05.23.18

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Suli, a Creating Sinag Within volunteer, shows a young survivor how to do the cortices. (c) Aliya Agbon, 2017 | Canon 550D

“Are you coming back?” asked a little girl when she saw me gather the volunteers of Creating Sinag Within. “I don’t know”, I told her. It was a hot afternoon in October, and we were on our last day for the second mission of the Waldorf-inspired initiative. I’ve learned long before that it’s best to be honest with children. Never make any promises, and be courageous enough to tell them that you may no longer see each other in the future.

She hugged me. “You’re so fluffy… like a pillow”, she said.

I’m all for hugs. I love receiving hugs and I can distinguish the happy “hey-it’s-nice-to-meet-you” ones from the “please-don’t-leave-me” kind. It is heart-wrenching and I wish we didn’t have to say goodbye. But we had to. I kneeled down and told her “I don’t know if we’ll see each other again, but I do know that you are strong, courageous and beautiful”. She beamed and gave me one more hug before joining her friends.

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The need to be found. (c) Aliya Agbon, 2017 | Canon 550D

It’s always the same. When you go to an evacuation center, kids will scrutinize you. Can they trust you? Are you there to genuinely help them? Then, once the activities begin, the kids warm up to you and even if you don’t want them to, they will start caring for you. They will run towards you whenever you arrive and cry when it’s time to go. Eighteen years in this kind of work and nothing has changed. It’s always that heartbreak at the end of each mission, you flash your biggest smile in the hopes that the kids won’t feel your pain (they will) and cry your eyes out once you’re inside the van. But you’ll do it again anyway because you know that you can’t just sit there when you are capable of doing something.

Post-mission, you begin to wonder what life will be like for them. Will their parents continue to hurt them? Can they move forward and learn from this experience? What were they supposed to learn anyway? What does the future hold for them? Do they already have “sinag” within them? You may never know the answer.

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Tutubing Bakal (c) Aliya Agbon, 2017 | Canon 550D

Time as of writing: 10:26 and in less than two hours, Marawi siege will end it’s first run around the sun. Some anniversaries are worth celebrating, but this one I’m not so sure. All I know is in less than two hours, it will be one year since the siege and the residents are still in the process of rebuilding the city, themselves, and their community.

My thoughts right now are with the siege survivors I met before, during, and after the Creating Sinag Within mission. The lone Islamic city in the Philippines will always have a special place in my heart. If you’re reading this and are aware of what 05.23.18 means, please send healing thoughts to the people and the place they all call home, Marawi.

Sinag Stories: No Matter the Package

“Whatever happened to humanity?” – I’ve been asking myself this question lately. There are so many painful things happening in different parts of the world, I can literally hear my heart break while watching the news or reading the articles. What happened to us? Why are we hurting other beings? I can go on, really, but I know that it’ll take some time before I can find all the answers to these questions.

See, the downside to being an empath is that you feel the weight of the world and it takes an awful lot of conscious effort to remind yourself that the weight is not yours to bear. You have 99 problems and 89 of those problems aren’t yours to begin with. I’ve been struggling with that and for months, I have been wanting to rant and add to the noise but what for?

Nothing. I’ll just be another negative person sharing negative stuff on Facebook and that’s not what I want to be. I want to be someone who sees the light amidst the darkness and that does not mean turning my back on the issues that we have today. I will acknowledge them yes, but I will also acknowledge that there is a positive side to everything.

That’s why I’m writing this blog today. This is an attempt to update this teeny tiny space I have in the worldwide web. I will focus on the happier, more positive things because that is the most I can do for now. That is the most I can do for you, as well, in case you’re looking for a happy nugget that you can munch on amidst the dark and cold that the world is slowly starting to become.

This will be a series of stories, mostly from our Creating Sinag Within activities.

Here’s the first one:

When I learned about the Marawi siege last May, one of the immediate thoughts I had was “how can we help?” Kids for Peace Foundation (KIDS) wanted to rush to Iligan and help in any way possible but we had to assess the situation first. We then started asking friends about the possibility of organizing emergency pedagogy with the survivors of the siege to help them deal with and move on from the traumatic experience. We were thinking of the materials needed for the activities when my mom suggested that we tap Craft MNL and Gantsilyo Guru to ask for help in making the call for donations of crocheted balls.

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Colorful crocheted balls from Waldorf School of Batangas.

Crocheted balls are made of yarn and are warm to touch, unlike the plastic or rubber balls that can easily be purchased off the rack. The details on the balls tell a story – how many times the yarns moved back and forth to create mesmerizing patterns, hours spent to form the sphere, and the struggles in following the instructions. The crocheted balls are full of love, care, and warmth that our eyes teared up when we received the boxes from Craft MNL and Gantsilyo Guru!

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Some balls came with heartwarming notes, too!

Inside the box were paper bags, plastic bags, newspaper,  and bags made of cloth, each containing crocheted balls. What’s interesting is that some even included letters and drawings for the survivors of the Marawi siege. We initially asked for 48 balls, but we received a whopping 353!

We shared the crocheted balls with the young survivors of the Marawi siege during the first mission of Creating Sinag Within. The looks on their faces when they saw the balls tugged at our heartstrings that’s why we are so grateful to those who shared their talent and crafted these crocheted balls for them. Emergency pedagogy sessions became even more colorful because aside from playing with a parachute, the kids also passed the crocheted balls around while singing songs.

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Suli, one of the volunteers of Creating Sinag Within, joins the young survivors in passing the crocheted balls. 

For some, crocheted balls are no more than just balls made of yarn but for the young survivors, these balls symbolize happy times. These balls helped them go back to being kids again. They felt the love, care, and nurturing of the generous makers of the crocheted balls even if they were not present during the activity. They felt that they’re worth someone’s time, that they’re worth someone’s effort, and for someone who had to deal with living in an inconvenient environment far from home, that means a lot.

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Young survivors proudly raise the crocheted balls before the activity. 

If you’re one of the makers of the crocheted balls, this is for you. I want you to know that you made a young survivor happy by crocheting those balls for them. In a few weeks, we will see them play with the balls again as they go on with their journey to creating sinag within. Continue to hold them in the light!

It Started With A Letter

“So, tell us about the start of the Kids for Peace Foundation”, said the reporter. I’ve been asked that question so many times I already lost count. One would think that by now I’ve already gotten so bored with the question but the truth is, it still excites me. I like talking about our humble beginnings because it grounds me. I looked at the reporter, smiled, and said “it started with a letter”. My voice trailed off as I tried to hold back tears. I’m always emotional when I talk about Kids for Peace.

I was being interviewed for the 2015 CSR Youth Awards, a project of CSR Today – a department of the Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation (BCYF). Their goal is to recognize outstanding young men and women who have initiated projects anchored on Citizenship, Sustainability, and Social Responsibility. It’s a prestigious award and I was still surprised that I was one of the nominees. It’s my first nomination and I’m just humbled and grateful for the opportunity.

Nomination

I went on about the two fighter planes that I saw, how I cheered when I saw them drop bombs and how I felt bad when I learned that the bombs kill anyone it hits : good or bad, guilty or innocent, male or female, Christian or Muslim, young or old. It’s an equalizer and it does not give a damn about who you are. It hits you, it destroys you. Literally. That scared me and as an ambitious incoming first year high school student, I wrote a letter asking people to write peace messages to let those in the evacuation centers know that there are people who are with them, praying for them, and caring for them. The letter reached people from all over the world which is surprising because in hindsight, that happened at a time when Facebook did not even exist and social media wasn’t as “big”. I guess sometimes you just have to do it. Stop thinking about what other people will say. Go out there and do it.

For years Kids for Peace has been facilitating psycho-social interventions with survivors of war and disaster. We figured, giving these survivors the space they need to breathe and let all emotions out is just as important as giving them food, clothing, and shelter. We would sit down and listen to stories of survival: how one kid carried a kettle filled with rice while running away from explosions, how one father lost his son while fleeing their village which is under attack. The stories went on and it took so much effort to put on a straight face as they showed both physical and emotional wounds. We then organized creative expressions camps with workshops on different media (photography, film, book writing, illustration, song writing, soil painting, theater) which they can use to express their thoughts and feelings.

Volunteerism is not easy. You need to have a lot of heart to be able to do this kind of job. You need to understand that when you are out there on the field,  you are there for them and not for yourself. You need to be strong because sometimes, the odds will be against you. While those instances will push you to give up, it’s also those instances that will push you to keep going. There were times when I thought of quitting and closing the foundation. I thought about it several times already. But I stopped whenever I thought about the people we helped and the people we’ll be helping in the future. It’s not about us, it’s about THEM. With that, we go back to why we started, and the fire in the belly drives us to do our work again.

During the awards night, all 27 finalists were asked to stand up so that they may be recognized and applauded for their efforts. It felt great to be acknowledged, to receive that pat on the back for a job well done. It meant so much and it gave us the affirmation that we needed, that go signal that we are on the right track.

With Mr. Salvador Laguda, Co-chair of the Screening Committee and Mr. Edgardo Amistad of UCPD-CIIF Foundation, Inc. (Image source: CSR YA Facebook page)
With Mr. Salvador Laguda, Co-chair of the Screening Committee and Mr. Edgardo Amistad of UCPD-CIIF Foundation, Inc. (Image source: CSR YA Facebook page)

I did not win but that’s okay. For me, it’s enough that we made it to the top 27. It’s enough that the spirit of volunteerism and the efforts of the young men and women were given recognition. To Noreen Bautista, thank you so much. It really means so much to us. To Ica Fernandez and Daniel Abunales, thank you for journeying with us. To my mom, thank you for supporting me since day one. Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation, thank you so much for the recognition. Like I said, I am humbled and grateful. To all of the mentors, volunteers, young men and women who have been with the Kids for Peace Foundation, thank you. This is for you.

Bottle of Dreams

Since last month, I’ve had several attempts to write this blog entry but I’d always end up clicking the “move to trash” link that’s just a hover away from this box. I don’t know if it’s writer’s block or lack of inspiration, but it seems like whenever I plan out my blog entries, I lose the words to give my entries justice. When something beautiful and meaningful happens in your life you want to share those moments down to the last detail, so here goes: Eco Choices  received two awards during the Ramadhan Fair last July: runner up for best booth and 1st place for best product both in the non-food category. It came as a surprise because the exhibitors designed their booths beautifully and worked hard on their products! I remember shaking during the presentation because aside from being sick, it felt like I was defending my thesis. I totally forgot about preparing for the Q&A portion since I was too focused on the product’s design.

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I call my entry “Bottle of Dreams”. It’s made of  three dream catchers attached to a bigger dream catcher that hangs on top of a re-purposed wine bottle that functions as a candle holder. There are accents of handmade water hyacinth paper, abaca, and Swarovski crystals in between dream catchers.

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I was thinking of Gaza, the planes that disappeared and crashed, and the different natural disasters happening all over the world while working on the product. It made me worry about the kind of world that we’ll be passing on to our children and to our children’s children. Are we doing a great job at creating a safe space for them, or are we too focused on owning a piece of what we call “paradise”? I think that a lot of us have forgotten that our time on this planet is temporary, that we’re here to nurture and care for Mother Nature so when the time comes for us to meet our Maker, we’re sure that we’re leaving a safe space for the future generation. With everything that’s happening in the world today, one can only HOPE that good things will come.

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It is believed that dream catchers originated from the native american indians who created this to protect the sleeper from bad dreams. The dream catcher, when placed near the bed, catches the bad dreams that perish once the sun rises. The good dreams however, slip through the hole and fall on the sleeper underneath. People say that the product represents a bottle of nightmares and not dreams, but I choose to look at the bright side if things. It’s all about perspective, after all. The dream catchers are representations of our dreams and hopes for the future that, when caught, are stored inside the bottle. The light from the candle serves as a reminder to keep the fire in our hearts burning, to BELIEVE in the power of our dreams especially in moments of despair.

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One of the things I learned is that PEACE is not the absence of war. The dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility” but I think it’s more than that. Everyday we deal with factors that challenge us – traffic, pollution, noisy neighbors, etc. You try your best to maintain that state of Zen but once you’re close to reaching it, something happens. There are also times when you find yourself in a quiet room but once you’re aware of the silence, fear comes and your mind is filled with memories and mental notes that becomes static noise. Then you think of the silence again, and you fear it again, and the cycle goes on. This is the same with our dreams. Life has this annoyingly beautiful way of setting up traps to see if we’re passionate enough in working for our dreams. Giving up is easy, but looking back with regret is difficult. You wouldn’t want to look back at your life with a long list of what ifs now, would you?

To me, the Bottle of Dreams is more than just a candle holder. It’s a reminder to work hard for our dreams no matter how tempting it is to give up.

 

Photos by: Aliya Agbon

Canon 550D

2014

 

 

Choose or Be Chosen

I’m starting this entry with a big lump in my throat. I’m holding back tears because it’s weird (and difficult) to type and cry at the same time.  I’m browsing through my journal and the very few photos I managed to take during the Nonviolent Interfaith Leadership Program in Melbourne, Australia and I’m feeling a roller coaster of emotions. It’s a good thing I paid attention to Efrat’s sessions where we were taught to observe emotions and greet it as it enters our “guest house”.

I’ve been meaning to write about my NILP experience but I always ended up staring at the big white space on the computer screen. It’s a tough entry to start because how do you compress five day’s worth of learnings, and epic moments with people from different parts of the globe? It’s challenging but since I feel like it’s a story that needs to be shared to whoever’s patient enough to visit my page and read my entry, here goes:

At a room  with brick walls, high ceilings, carpeted floors and big windows in Edmund Rice Retreat House is where I met people who will forever be a part of me.  These are strangers turned friends who managed to break down the walls I built and see a deep part of my soul. These are people from different parts of the world who treated me like family even if it was their first time to meet me. These are people who experienced what I experienced during the Nonviolent Interfaith Leadership Program 2014 organized by Pace e Bene Australia.

A threshold of stories, self discoveries, and God-given gifts. This room was our shared space for five days.
A threshold of stories, self discoveries, and God-given gifts. This room was our shared space for five days.

On the first day, we were welcomed through a ceremony where we touched soil that ancestors from thousands of years ago walked on. The soil was warm underneath my ice cold palm. We then faced the Yarra River with palms facing the clouds and breathed in the cold Melbourne air. We didn’t talk much and I liked it. At that moment, I realized how blessed all of us are that our ancestors from thousands of years ago took good care of the land. I hope we do the same for the future generation.

After the simple but meaningful ceremony, we made our way back to the room and sat on the chairs that were formed in a circle. To break the ice, Ann invited us to pass around a ball of yarn while saying each other’s name and country. We held the yarn until the last person introduced himself and by then, we had already formed a web. We placed the yarn on the floor and it stayed there until someone decided to untangle it again and form a ball.

To know more about each other, we were then asked to share with two or three others the origin of our name, people who inspire us, places that inspire us, and our experiences. I was surprised at how much one can share just by talking about the name! It was a very powerful exercise.

Interconnection.
Interconnection.

We lit each candle after each sharing to invite the spirits of our ancestors, inspirators, places, and experiences. I like how it also made us feel that there were more than thirty of us in the room, but not in a creepy way. It kind of gave me the assurance that I may be physically alone, but I have a battalion with me ready to back me up no matter what.

Sessions on nonviolence and self discovery started the next day. There were invitations to do the Labyrinth at 6:30 in the morning but I decided to sleep in since I haven’t had enough sleep yet. Add to that the fact that Australia is two hours ahead so 6:30 AM to them is 4:30 AM to us in the Philippines. We started the session with shared silence and this made me realize how scared I am of it. I hate not hearing anything because my very visual mind wanders off to scenes from horror movies that freak me out even in broad daylight. I also noticed how noisy the mind can be despite the lack of noise around us. After twenty minutes of silence, and a couple more minutes for “check in” we went on with our session. I won’t share the discussions so I won’t spoil anything, just in case you decide to join the program.

We were given plenty of quiet time in between sessions. These were minutes (sometimes hours) that I valued because it gave me the chance to process the discussions. I like listening, but I also like writing the things that I heard to help me process and digest them. There were also times when we’d find ourselves working on the rice mandala, talking to whoever was also there while adding designs. We had plenty of tea time, too. There was morning tea, afternoon tea, and evening tea. I’m not a tea drinker, but I became one. Yay.

Silence.
Silence.
A little bit of everything. These grains of rice hold stories shared by some of us.
A little bit of everything. These grains of rice hold stories shared by some of us.

On the third day, Baqir, Vila, and I went down to the Yarra River to take pictures. Yes, at 6 in the morning. In Australia. In case you’re wondering, it was VERY cold. It was also drizzling. We were hoping for some fog and sun, but all we had was rain. We still went down the river, stopped after a few steps to take pictures, laughed at each other for being silly enough to walk under the rain, and shared stories in between shutter clicks.

Good morning.
Good morning.
The Yarra River.
The Yarra River.
Impermanence.
Impermanence.

We had different night activities. The first night was spent listening to the stories of Efrat and Bagir who both experienced violence but reacted nonviolently. It’s amazing how people who went through a lot are always the ones with the biggest smiles that radiate positive energy. The second night was spent watching short films. The third night, for me was the most intimate and meaningful. It’s a night that I will never forget for as long as I live. The fourth night was just as meaningful because we shared a piece of ourselves to the group. Some wrote poems, some shared jokes, and some shared films that they made. I shared with them “Aliya” – a song I wrote back in 2006. It was the first time that I shared the song with a group of people and it was nerve wrecking.

On the last day, we learned about open space and how it can make a difference in one’s way of thinking. It allows you to open yourself up to the possibilities, and accept them as they come. At around noon, it was obvious how people were avoiding the fact that the program was nearing its end. At around three in the afternoon, we gathered in the circle again to close the program.

Closing.
Closing.

Going to Melbourne to attend NILP 2014 was a big step for me. I’m not exactly open to the idea of travelling to another country alone because that means stepping outside my comfort zone. The thought of having to talk to people who don’t speak my language freaks me out and I’m not even worried about my capacity to speak English. I’m worried about being discriminated, of having difficulty in understanding what they’re saying because of the language barrier, of getting lost, of losing my luggage (this happened, but that’s another story), of missing my plane, and of being alone. God must have wanted me to go because despite all my excuses and reasons not to go, I found myself leaving for Melbourne early last month.

Choose or be chosen. I’m glad I chose to apply, and I’m even more glad that I was chosen. NILP taught me to be brave, to accept experiences (even the bad ones) as chapters of my life’s story, and to be open to possibilities. I learned so much from my batchmates, and up until now I still hold the conversations I had with each and everyone of them in a very deep place in my heart. I’m still grateful that they created a very safe space, that made deep and soulful stories emerge. Listening without judgement. Acceptance. Love. Care. Companionship. Interconnection. Impermanence.

To be nonviolent in a world filled with violence. To love despite hate. To take courage despite fear. To take chances. To step outside the comfort zone. To understand that the world is bigger than the four walls of your room. To take a leap of faith. To be open to possibilities. To accept change. These are just some of the many things I learned during NILP.

Now, allow me to raise my hands, wave them and say, Pace Bene!

 

University Business Clinic

I was invited by SPARK Philippines to share my story as a social entrepreneur to the students who attended the University Business Clinic held at Systems Technology Institute (STI) Cotabato City yesterday. Although I’m used to speaking in front of a huge crowd and sharing my story, I was nervous. It was my first time to talk about business.

When you’re a freelance photographer and a licensed librarian, it’s difficult to explain why you’re a social entrepreneur. People expect you to be buried under a pile of books while working on card catalogs and shushing students at the slightest hint of noise when you tell them that you graduated with a degree in Library and Information Science. When you tell them that you’re a photographer, they expect you to wear an SLR around your neck and shoot like there’s no tomorrow. Life has its way of surprising us and truth be told, I’m still surprised that I’m being called a social entrepreneur. Me? Really? What do I know about business?

I was nervous on the way to STI. I threw a couple of jokes to make my mom and myself laugh but deep down, I was worried. What if they don’t like my presentation? What if they ask a lot of questions? Yes I did my research and I prepared for the event but since I was asked to share about a topic that wasn’t in my field of expertise, I had butterflies in my stomach. There were almost 200 students when I entered the room, all waiting for the event to start. I found comfort in the presence of the familiar faces that greeted me with a smile when I arrived. I rushed over to Darren and Fatima who were both preparing for their presentations.

The event started with Darren showing everyone the Young Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp 2013 (YWEB) video. Fatima and I were both nostalgic when we saw pictures and clips of the event that happened three months ago. Darren then introduced Fatima as the first speaker. I had a great time listening to her story. I’ve known her since the beginning of the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc. in 2000 but it was my first time to hear her story about her business (Elijah’s Marketing).

It was my turn to speak after Fatima, and when I stood in front of the students, I asked them to take turns in guessing what my course was back in college. Some said nursing, some said engineering while others said communication. I laughed at the expressions on their faces when I told them that I’m a licensed librarian. “But you don’t look like one!”, they said. That reaction, I’m used to. When I saw that they were ready to listen, I felt comfortable. I proceeded with my presentation.

Photo by Darren Gonzales
Photo by Darren Gonzales

I told them about Eco Choices and how I assumed my position as the manager. I shared with them my journey as a social entrepreneur and how it’s been a crazy ride for the past few months. I heaved a sigh of relief when the presentation was finished. They had questions after, mostly about how they can volunteer and be a part of Eco Choices.

Darren and Fatima dropped by Eco Choices! :) Photo by James Ryan Buenacosa
Darren and Fatima dropped by Eco Choices! 🙂 Photo by James Ryan Buenacosa

Talking about Eco Choices fueled my passion to make the store successful. It has been a bumpy ride and we’ve had several attempts to close the store because we wanted to give up. The presentation yesterday reminded me of my goals for Eco Choices. SPARK Philippines and STI Cotabato City, thank you so much for having me! I had a nice time sharing my story with you. 🙂

I Speak Peace

I believe in positive youthful energies, in being the catalyst for change and expressing my stand in various issues through creative means. I’ve never been one to write articles filled with thousands of complicated words to state an opinion, simply because it’s boring and people won’t be reading it anyway. Well, okay, maybe some will, but I’d rather let people hear what I have to say through a song, see it through a painting or a photograph, or understand it further through a short film. I’m known for wearing my heart on my sleeve since I feel like if I opt not to express my feelings I’ll explode. I guess this is the reason why I decided to wear my I Speak Peace shirt after not wearing it for a very long time.

Earrings, Hong Kong | I Speak Peace Shirt, Eco Choices, Shawl-turned-skirt, Joey Rodriguez | Anklets, Amihan Boys + Jatujak | Shoes, Rusty Lopez
Earrings, Hong Kong | I Speak Peace Shirt, Eco Choices, Shawl-turned-skirt, Joey Rodriguez | Anklets, Amihan Boys + Jatujak | Shoes, Rusty Lopez

With all that’s been happening in our country, in the world, even, it’s hard not to feel disheartened. Months ago, there was was in Zamboanga, typhoon in Northern Luzon ( I experienced this firsthand and it’s crazy) and just recently, earthquake in Bohol. I’ve decided to avoid watching the news at night because 95% of it is bad news and I want to sleep with a happy heart and a smile on my face, thank you very much. Most of the time it’s tempting to ignore all the bad things that are happening but how can you, especially when you know that these situations are putting lives in danger.

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With all that’s happening, I decided to wear the I Speak Peace shirt since it sums up what I want to say. This shirt was designed during our I Speak Peace Camp back in 2007. The camp was designed to empower the youth and to encourage them to speak up and let those who were in charge of the peace talks hear what they have to say. Most of the time, young people feel that they don’t have the right to express themselves because they’re young and they’re not in the position of power. The camp became a venue for them to understand the importance of speaking up especially in situations that involve them and their future.

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Wearing this shirt reminded me of the discussion I had with one of our camp participants. He said that peace is not the absence of war and seeing what has been happening in our country these past months, I understand what he was telling me. I wear this shirt again today because I need to be reminded to still speak peace despite difficult situations and to speak up and let my voice be heard.

It takes a lot to wear this shirt. You have to make sure that your actions do not contradict what the shirt says. You can’t get mad no matter how annoying the situation is and you have to be nice even if it kills you. It’s not that wearing the shirt is a burden, no. It simply means that you should be mindful of your words and actions because you’re wearing a shirt that says “I speak peace”.

I believe that peace is still possible. I believe in change. I believe in making a stand through creative expressions.  I believe in statement shirts. I believe in the I speak peace shirt.

Workshops at the Garden : Soil Painting

I never thought it would be possible to paint with soil until I experienced it during the first I.Matter Sinag Creative Expressions Camp. I remember feeling like I was being healed, as each brush danced on the canvas. I wouldn’t have learned how to do it if it wasn’t for the Talaandig boys. They were there to guide and they weren’t strict when it came to the structure. They didn’t force the elements to come together. As I shared with them my apprehensions about messing up, they comforted me by saying “forget about the structure, it’s all in your mind.. go with the flow and everything will follow”.

Since the first camp, we made it a point to include the soil painting workshop in almost all of the activities of the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc. Wanting to share the knowledge to the children and young people in Cotabato City, we organized a soil painting workshop for them (with permission from the Talaandig boys, of course). The workshop was held last May 3-5, facilitated by James Ryan Buenacosa. We had six kids, all excited to learn how to paint with soil.

First, they were taught how to shade. James prepared a sun painting for the kids to finish. They watched eagerly as James showed them how to shade and emphasize the light and dark sides of the painting so it doesn’t look flat.

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Siblings Kevin and Angel learn how to shade.

When they were done, James showed them how to look for soil that they can use in painting. The kids quickly grabbed their tools and went around the garden to look for soil. With James’ permission, the kids started digging.

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Excited to start painting, Angel and Iya fill their plastic cups with soil.

Once the kids were finished digging, James showed them how to properly mix soil, glue, and water. The ratio between the three elements determined the darkness or lightness of the colors so the kids paid close attention.

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With close supervision from James, Ayi pours some glue in the cup.

When they were finished mixing the soil with water and glue, the kids quickly went to their spots in the garden and started painting. Some already had an idea of what they wanted to paint while some asked their classmates for suggestions. I remember telling them what the Talaanding boys told me once: “just go with the flow!”

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Ellie
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Miggy
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Ayi
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Kevin

The kids were all smiles when they finished their paintings. Some painted flowers, some painted animals, some had abstract paintings, and one painted the mascot of a fast food chain. The kids were happy to see their paintings on display when they arrived the next day. It felt like their works were in an exhibit, according to some of them.

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Seeing their works on display made them even more excited to start working on their second painting but since James wanted the workshop to be memorable, they played some games first.

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Spreading the “break clap” virus one workshop at a time.
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Iya
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Ellie

While the kids were thinking of what to paint for Day 2, James suggested that they paint something for Mother’s Day. Some of the kids agreed that it would be nice to give their paintings as gifts to their moms. Here’s a picture of Iya painting something for her mom:

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We had a great time sharing the knowledge to the kids. The garden was filled with laughter and creative energies for a good two days. The kids learned from us as much as we learned from them. It will be very hard to forget how their eyes sparkled when we told them that they can bring their paintings home (plus two more blank canvases for them to paint on). The good thing about soil painting is one need not buy expensive materials to paint. All you need is cloth to paint on, brush (or your fingers if it’s not available), and soil. To the kids who joined the soil workshop last May, thank you for sharing your talents with us. Until the next workshop!

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I Speak Peace Shirts for Sale

I Speak Peace is a campaign of the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc. It is the one of the many efforts of the foundation to help batang bakwits (child evacuees) in Mindanao.

This shirt symbolizes our dreams of peace as youth leaders in Mindanao. Peace for us is stopping the violence in settling hostilities among and between families, friends, and neighbors in our communities, and in our nation. These shirts come in two colors: black and white. White represents the foundation’s purity of intentions for peace. Black represents our sympathy with the victims of violent conflict in Mindanao. The shirts are worth Php 250. The money that you pay for the shirts will definitely go a long way.
Please encourage your friends and families to buy the shirts, so we can do more for peace. We hope that in our lifetime, we will all live in peace.
Please support our advocacy.
Buy a shirt.
Help save a life.