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    A Culture of Peace

    Speech at the Awarding Ceremonies of the Angat Buhay Youth Peace Summit

    Gateway Gallery, Araneta, Quezon City

    Ms. Diane Romero, Executive Director of the J. Amado Araneta Foundation; Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, Founder of the Teach Peace, Build Peace Movement; our partners from the Office on Bangsamoro Youth Affairs and the United Voices for Peace Network; delegates of the Angat Buhay Youth Peace Advocates Summit; honored guests; ladies and gentlemen: Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!

    First of all, allow me to congratulate each and every one of you for coming this far, committing your time, and pouring out everything you have to make the best out of this experience. That you believe in building a culture of peace in your community gives us so much hope. And we cannot thank you enough for allowing us to witness the magic of your ingenuity and creativity in coming up with solutions to the challenges we face today.

    Majority of you here are from Mindanao, a region brimming with amazing potential. This is why our office has chosen to hold youth summits in the South—one in Cagayan de Oro, and another in Cotabato City so far. And we were not disappointed. During these summits, we have seen first-hand how the youth of your region are eager to be today’s most innovative change-makers.

    This kind of energy and drive is precisely what we need, if we want a world that is peaceful and nurturing—a place fit for the next generations to live out all the years of their lives. I say that because there are real threats to peace here and around the world, and we urgently need to find a way to deal with them as early as now.

    Megatrends[1] show that by 2030, the world’s population is expected to reach one billion, and a huge majority will be living in densely populated urban areas. Imagine living in crowded cities with insufficient water supply, thick smog, and lack of other resources because of climate change. And we are not just talking of threats to our individual peace of mind here; these problems will have an impact on policy changes at the government and the private sector levels—from global policy makers to young people like you. We need solutions that are creative, innovative, doable, and most of all, solutions that will capture the imagination of the next generation. If people get excited about something, they do them. ‘Di ba? Kapag boring walang pakialam; kapag exciting, excited lahat.And that’s where our collective success begins.

    For example: Last 2018, when we held the Angat Buhay Youth Summit in Mindanao, we met Youth for Peace Movement Mindanao – Davao Oriental. The group pitched a project called Bal’lay Duwaan, a transition shelter facility that houses and supports children of former rebels until they are ready for reintegration. Their pitch stood out from the rest of the group and emerged as the top winner, receiving a seed grant from the US Embassy, an Angat Buhay partner.

    Since then, the project has been in full swing. And they have gained the support of the local government and their community, and have distributed school supplies to children of former rebels. With the help of the 701st Infantry Kagitingan Brigade, a temporary learning center has been opened for use. A halfway house has also been turned over, which will be converted into a recreational park for children. Today, the group continues to cater to these former rebels and their families, helping them ease back into their communities. The Office of the Vice President stands ready to support them further—to support the group’s advocacy—as soon as their project proposal has been finished.

    In October last year, we also met another organization, the Okir University Arts Club from Lanao del Sur, when we held the Angat Buhay Youth Summit in ARMM. The Okir Arts Club proposed TALA, or Teaching Artistry Learning Advocacy, an art therapy workshop for school children who survived the months-long Marawi siege. As the top winner, the group also received a seed fund from the US Embassy, as well as from the Office of the ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman, to jumpstart their project. As of today, the art therapy workshop is still ongoing, helping young minds recover from their traumatic experiences of the war.

    After winning, both organizations were given the chance to join the Asia Pacific Youth Exchange (APYE) in Seoul, South Korea, where they participated in more workshops to develop their projects and possibly get more funding. May muntik pang hindi matuloy kasi lumabas iyong passport saka visa, paalis na kami.

    Our ABY alumni organizations have also been recognized locally, emerging as finalists in various award-giving bodies, such as UNILAB’s Ideas Positive and the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations or TAYO awards.

    Earlier this year, Aqilah from Lanao del Sur, who also participated in our ABY Summit ARMM, was recognized as one of the TAYO awardees. Their project aims to provide mental health hubs and train students to become counsellors at the Mindanao State University – Marawi to help prevent violent extremism in Marawi. The group said that while rebuilding structures in the city is important, healing the mind and soul of those who had to endure the war should also be a priority. Recently, the group also won the Marawi Innovators Challenge for their “Cup of Hope” Project—a campaign that promotes Lanao’s first native coffee and coffee shop, where all proceeds sustain the mental health program of the group. Aside from advocating for mental wellness, Cup of Hope also empowers coffee farmers of Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur, where the coffee grounds are sourced.[2]

    These are just three of almost a hundred youth organizations who have pitched to us the most creative and the most innovative projects, anchored on their belief in making impactful change. It is my hope that their stories inspire you to be fearless. You have the energy and passion to steer these movements, and the projects and programs that you pitched to us are living proof. Nakuwentuhan na ako ng mga behind-the-scenes.[laughter]

    We have always said that government cannot solve all of the country’s problems alone. The best solutions come from those on the ground, those who listen and understand where and why these problems arise. The best solutions come from those who have open hearts and open minds, those who do not stop dreaming even after we have achieved our goals. Building peace and creating change cannot be done overnight. Together, we can create a strong, resilient nation built on a citizenry that is bound by love for country and for his fellowmen.

    Sa inyo nagsisimula ang pagsibol ng pag-asa para sa bagong Mindanao, sa bagong Bangsamoro. Kayo ang sumisimbolo sa bagong umaga: puno ng buhay, puno ng pag-asa, at puno ng potensyal para sa kaunlaran. Ang usapin ng kapayapaan ay hindi lamang tungkol sa pagtatapos ng kaguluhan sa ating bayan o pagbaba ng mga armas at baril. Hindi lamang ito tungkol sa pagtigil ng mga patayan o paghuli sa mga masasamang elemento.

    Ang usapin ng kapayapaan ay tungkol sa kaligtasan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino, saanman sila sa mundo. Tungkol ito sa pangangalaga ng ating mga kalayaan at ng ating mga karapatang pantao [sic]. Tungkol ito sa pagsigurong makakatulog tayo nang mahimbing gabi-gabi, na walang gigising sa atin na mga putukan. Tungkol ito sa mundong iniingatan natin mula sa karahasan, dala man ng mga pagsabog o mula sa galit at poot laban sa isa’t isa. Tungkol ito sa mga buhay na binibigay natin sa ating mga kabataan [sic] ngayon, na lapis at laruan dapat ang kanilang hawak, hindi bala at baril.

    Mahirap at mahaba ang laban, ngunit mas matatag at pinalalakas tayo ng ating pagbabayanihan at pagmamalasakit sa isa’t isa. Patuloy nating ipaglaban ang pangarap na ito para sa isang mapayapang rehiyon, para sa ating bayan.

    Kaya muli, maraming salamat at congratulations sa inyong lahat. Mabuhay kayo! [applause]

    Posted in Speeches on Dec 02, 2019