THREE DAYS OF PEACE

The 4th National Volunteer Summit
Conference Report
by Ditas Bermudez, NVS Chair

The 4th National Volunteer Summit held on April 8-10, 2011 in SEARSOLIN-Xavier University attracted a total of 251 delegates (147 registered participants; 40 volunteers who worked with the steering committe; 20 exhibitors; 44 cultural performers; plus a few media people and a handful of walk-ins for the opening program).

Themed "The Role of Volunteers in Building Authentic Peace and Human Development," the 4th NVS held in Mindanao had the unique advantage of offering thorough discussions and presentations as well as experiential learning via the study tours showcasing efforts in conflict resolution and community development through multi-stakeholder dialogues.  Personal encounters with proponents of peacebuilding programs enriched the experience even more.

DAY ONE saw the participants walking through the many volunteer efforts done in and from the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro through the keynote address of Bishop Antonio Ledesma, convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform Peace Talks.

Four panel presentations focused on best practices and challenges in volunteer engagement in peace and development specifically on the following peace collaterals inspired by the Millennium Development Goals: good governance, education for all, environmental sustainability, socio-cultural heritage conservation.

Oscar Moreno, governor of Misamis Oriental, shared his experiences as a public servant in engaging civilian volunteers in transforming Sitio Lantad (Brgy. Kibanban, Municipality of Balingasag), which used to be a stronghold of the Communist Party of the Philippines' New People's Army, into a peaceful and developed community.

Albert Alejo, SJ, assistant to the president for social development at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, challenged the volunteers to make a difference in the peace process through well-done, publishable research/studies on which programs ought to be based.

Krizanti Cruzado, director for field operations of Coffee for Peace, Inc., showed how a social enterprise can open opportunities for peace and true human (as opposed to mere economic) development by promoting fair trade among the various players in the coffee industry.

Paul Richard Paraguya, executive director of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, discussed the challenges faced by local partners in volunteer engagement.

A welcome respite from a whole afternoon packed with speeches and presentations was the "pagpadayganay" (breakout session) during which 12 groups of at least 10 to 12 participants shared their views and exchanged ideas on how they could make use of the inspirations they received from the keynote speech and the four panel presentations.

As if that were not enough, evening had the NVS delegates trooping to the audio-visual theater for a special screening of the documentary film "Lupang Hinarang."

The brief discussion that ensued was led by Nicky Peralta, assistant regional director of the Department of Agrarian Reform (Region X), Yoyong Merida and Paw Serina of Panaw Sumilao, two Sumilao farmers who joined the historic march from Bukidnon to Manila, made the sharing even more poignant as they recounted some details of their struggle that they admit, is still ongoing.  Meanwhile, Mr. Peralta gave a brief update on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms, confessing that the success of the Sumilao march was also a success for the Department of Agrarian Reform.

World renowned documentary filmmaker Ditsi Carolino-Garcia, who considers Lupang Hinarang her attempt at social enterprise (she produced it using a loan from an Ateneo de Manila alumna; and edited it using equipment Jesuit Communications allowed her to use free of charge), pointed out the volunteer opportunities open in Sumilao especially for agribusiness experts.

Prior to the conference proper, a brief welcome program featured the Bayanga Youth Cultural Peace Group in a ritual dance.  Hilly Quiaoit, VP for Research and Social Outreach of Xavier University, welcomed the NVS participants and guests on behalf of XU.  The exhibit (of projects/programs of volunteer organizations) and trade fair of fair-traded community products from Sumilao, Lantad, Claveria and other municipalities in Region X also opened.

DAY TWO was an exodus of the delegates from SEARSOLIN to the four study tour sites:
(1)    Claveria (Misamis Oriental) - A project on sustainable agriculture in partnership with Xavier University's student and faculty volunteers, Year of Service, Jollibee's Corporate Social Responsibility program, Catholic Relief Service, and the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
(2)    [Sitio] Lantad (Misamis Oriental) - Provincial Peace and Order Council and community peacebuilding initiatives after decades of insurgency
(3)    Kauswagan (Lanao del Norte) - Interfaith grassroots peacebuilding in partnership with various stakeholders such as Balay Integrated Rehabilitation Center for Total Human Development, Inc.; Lanao Aquatic and Marine Fisheries Center for Community Development, Inc.; Pakigdait, Inc.
(4)    Sumilao (Bukidnon) - volunteer initiatives for land rights

After the tour, each group had a discussion of what they learned from their "peace encounters'."

In the evening of DAY TWO, NVS participants were treated to volunteer monologues featuring Raquel Pellicer from the University of Salamanca (Spain), who's doing volunteer work in Mindanao until mid-May 2011; Lorelei "Lalay" Ocaya, an alumna of the Year of Service, who did volunteer work in Ireland for a few years; Reniel Sihagan of Cartwheel Foundation, an alumnus of the Pamulaan Center for Indigenous People; Tara Agolito of XU's Kristohanong Katilingban sa Pagpakabana Social Involvement Office; and Joseph Suarez of Ateneo de Zamboanga's Social Awareness and Community Service Involvement.

Other guest performers were: the Seven Tribes Band and a group of dancers from the National Youth Commission Region X.

DAY THREE had the engaging in various capacity development activities such as:
(1)    Container Gardening (c/o Perfecto "Jojo" Rom Jr. of From Calamity to Social Enterprise
(2)    Peace Art Workshop (c/o Mindanao Tripartite Youth Core)
(3)    Strengthening Youth Organizations (c/o the National Youth Commission Reg.X)
(4)    Healthy Volunteering (c/o the Department of Health Reg.X)
(5)    Fair Trade and Social Enterprise (c/o Salay Handmade)

At the closing ceremonies, those who went to Lantad were given recognition for their group presentation.  Meanwhile, Pauline Regina de Lange of De La Salle Zobel and Jana Dacubor of Mindanao Tripartite Youth Core received a prize each for winning the Photos for Peace contest.

Capping the closing ceremonies was a poignant testimony on a volunteer's involvement in Muslim-Indigenous People-Christian dialogues by Emz Naga, an alumna of the Year of Service, who worked for the Social Action Office of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

Salam.  Kalinaw.  Shallom.  Heiwa.  Rauha.  Paix.  Shanti.  Pax. Kapayapaan.  "Peace" in whatever language has a universal appeal.  And the peacemakers, the volunteers, who went to the 4th National Volunteer Summit (presumably) went home with a deeper understanding of what authentic peace and human development really mean.

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