Peace Buzz: no borders for peace
Positive change and challenges are strange bedfellows. But over the course of two weekends, the two combined and brought into the nation a peaceful controversy.
From September 21 to October 1, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) together with the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), participating Local Government Units (LGUs), and Civil Society Organizations launched the “Peace Buzz” – a nationwide peace caravan that showcased the government’s peacebuilding efforts and promoted the culture of peace.
The Peace Buzz made its journey through Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao; stopping by in significant places that play role in the peace process, namely: Baguio City, Quezon City, Legazpi City, the island of Samar, Caraga region, Davao City, Cotabato City, Iligan City, and Marawi City.
Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza underscored the importance of the peace caravan.
“There are many ways how to attend to peace. You have to do reforms. You also have to inculcate a climate of peace in the neighborhood and build relationships,” Dureza stated.
To put prime on the 2017 National Peace Consciousness Month, the Peace Buzz focused on OPAPP’s latest peace table under President Rodirgo Duterte’s administration – the Peoples’ Peace Table. Its goal is to engage, meet, converse with and hear the concerns, inputs, recommendations of the youth, women, and indigenous peoples (IP) to advance the peace process in the country.
OPAPP Undersecretary Nabil Tan puts emphasis on the Peoples’ Peace Table.
“We believe each one has their own issues to talk about, and we believe that the signing of a peace agreement does not end all things and it will mean overnight peace. Peace is so illusive, peace will take time to nurture, peace will have to be prayed, done and pushed by the whole nation initiative,” Tan expressed.
Tan also stressed the meaning of this year’s peace month team “Puso para sa Kapayapaan. Magkaisa Para sa Bayan”.
“The positive traits that should bring positive changes should be anchored on compassion, unity and inclusivity. It should always be the thrust or the mantra to which engagement of all sectors who are for peace should unite,” The Undersecretary added.
Peoples peace table materialized – the Peace Buzz journey
Since the beginning of the Duterte administration’s Peace and Development agenda, OPAPP has been conducting peace conversations and multi-sector caravans, but never before was it turned into a nationwide expedition.
As the Philippines celebrated the International Day of Peace, the Peace Buzz made its first public appearance on the mountains of Cordillera region. Tribal elders performed customary prayer rituals to bless the Peace Buzz as it began its journey from the North to the South. The region’s unity was manifested through an interfaith prayer framed by the tapestry of Cordillera’s six provinces: Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. It was then brought to the leaders of Marawi City to signify the Cordilleran’s solidarity with the distraught city during trying times.
In the National Capital Region, traffic situation and on-going road works didn’t stop the Quezon City (QC) LGU from partaking in the Buzzing experience. The annual tradition of the ringing of the World Peace Bell brought noise within the QC Memorial Circle premises, but what made it more significant this year was the cultural exchange of the Tagalogs and Cordillerans through the groups’ traditional dances, as the Peace Buzz brought with them students from the Baguio State University to join in the activity last September 22.
On the early morning of September 24, the Peace Buzz was greeted by the majestic Mayon Volcano, as it made its third stop in the historical city of Legazpi, Albay. Locals have lead the “Walk for Peace” that stretched from Bicol University to the city plaza and was joined by Bb. Pilipinas Grand International 2017 and National Peace Ambassadress Elizabeth Clenci. A peace advocate at heart, Clenci paid homage to the Sagrada Familia Foundation by visiting its differently abled residents and entertaining their children through story-telling and educational tour within the municipality.
Visayan culture and hospitality was reflected in the island of Samar, as it pushed through a bike-led motorcade during a rainy morning in Catarman last September 25. In the evening, candles were lit as the island launched its “Peace and Prosperity Roadmap”, as well as the simultaneous induction of the Samar Women Action Network Congress and Youth Peace Congress in Catbalogan. The local festivities concluded with a peace concert and fireworks in the city plaza.
After crossing the Surigao Strait, the Peace Buzz docked in the shores of Caraga region, where it was welcomed with Mindanao-generosity. For two days, the municipalities of Caraga, namely, Butuan, Surigao, Santiago, and Bayugan celebrated its arrival through festivities, highlighted by the signing of the “Commitment for Peace” adopted by national and local officials and the residents of Butuan City, and the launching of the region’s “Dalan sa Kalinaw” or the “Roadmap for Peace”.
When it reached Davao City on September 29, the government and the communist rebels’ peace negotiations were contextualized through simultaneous events including a film showing dubbed as “PEACEtival”, and the induction of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) Monitoring Station which would enable closer and on-the-ground promotion of CARHRIHL in conflict-affected areas. MasterPeace Summit, a conference for the youth from across the country with the goal to provide further understanding of the peace process was also conducted. It aims for the participants to become peace builders in their own right
In the early morning of September 30, a band of more than 300 bikers greeted the Peace Buzz in the province of Cotabato. From the municipality of Midsayap they rode with the Peace Buzz to Cotabato’s city hall as part of the activity dubbed as “Kariling sa Kalinaw” or the “Bike for Peace” joined by both members and families of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The Peace Buzz then proceeded to the war-torn city of Marawi. The sound of firefights was no longer heard, and signs of livelihood were already evident in the Malabang Peace Corridor of government and MILF. The team witnessed the stories of survival, love and happiness as Saipodin “Bobby” Mariga recalled his reunion with his wife, Geraldine Mariga when she was retrieved on June 2017 through the Peace Corridor. Likewise, resident Camilia Baunto reunited with her husband, who has rescued by the AFP after four months inside the conflict zone.
To culminate the buzzing adventures and the peace agency’s month-long gains, OPAPP celebrated in the kindhearted city of Iligan on October 1. As gratitude to the assistance extended by the city to the internally displaced people, Marawi local government unveiled a peace gong in Iligan’s plaza. plaques of appreciation were also given to the provinces and municipalities of Lanaos del Norte and Lanao del Sur.
The Buzzing experience
Traversing the country on its archipelagic grandeur was no easy task. The 24-seater coaster donning the colorful 2017 peace theme was escorted by police highway patrol groups from Luzon to Davao City. They lead the Buzzers to safety until transitioning its guardian duties to the soldiers of the AFP upon crossing the Midsayap-Marawi-Iligan area.
One of its passengers, SPO2 Nova Billona of the PNP, described her experience as arduous but rewarding.
“Conducting the Peace Buzz was very risky considering the safety and security of the members due to lawless elements that spread throughout the country. Coordination was strenuous but very fulfilling on our part because when we went down to communicate with the people on the ground, even if our stay was short, it garnered positive impact,” Billona shared.
Billona also imparted that the Peace Buzz created a good rapport and relationship to the people, and served as an eye opener that the government is for every Filipino citizen. Through its peacebuilding conversations, Billona was reminded that everyone has a role to play in nation building through peace advocacy.
The launching and voyage of the Peace Buzz lets the whole country witness how government is willing to go the extra mile to attain peace. But it doesn’t stop there. Secretary Dureza shared that as long as there are broken relationships caused by conflict, OPAPP will continue its work relentlessly for a one nation and for a just and lasting peace.
“Conflict tears the moral fiber of people who are already close. The main work of OPAPP is to rebuild broken relationships which is very important in bringing about a united country,” Secretary Dureza noted.