As one united voice at the close of CFA’s 4th Peace Camp, 40 high school students chanted “Our Dream: One Nation in Peace!” The young peace advocates, representing two schools in Manila and two schools in Cotabato, urged people to work together in forming circles of peace that will create ripples of unity, cooperation and mutual understanding across religions, regional groups and economic status throughout the country. The scene took place during the culminating activity of the six-day Peace Camp organized by the Communication Foundation for Asia in Sta. Mesa, Manila.
From May 28-June 2, 2012, the campers explored various media platforms to create peace messages that articulate their dreams of a country where citizens will be proud of their heritage and will strive for peace, equality and freedom.
20 kids from Cotabato City National High School and RVM-Notre Dame College of Cotabato joined 20 of their peers from two schools in Manila — Ramon Avanceña High School and Nazarene Catholic School — for the camp orientation led by Ms. Bob Lopez of CFA Training Department and Ms. Jane Dimacisil of the Young Moro Professionals Network. Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ of Ehem! and Ateneo de Davao University then spent the afternoon with the campers emphasizing the value of being Filipinos and having peace and mutual understanding despite regional and religious differences. The day ended with parlor games (to help build relationships among the kids) and common journaling (through a joint collage of pictures and statements).
Motivational speaker Atty. Alex Lacson began the second day promoting love for country in his discussion on why the Philippines is a wonderful country to be born in and why we should all be proud to be Filipinos. He further encouraged heroism and making a difference in the lives of fellow Filipinos, regardless of religion, region of origin and economic status. This idea was further emphasized in the following workshop led by Mr. Rene San Andres of Ateneo de Manila University. He stressed the importance of unity and collaboration to gain a win-win situation when people instinctively become competitive. The second afternoon was devoted to creative dramatics where PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) Program Director Wilson Billones guided the students out of their individual shells, to build friendships with each other in a fun way. The evening session was facilitated by Ms. Marites Africa and Orlan de Guzman of Peacemakers’ Circle, who explained that conflict is inevitable but this can be transformed into an opportunity for relationship-strengthening. People may have differences but they can agree to disagree and work together for the common good. Later that night, participants worked on a collage to cap the whole day’s experiences and ideas.
Members of the Focolare Movement, an international organization for unity and brotherhood, got the campers dancing and singing early in the morning of the 4th day to show that it can be fun even for the young to promote peace and unity. They told personal stories of influencing people to work for peace, as well as to protect the environment. They left the campers with the challenge of doing their part individually in making the world a better place through small acts of goodness.This was followed by workshops on music, facilitated by Sanghabi and sessions on blogging, facilitated by Ms. Ledrolen Manriquez (of Peace & Conflict Journalism) Network and Fr. Stephen. The art workshop participants of the previous day joined the music workshop, creating beats for various emotions using indigenous instruments, while the photographers joined the second group and uploaded their work in the CFA peace blogsite. http://cfamedia.org/peacecamp/. In the evening, the campers started to plan their own peace projects to be implemented in their schools and communities.
The fifth day started with the presentation of peace plans per school and per area. Motivated by their experience of the camp, the groups planned to organize various activities not only in their own schools but also with partner schools, in order to encourage more kids to promote peace even in small ways. The activities include plays, echoing seminars, peace walks and peace exhibits. Mr. Billones then joined the participants to continue the dramatics workshop and produce skits to be performed during the culminating activity the next day. As in the past, the last night of the camp was a momentous event with the commitment ceremony of the kids and the bonfire. Each participant was given an opportunity to commit to work for peace. Because of the rain that evening, the closing bonfire was made indoors and the camp alumni, who had participated in CFA’s previous Peace Camps, showed their solidarity by joining the group in laying down the flag colors. The 2012 campers then carried specially-made colored lanterns to form the Philippine flag.
The last activity of the whole camp was the Community Program in the afternoon of the last day wherein the campers exhibited their works of art and re-told their stories of self-discovery and transformation during their 6-day camp. Parents, teachers, project partners and CFA staff came to witness the event and all were amazed at how the kids outdid themselves in their showcase of talents. CFA presented a video documentary showing the highlights of the six-day journey of the participants. A parent who had come all the way from Cotabato expressed appreciation for the opportunity her child was given during the camp. At the last part of the program, Ms. Teresita Hermano led the campers in making their Pledge to Peace. She then led them to stamp their thumbmarks on a canvass where their pledge was written and invited the rest of the community to put their own marks as a sign of their own personal commitment to peace and unity. Ms. Pie Fenomeno, CFA’s Head of Electronic Media Department, acted as creative director of the program.
CFA organized the 2012 peace camp with the support of a Dutch foundation, and with the cooperation of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue and other peace organizations. The next activities of the project will be the follow-up visits to the participating schools and the second workshop scheduled for the summer of 2013, with all the participants coming back to CFA. Before the end of the second project year, CFA will produce the final documentary, which, together with the participants’ photographs and paintings, will comprise the Traveling Exhibit to be shown in schools nationwide.