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! 🙂

Cheers!
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!

-ems

#iamforpeace

 

[1] TED Talks at http://www.ted.com

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

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 9pikz.blogspot.com.
Photo courtesy of 9pikz.blogspot.com.


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

References:
[1] http://www.un.org/en/events/nonviolenceday/
[2] Ban Ki-moon, 2015. Secretary-General’s Message for 2015 International Day of Non-violence