Asia West Pacific

Breaking Free towards Creating Cultures of Peace: 7th International Cultures of Peace Training Reflection 

By Jean Celeste Paredes (Happy Hedz), Philippines

Happy Hedz (in red shirt) playing the Big Wind Blows.

Today, I met a friend of 20 years whom I haven’t communicated with for quite a while because of different views in our political beliefs. Out of nowhere, I just thought of messaging her realizing how it has been a while and I haven’t heard about her, plus, her birthday followed mine, so I guess, it is the best time to meet. I felt nervous when I first asked her to meet me since I really don’t know how much has changed in our friendship since it has been years since our falling-out. The meeting was very warm and light. It was a very empowering experience, it felt like transforming power moving in me and I was delighted to realized that Happy Hedz has just made a step forward in reconnecting with a very good friend. She talked about how she has been and her future plans. When we parted ways, she gave a very tight hug, as if telling me “I am so happy you finally decided to see me today.”

During the “Speak Out” session, I commit to make friends with people I lost touch with because of differences in political stands and beliefs. It has been three years since I shut off some friends for this reason. But the journey made me realize that I needed to look beyond judgment and see things from a different perspective, focusing on things that truly matter more than the noise that surrounds me, which creates division and conflicts. This is how I ought to live – for myself, for others and for the planet.

The 12th day activity was more than a learning session for me. Since I graduated from college, I was never part of a big group again. Not that I didn’t have the chance. It’s just that I refrained from situations like that. So, it was a huge thing for me to finally take the “risk” of facing that fear again. Arriving in Pati, deep inside, I really don’t know what to do or say to people, not until the start of the session, when we were asked to introduce ourselves with our affirmation names. I couldn’t think of an adjective so I decided to choose “happy” because that’s what I always want for myself and for others. I realized that when they start calling me by my affirmation name, it reminded me to be happy, regardless of whatever the circumstance were. Plus, I felt that every time they called me that, I could feel that they were also reminded to feel happiness in their lives. I never realized such a simple gesture could make a whole lot of difference to my day. It is also the same feeling every time I say the affirmation names of my co-participants. It reminded me to be “kind” “awesome,” “thoughtful,” etc. It is like something that says “that is how you should live each day”.

The trauma healing session, I was very fine. I got lucky to be paired with a good companion who assisted me and was very supportive all throughout the activity. While I have appreciated the importance of having some good companion sessions since I have been doing them for a year in my province, I also realized that when going through something traumatic, a good companion is very important for healing. My co-participants were very helpful in reprocessing my trauma. Past hurts and unfortunate experiences that I tried to rationalize or even forget seemed to be so much easier to deal with and face now. Surprisingly, it has become an “exciting” thing to settle things now, and I guess that’s a very good thing. It was so easy to reply to their birthday greetings and it is good to look forward to what it would feel like to meet with these people again. Freedom from pain, anxiety and being haunted by past hurts seemed to be a gratifying feeling, finally!

 We write journals regularly to help clear our minds.  Photo: Tet Pepito

The sessions tackling prejudice and privilege really made me reflect on how I deal with people in my home, workplace and the community I belonged to. I feel that there are subtle ways of me being an perpetrator or trying to be savior even if I do not intend to. Sometimes, I was being a victim too. I allowed myself to become a victim and allowed people mistreat me because I felt that it would be futile to go against the tide. This made me reflect on how I have lived my life and the ways that I need to change to be more conscious of not being a perpetrator, stop pretending to be a savior and making sure that I don’t allow myself to become a victim. I also realized that I have to improve in my work place especially to become more mindful of being prejudice and not take advantage of the privileges I have. I felt that the sessions unmasked me of my “image” and disentangle my yearning for power or control over other people and situations, unconsciously or intentionally. This is difficult but this is something that I have to work on sincerely in the coming days.

Lastly, participating in Creating Culture of Peace made me feel excited to go back home – to my family, friends, and communities. While I had a great time at Peace Place, I wanted to share that sheer happiness with everyone else at home. I want to get involved in things that matter. I want to inspire myself more and inspire others. I want to let them know that peace is possible – in oneself, with others and towards the community. It’s never an impossible dream. I want to apply and experiment with the tools. I want to share the warmth of the community. I want to share how peace is being inculcated in childhood. There is so much that can be done and I am excited to undertake this “effortless” work.