on Books for Raising CSPP[1] Kids, I’ve added two more sections here:

  • Introduction – This is an optional short interaction with kids to prep them for the storytelling session. You can be as creative as you want here. This may include questions related to the central theme of the story or the main characters. (I learned this technique from Alitaptap Storytellers Philippines.)
  • Reflection and Application – This provides an opportunity to explore and deepen discussion about a specific concept on peace or conflict related to the story and encourages commitment to promote peace. If time’s limited, this could be a follow-through activity on another day.


ang dalawang haring sigaStory by Rene O. Villanueva
Illustrations by Ruben de Jesus
Published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)Arranged for UNICEF by Tahanan Pacific, Inc.
Bilingual (English and Tagalog);
Recommended for children ages 7 and above.
*This book is currently not available in local bookstores. It may be possible to seek permit from UNICEF Philippines to use the story.


The following may be used as opening questions to build interest about the story to be told:

  • Who among you lives with your grandparents?
  • What characteristics of your grandparents do you like?

After some students have responded to the opening questions, tell the students that the story that will be read today will be about two kings who are loving grandfathers to their respective grandchildren. However, something irked them about each other that they decided to rage war with the other.

In a nutshell: 

This is the story of two kings who valued their pride more than all the jewels in their kingdom. For as long as people could remember, the two kingdoms were deadlocked in a very silly war. How their fight began is quite hilarious and how they called it quits is quite endearing.

Processing Questions for Kids

  1. What are the names of the two kings?
  2. What were the reasons of the two kings for justifying the war that they started?
  3. What was the advice of others to the two kings?
  4. Why do you think the two kings have difficulty reconciling?
  5. How did the two kings patch up their differences?
  6. What could they have done to avoid raging war?

Peace AHA!

Although told in a funny way, the story is packed with serious stuff about how conflict begins; why war should be avoided; and how to resolve conflict in a non-violent way. Conflict begins when two people perceives that they have incompatible goals or that the other’s need is a hindrance to meeting his/her needs. The highly entertaining story of Ang Dalawang Haring Siga illustrates this well and tells us of the importance of communication in resolving conflict.

The following are some nuggets of wisdom that can be used for generating comments from kids or to highlight lessons of the story.

  • Conflict[2] cannot be avoided because of our innate differences as unique individuals and people of different cultures and experiences. However, violence can be avoided. It is the worst response to conflict.
  • Violence will not resolve conflict; it will only aggravate it. In war no one wins, everyone’s a loser.
  • Too much pride gets in the way of peace.
  • Humility to accept our weaknesses and the kindness to accept our differences are values that we must learn to be able to forgive and make peace.
  • There are other peaceful ways of resolving conflict such as dialogue.
  • All of us can be a peacemaker/peacebuilder just like the grandchildren of King Porong and King Emong.

Reflection and Application

Draw from the students their insights on peaceful ways of resolving conflict (i.e. dialogue, negotiation). Whenever possible, teachers could add additional input to the discussion. To reinforce learning, students could re-enact Ang Dalawang Haring Siga focusing on how to prevent war using their recommended means of resolving conflict. Selected students can pose as actors while others as observers.


peter and ahmed

Story by Jojie Wong;
Illustrations by Kora Dandan-Albano
Published by OMF Literature Inc. for HIYAS
Bilingual (English and Tagalog); Recommended for children ages 8 and above.
*still available in major local bookstores.


Since this is a story of friendship, one possible way to introduce the story is to engage kids to talk about their close friends. The idea here is to surface the good qualities of their friends which are almost always never related to race, ethnicity, religion, physical attribute, gender or status in life. Aside from the issue of prejudice, this is one important message of Peter and Ahmed.

Ask kids if they have a bestfriend or a very close friend. Then request for some kids to share 2 or 3 characteristics that they like most about their bestfriend. Tell the kids that the story for today is about two bestfriends. Why they hit it off the first time and what they enjoyed doing together are two interesting things to watch out for in the story.

In a nutshell 

This is a story of friendship between a Muslim and a Christian boy. In spite of the spiteful words that Peter’s neighbours say against the family of Ahmed who’s a Muslim, Peter found a bestfriend in Ahmed. It also helped that Peter’s mother, unaffected by the prejudices of others against Muslims, even encouraged their friendship.

Processing Questions for Kids:

  1. Who are the best of friends in the story and how did they become friends?
  2. What do they have in common? What are their differences?
  3. Do their differences become a hindrance to their friendship?
  4. What do the neighbors of Ahmed tell about their family? Do you think there is enough basis for their accusations?
  5. How did the family of Peter treat the family of Ahmed?

Peace AHA!

The story provides a good springboard to discuss about stereotype[3] and prejudices[4] and how these could lead to discrimination[5] and even violence if they go uncheck. The story of Peter and Ahmed challenges prejudice against Muslims and shows that it is possible for Christian and Muslims to be friends and happily co-exist.

The story promotes tolerance or the “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of cultures and various forms of human expression (UNESCO, 1995; Castro and Gallace, 2000).

Reflection and Application

Optional for older students: Through a participative discussion, explore with the students different biases/stereotypes[6] (an opinion/judgment about other people that are without the benefit of facts; labels we use which have no basis) about other people or social groups. Ask them how these biases/stereotypes get in the way of creating positive relationships and promoting peace. Explore with kids what they can possibly do to avoid stereotyping.

To wrap up this post, I’d like to share one more tool that could help reinforce lessons learned from peace storytelling. A peace corner may be created inside the classroom where “nuggets of wisdom,” reflections/lessons learned of students, and even commitments to peace can be posted. This could serve as a “wall journal” that teachers could refer back when opportunity comes and a reminder to students about their journey as young peace advocates.

I hope these story options inspire you today. Let’s work for a peaceful society one story at a time. Have fun with your next storytelling session!

 -ems, #iamforpeace

[1] To raise children who are conflict-sensitive, who are able to identify manifestations of violence and conflict, we have to sharpen their critical thinking and enhance their perspective on issues such as human rights, gender equality, social and economic justice, non-violence, sustainable development, etc. To empower them as peace-promoting kids who could act for peace, we must also teach them courage and compassion and skills to resolve issues using non-violent means (i.e. dialogue, negotiation).

[2] Conflict is the perception of incompatible goals (Galtung, 1969).

[3] Stereotype refers to the negative opinion about a person or group based on incomplete knowledge. This forms the basis for prejudicial feelings. (Castro and Gallace, 2008).

[4] Prejudice is the negative feeling or attitude towards a person or a group even if it lacks basis (Allport, 1958; Castro and Gallace, 2008). This may lead to negative action or discrimination.

[5] Discrimination refers to negative actions toward members of a specific social group that may be manifested in avoidance, aversion or even violence. (Franzoi, 1986; Castro and Gallace, 2008)

[6] The Center for Peace Education of Miriam College made a survey on common biases about certain groups of people. This can be found in Chapter 6 (Challenging Prejudice and Building Tolerance) of the book of Dr. Loreta Castro and Dr. Jasmin Gallace, Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace. This chapter also provides several recommendations on how to address prejudice and promote tolerance.. (To buy a copy of the book, email CPE through; a pdf file is also available for free online.)


Kids for Peace

I’m thrilled to know that peace storytelling for kids will be a regular feature of the inter-agency Serbisyo Caravan for Peace and Development in Region XI. The organizers would like to make use of local children stories to promote a culture of peace among kids in these communities. I’m glad they found my recommendations in my first post about “Books for Raising CSPP Kids” useful options for this undertaking. Yay!

The Serbisyo Caravan is part of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) initiative that aims to bring government services closer to the people and extend development interventions to remote and vulnerable communities, ensuring that no one’s left behind.

The enthusiasm to include peace storytelling in the caravan sprang from the successful conduct of this activity by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in day care centers in some PAMANA barangays last month, during the Peace Consciousness Month. This reminds me as well of the time when my colleagues and I launched a series of Kids for Peace sessions in 2008 and 2009. Back then, it was done to drum up support for the implementation of Executive Order 570, Institutionalizing Peace Education in Basic Education and Teacher Education.

Artwork courtesy of Jodi Lego
Artwork courtesy of Jodi Lego

Every Kids for Peace session was really fun with opportunities to participate in interactive storytelling, group dance, peace art and games with tokens to boot. We conducted this in a children’s museum (Museo Pambata), bookstore (Powerbooks), a mall (SM), communities where there are peace caravans, an evacuation area for internally displaced people, and of course, schools. Celebrities (Diether Ocampo and Nova Villa), storytelling group (Alitaptap Storyteller Philippines), teachers, local youth group and OPAPP staff led the storytelling sessions. Other non-government organizations (i.e. Green Circle Foundation; Kids for Peace Foundation; K.I.D.S. Foundation; World Food Programme; and the Peacemaker’s Circle) also provided support/co-facilitated the events.

kids for peace photos 2

In 2008 and 2009, the Kids for Peace sessions aimed to promote tolerance[1], non-violent means of resolving conflict and protection of natural resources. In some of the venues, Muslim and Christian kids played together and participated in the interactive storytelling sessions. In September 2009, OPAPP also partnered with the Department of Education to conduct the National Storytelling for Peace where DepEd and OPAPP staff packaged several story options with lesson plan for use of elementary teachers.

kids for peace photos 3


The story of Ang Dalawang Haring Siga which is about two proud kings who are at odds with each other, inspired us to add a friendship ceremony in the Kids for Peace program. At the start of the ceremony, we asked the kids to show off their ‘siga’ (rogue) pose. Now, after listening and learning from the story, we encouraged the kids to replace their ‘siga’ pose with a new, more fun and positive action.

friendship ceremony_kids for peaceWe demonstrated to the kids a cool handshake (consisting of high-5, shake hand, etc.) that the kids will do while reciting the mantra: “Kaibigan kita at magtutulungan tayo para sa kapayapaan.” (You’re my friend and we will work together for peace). They recited this with their partner/friend.

After doing the ‘handshake’ and reciting their mantra, the kids exchanged baller as a symbol of their friendship and bond as peace advocate.


To wrap up our ‘Kids for Peace’ events, children recited the pledge of a young peace advocate which I wrote back then for this event.

pledge_peace advocate_kids for peace

Ako si _________ ay naniniwala na nilikha akong mabuti ng Diyos.
(I am _________ and I believe that I am created as naturally good by God.)

Marami akong magagandang katangian ngunit dahil ako ay espesyal na anak ng Diyos, hindi lahat ng kung ano ako ay gayun din ang iba. (I have many good qualities but because I am a special child of God, I am wonderfully unique and different from others.)

Dahil dito, alam ko na maaring may pagkakataon na hindi ako maiintindihan o matatanggap ng iba. (Because of this uniqueness, I know that there will be times when others will not understand or readily accept me.)
Gayundin, hindi rin sa lahat ng pagkakataon ay magugustuhan ko ang aking kapwa.
(I also know that I may not like others at all times.)

Ngunit dahil ako ay nilikhang may likas na kabutihan ng puso, sisikapin ko na unawain ang aking kapwa. (But because I am created with innate goodness in my heart, I will strive to draw this goodness in trying to understand others.)

Magiging bukas ako sa pakikipag-usap at hindi makikipag-away. Mamahalin ko ang aking pamilya at mga kaibigan at magiging mapagpatawad sa iba.
(I will be open to dialogue and will not quarrel with others. I will love my family and friends and will be forgiving of others.

Ako ay isang peace advocate. (I am a peace advocate.)

Sa aming tahanan, paaralan, at pamayanan, ako ay tutulong upang panatiliin ang kaayusan at kapayapaan pagka’t naniniwala akong may magagawa ako para maging mapayapa ang Pilipinas! (In our home, school and community, I will help in ensuring peace and order because I believe I can do something for a peaceful Philippines!)

This pledge was actually tailored-fit to the theme and stories used in 2008-2009. This may need a little bit of tweaking to make it a more generic but still meaningful pledge of a young peace advocate.

Those Kids for Peace events were really happy times and this post is already sounding more like a Throwback Thursday on a Tuesday :). Oh, I’m just feeling quite nostalgic and missing these peace ed mini adventures. Although those were just simple activities, all our efforts are rewarded each time kids assert their vision of peace and said something smart about how conflict can be resolved in a peaceful way.

I hope the peace storytelling of the Serbisyo Caravan inspires more teachers to integrate peace in their lesson plan. One story may not be enough to firmly plant the seeds of peace in the minds and hearts of young ones. To build a culture of peace, we must consistently cultivate the values and abilities of children for peace everywhere – at home, in school and in our community.

–ems, #iamforpeace

[1] Tolerance is the “respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of cultures and various forms of human expression (UNESCO, 1995; Castro and Gallace, 2008).

International Day of Non-violence Reflections

sculpture_mother clutching baby
Photo taken at the Cheonan Independence Museum, courtesy of Dr. Marilen Parungao-Balolong, PhD.

This poignant sculpture of a woman and child with the backdrop of war-torn Korea (could be early 1900), tug a string in my heart and got me wondering how this woman might have felt. These words came to me last night:

Is it grief, fear or hopelessness that is etched on your face?
Is it grief for love ones lost and only the warmth of your child’s breath
reminds you you’re still alive?
Is it fear for yours and this innocent baby’s own life?
Or is it hopelessness and resignation to the fact that death could be near and inevitable?

Oh you have suffered long and endured.
Your fear is palpable yet in your heart, there’s no room for resignation.
Grief and fear may assault the remaining thread of your hope,
but your love shall make you endure for another life depends on you.

The strength of the human spirit could triumph over the scourges of war,
but no mother and no child deserve to suffer as much.
You need not have to endure all these,
had they known that in war no one wins.

Some pictures and sculptures could stir the emotions and evoke a message begging to be released, yet words will never be eloquent enough to capture reality. Still I think they could be powerful tools that can be used to encourage young people to reflect on relevant themes (i.e. peace, conflict, structural violence, etc.) to promote non-violence and a culture of peace. It could also be used for an exercise on empathy, engaging young people to imagine what the characters in the picture think or feel.

So big thanks goes to you my dear friend, Lhen, for thinking of me yesterday when you tagged me to your IG post of this mother and child. Since today is the United Nation’s International Day of Non-violence, it’s a timely piece for reflection.

Every year on October 2, this global observance coincides with the birthday of the great Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.[1]Gandhi has been the inspiration for non-violent movements for civil rights and social change across the world. Throughout his life, Gandhi remained committed to his belief in non-violence even under oppressive conditions and in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. He showed the power of peacefully opposing oppression and hatred. He showed how cooperation and tolerance can prevail over injustice.  He demonstrated the great value of the rule of law in breaking vicious cycles of vengeance.” [2]

One of my favorite quotes of Gandhi is:

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

What one change will you work on starting today to contribute to peace?

[2] Ban Ki-moon, 2015. Secretary-General’s Message for 2015 International Day of Non-violence

My Peace Day Soundtrack and Prayers

A peace education advocate from Teach Peace Now, asked me this question relative to an older post:
“I agree that we should choose peace, but why do so many people, especially those in power, choose violence?”

I don’t think there’s only one answer to this difficult question but I am drawn towards what Mother Teresa once said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” So i said: It’s a sad reality indeed, one that can change however if we can all learn a little bit more of empathy and compassion…then we might perhaps be a bit more creative and find better solutions to our issues of conflict…because violence should never be an option.

Ubuntu, a traditional African philosophy, captures well the essence of empathy and compassion in these profound words: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

The South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu provides us a glimpse of this beautiful culture and philosophy:

‘Ubuntu is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am human because I belong. It speaks about wholeness, it speaks about compassion. A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole. They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are. The quality of Ubuntu gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.”[1]

“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”[2]

Imagine how good it would be if we could all practice Ubuntu, empathy, compassion. No one will ever feel left out. Perhaps, we could eventually succeed in cutting the vicious cycle of violence in our society and live in peace.

On this note, and in solidarity with everyone celebrating the International Day of Peace, I offer these two prayers and songs of peace:

Your Heart Today [3]
by Bukas Palad Music Ministry

Where there is fear I can allay
Where there is pain I can heal
Where there are wounds I can bind
And hunger I can fill

Lord, grant me courage
Lord, grant me strength
Grant me compassion That I may be Your heart today

Where there is hate I can confront
Where there are yokes I can release
Where there are captives I can free And anger I can appease


When comes the day I dread To see our broken world
Compel me from my cell grown cold That Your people I may behold
Where there is fear I can allay
Where there is pain I can heal
Where there are wounds I can bind And hunger I can fill


And when I’ve done all that I could
Yet there are hearts I can not move
Lord, give me hope
That I may be Your heart today

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
Music by Ryan Cayabyab

Il Signore, Mi Rende Uno Strumento Della Vostra Pace
(Lord Make Me, Make Me An Instrument Of Your Peace)
Dove Ci E Odio Lasciarlo Seminare L’amore
(Where There Is Hatred, Let Me Sow Love;)
Dove Ce E Ferita, (Where There Is Injury) Perdono; (Pardon)
Dove Ci E Dubbio, (Where There Is Doubt) Fede; (Faith)
Dove Ci E Disperzione, (Where There Is Despair) Sperare; (Hope)
Dove Ci E Nerezza, (Where There Is Darkness) Illuminarsi; (Light)
Dove Ci E La Tristezza, (Where There Is Sadness) Gioia. (Joy)

O Divine Master, Grant That I May Not So Much Seek;
To Be Consoled As To Console;
(To Be Understood As To Understand,)
To Be Loved, As To Love; (As To Love)

For It Is In Giving That We Receive;
It Is In Pardoning That We Are Pardoned;
It Is In Dying That We Are Born Again,
(It Is In Dying That We Are Born Again)
It Is In Dying That We Are Born Again, To Eternal Life.
Il Signore, Mi Rende Uno Strumento Della Vostra Pace
(Lord, Make Me) Make Me An Instrument (Il Signore,)
Of Your Peace.

May these beautiful prayers and songs fill our hearts today and become part of the soundtrack of our lives. We all have an opportunity to contribute in realizing Ubuntu, in building a culture of peace. It could all begin in our thoughts, our desires, our hopes.

Happy International Day of Peace!

-ems, #iamforpeace

Good accounts on Ubuntu on these two articles:

[3] Lyrics taken from <a href=”; rel=”nofollow”>this page</a>

Books for Raising Conflict-Sensitive and Peace Promoting (CSPP) Kids

Last week, in my Peace Quote Musing on a Monday post, I raised the following question:

How do we raise children who would choose integrity, fairness, and generosity so that he or she might contribute to a just society; choose dialogue, collaboration and other peaceful means of resolving conflict so that there would be no more war; choose to protect this earth so that all may have enough?

As many peace education advocates would opine,  the ability of young people and adults to make decisions that would contribute to a culture of peace lies on their education.

To raise children who are conflict-sensitive, who are able to identify manifestations of violence and conflict, we have to encourage their inquisitiveness and sharpen their ability to critically think about relevant social issues such as human rights, gender equality, social and economic justice, non-violence, sustainable development, etc. To empower them as peace-promoting kids who could act for peace, we must also nurture them to learn courage and compassion and skills to resolve issues using non-violent means (i.e. dialogue, negotiation).

This is a huge undertaking but it can be done. Let’s start with something simple – some books for our storytelling session, whether at home or inside the classroom!

Below are three of my recommended stories which are still currently available in major bookstores here in the Philippines. For each of these animal stories, I have provided a synopsis (in a nutshell); what I discovered about their potential to teach peace (Peace AHA!); and some questions you may use to explore with your kids some behaviors, attitudes and skills related to building peace.


Story by Virgilio S. Almario;
Illustrations by Joanne de Leon;
Published by Adarna House;
Recommended for children ages 8 and above.

In a nutshell:
“Animals once lived together happily and peacefully in Paradise” until the day that the Parrot arrived and told stories that were not true. This sparked mistrust and created divisions among the animals which later escalated into a fierce battle among animals.

Peace AHA!
The story provided a good contrast of what it is like to live peacefully together and live in conflict with others. Specifically, it would be good to explore the feelings and behaviors of the animals during these different times in their lives:

  • Animals live in harmony when they were still able to share Paradise’s resources with each other as this passage says: “Everyone weak and strong, big and small, shared their food with the rest.”
  • Animals live in harmony when they accept and respect each others’ differences as these passages illustrate: “They were different yet they treated each other with respect. They understood one another even if they spoke and thought in different ways. They accepted one another. They tolerated one another’s likes and dislikes, no matter how odd, as long as no one was harmed.”
  • Animals lived in conflict “when they came to mistrust and think ill of one another” then others became violent while those that got hurt became angry and fearful.
  • Animals were unable to resolve their conflict when they ceased to talk and listen to each other.

Possible questions to ask kids:

  • How would you describe the relationship of the animals when they were still living peacefully together?
  • What broke the relationship among the animals?
  • How could the animals mend their broken relationships?
  • What do you think Elephant could have done to make his interventions to promote peace successful?

(Bas Guava and the OK Group)


Story by Luis P. Gatmaitan, M.D.;
Illustrations by Raketshop Studio;
Published by OMF Literature Inc. for Hiyas
Bi-lingual (English and Tagalog);
Recommended for children ages 7 and above.

In a nutshell:
Animals with disabilities were being ridiculed and ostracized by other animals in the farm of Mang Bayani. Fortunately, they found solace under the shade of Bas, the guava, and found new friends among each other. In spite of their disabilities, they actually helped save the farm from burning down.

Peace AHA!
The story highlighted the importance of seeing people with disabilities as people who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They may be vulnerable but they have other capacities and deserve to be heard, supported, and included. There are many like them in our society and ensuring that their needs are met makes development more inclusive, thus building just peace for all.

The story could be a springboard to explore your kid’s feelings towards people with disabilities or other vulnerable people in general and begin to reinforce positive behavior towards them.

Possible questions to ask kids:

  • What do you think of the Tropang OK?
  • Do you know or have seen anyone with disabilities? How do you feel or think about them?
  • How do you think you can show your support to people with disabilities in a way that they will feel dignified?

(Court of Sinukuan)

IMG_6990Story retold by Virgilio S. Almario;
Illustrated again by Mitzi Villavecer;
Published by Adarna House
Bi-lingual (English and Tagalog);
Recommended for children ages 7-9.

In a nutshell:
This is a story of a vengeful mosquito and how his anger caused trouble among other animals in Mount Arayat. After processing the incident with everyone involved, Maria Sinukuan, the queen of Mount Arayat, punished the mosquito and asked him to pay for the damages he has caused.

Peace AHA!
Although the story is intended for teaching about justice and resolving disputes in the proper venue, it is an interesting story to explore how conflict begins and escalates.

  • Unexamined perception could trigger conflict. Many of the animals involved in the story acted out of fear: Frog was afraid that Turtle’s house would fall on him; Turtle was afraid that Firefly might burn his house; and Firefly was afraid that Mosquito will stab him with his bolo. Their lack of understanding of each other’s nature and misguided assumptions caused them to be scared and suspicious of each other’s motive. There is an apparent lack of communication that could have clarified their assumptions and fear.

    On the other hand, it is important also to note that fear because of threat to security cannot be ignored, whether the threat is real or perceived. To feel safe is an important indicator of peace and a fundamental right! I think teachers and parents can use this to ask kids what they think would make them feel safe or to describe instances when they felt unsafe. This could perhaps lead to a discussion on bullying at school or other forms of threats that children experience. As this  may be  a sensitive discussion, handle this discussion with extra care and check for signs of stress.

    For older school kids, this story has potential as springboard to explore the essence of security beyond physical safety, which is to include other fundamental human rights (or child’s rights) and “access to other opportunities and choices essential to achieving full human potential.”[1] This will provide a broader perspective on what it really means to have peace. Of course these are tough topics to jump into and would require longer time to process so this can be a follow-through activity in a classroom setting.

  • Violence will not resolve conflict. Mosquito was very angry of Talangka, the crab, who tried to snip him with his pincers one day. His anger made him vengeful and careless with his weapon. The story teaches that violence will not resolve conflict and that one needs to practice self-control, to refrain from reacting rashly. The story can also be a springboard to explore with children other non-violent means of resolving conflict such as dialogue.

Possible questions to ask kids:

  • Why was Mosquito punished by Maria Sinukuan?
  • If you were Mosquito, what could you have done to resolve your conflict with Talangka?
  • What can you possibly do to control your frustration/anger so you don’t act rashly or violently?
  • Do you think Frog has a reason to be scared of Turtle? Why?
  • Try relating to the feeling of fear of the animals in the story. Were there instances when you feel unsafe and afraid?

In all of these stories, communication is a key component in resolving conflict in a non-violent way. For students to benefit more from the lessons of these stories, it may be good to add a follow-up activity such as role play where students can use their creativity in simulating dialogue among conflicting parties.

Well, that’s it folks. I hope these recommendations will be helpful and will get you started with raising more conflict-sensitive and peace promoting (CSPP) kids. Let’s work for a peaceful society one story at a time. Happy reading!

 -ems, #iamforpeace

[1][1] Annan, Kofi, 2000. United Nations Millenium Report. (Human Security).

Peace Quote Musing on a Monday

Do you still remember what Dumbledore told Harry Potter when Harry doubted himself for a moment because he has the same abilities as the one whose name shall not be named?

The great Albus Dumbledore said,

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” [1] 

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

I couldn’t agree more, Dumbledore! Choices or the decisions one makes are what defines a hero, the good and the bad. But how do we raise children who would choose integrity, fairness, and generosity so that he or she might be able to help build a just society; choose dialogue, collaboration and other peaceful means of resolving conflict so that there would be no more war; choose to protect this earth so that all may have enough?

I believe, peace education have answers for this. It is a transformative education that is teaching for and about human rights, gender equality, disarmament, social and economic justice, non-violence, sustainable development, international law, and traditional peace practice. [2]

The world is full of violence – not just those that kill but also those that deprive us of our human dignity and capacity to reach our full human potentials. This form of violence called structural violence is embedded in our culture, policies and socio-economic structures.[3] If we don’t act now to nurture the sensitivity of our children to manifestations of violence (i.e. corruption, poverty, gender inequality, man-made environmental degradation; prejudice against minority groups; marginalization of indigenous people; etc.) and teach them the values and skills of peace, then violence might become the norm of the next generation.

Those children from Syria would not have drowned, if their families didn’t have to escape war in their homeland. Citizens of atoll[4] nations, whose country is sinking because of global warming intensified by burning fossil fuels, would not have to face an uncertain future as climate change refugees. Other Muslims in Mindanao should not have been treated with prejudice, just because there are Muslims who wage war with the government. Children from indigenous communities in Surigao del Sur shouldn’t be missing their classes and camping now in depressing evacuation areas because of security threats in their communities. These and so many real life stories of violence – physical or structural, need to end. While considerable efforts must be done today to protect and secure the rights of vulnerable people and address root causes of violence, we also must invest for the future to keep these from happening again.

Peace education could provide a pathway away from cycles of violence by enhancing our children’s abilities for “critical thinking, reflection and participation”[5] and broadening their perspective on peace. This kind of education aims to contribute to building a culture of peace which “consists of values, attitudes and behaviors that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations.”[6]

Building a culture of peace is not just the responsibility of teachers. Anyone can make a contribution. This can be integrated in school curricula, community projects, mass media, homilies, and even bedtime stories. The key is to start with a clear purpose and begin now! While, it may be a long and difficult journey, our efforts, whether big or small, could bear sweet fruits someday.

In parting, I’d like to share a peace quote that I superimposed in this photo of Loboc River that I took one beautiful summer in Bohol, Philippines:


Let us nurture the minds of children for peace. Remember what Dumbledore said, we all have choices. Please say you’ll choose peace.

Have a wonderful week!

-ems, #iamforpeace

[1] Rowling, J. K., 1998. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
[2] Castro, L. and Galace, J., 2008. Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace.
[3] Galtung, J., 1960. Violence, Peace and Peace Research.
[4] An atoll is a ring-shaped coral-reef, island or series of islets, enclosing a lagoon. Atoll nations are low-lying countries that are only a few meters above sea level.
[5] Castro, L. and Galace, J., 2010. Peace Education: A Pathway to a Culture of Peace.
[6] United Nations.Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).