Amidst the ceaseless struggle between the government and the radical Islamic groups in the Philippine island of Mindanao, a new hope for peace and unity has dawned in this "Promised Land," as the Philippines is often called. On September 19-21, 2008, the Mindanao leg of the Global Peace Festival was held in the city of Cagayan de Oro, culminating a series of conferences, service projects, and other initiatives all organized for the cause of bringing peace in the island and making its people owners of the vision of One Family Under God. Co-chaired by Dr. Haja Esnaira Estrella Abid-Babano, Regional Director of the Department of Education-Region X, and Hon. Constantino G. Jaraula, Mayor of Cagayan de Oro, this Global Festival was a big step towards the realization of peace in Mindanao and the entire nation of the Philippines.
Peace Village Exposure
Opening the Global Peace Festival Celebration was the Peace Village Activity on September 19 in Tubod, Lanao del Norte. The program, which was organized and sponsored by the Department of Education Region X, gathered 4,000 teachers and 4,000 students together with the International Leadership Conference participants, Global Peace Festival staff, and several international guests. Governor Khalid Q. Dimaporo supported the event together with a number of mayors and other officials from the different local government units in the province. The good governor even hosted lunch for everybody.
Also a part of the Mindanao Peace Initiative, this Peace Village project is a living example of how young Muslim and Christian students live together harmoniously respecting each others' religious traditions, customs, and beliefs, thus proving that everyone despite his or her religion is a part of one human family under one divine parent. The Peace Village exposure served as practicum for the ILC participants. There, everyone witnessed how it is truly possible to learn the ways of peace and unlearn the ways of violence.
International Leadership Conference
The International Leadership Conference at the Pryce Plaza Hotel in Cagayan de Oro brought together 287 supervisors and superintendents from the Department of Education, mayors and councilors from different local government units, as well as heads of the diverse tribes in Mindanao. With the theme "The Need for Vision and Leadership at a Time of Global Crisis: Building Partnerships among Governments, Faith-Based Organizations and NGOs," the ILC stressed basic universal principles that could lead the people of Mindanao in the realization of peace and harmony.
The conference itself was well attended. Senate President Manny Villar, as represented by his brother Mr. Jojo Villar, gave the keynote speech during the opening plenary. Mayor Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro welcomed all the guests to the "City of Golden Friendship," as it is commonly known. In the evening of September 20, he hosted a welcome banquet for all of the guests and participants. For his part, Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Jose de Venecia gave the congratulatory remarks during the closing ceremony of the conference in the morning of September 21.
As a response to the call of the times, the Mindanao Peace Initiative (MinPI) was also officially launched during the ILC. Without a doubt, this initiative will create a strong social impact to revive the peace process in Mindanao.
International Youth Summit
History was written superbly by the youth leaders of Cagayan de Oro. The International Youth Summit 2008 held September 20-21 with the theme of "A Culture of Love: The Fuel Towards Peace and Development" was the first activity in which the youth leaders of the city joined forces as they offered their time, talent, and treasures taking ownership of this earth-shattering event.
On September 20, around 3,000 youth from different schools, colleges, and universities shook the grounds of Limketkai Mall as they participated in the first day of the conference. Bands, singers, and dancers gave entertainment to all the guests. Inspirational messages from Governor Dimaporo of Lanao Del Norte, Mr. Yequing Victor Lee, Mr. Aya Goto, and Senate President Manny Villar moved the hearts of the young and young at hearts not to mention the very vibrant speech of the energetic UPF Regional Chair, Dr. Chung Sik Yong. Former Miss Teen Philippines 2007, Ms. Maxine Monasterio, hosted the conference.
On, September 21, another momentous event happened in the city. It was the second day of the summit at the Dynasty Court Hotel. Leaders from the youth sector convened to upgrade their leadership skills and convictions as they listened to the sessions given by Dr. Ann Montejo-Arevalo and Dr. Robert Kittel. To the surprise of our young leaders, Hon. Jose de Venecia and his son Joey de Venecia paid a visit and gave very stirring speeches. Three hundred leaders were appointed Youth Ambassadors for Peace. The conference ended with the launching of the YFWP Cagayan de Oro Chapter.
Over all, the summit was a success not just because of the histories it made or the number of people it gathered but the excitement and the bonds it created among the young leaders of the city. The summit is just a stepping stone to the greatest journey the youth sector will be embarking.
Global Peace Festival Main Event
The Global Peace Festival Main Event was held at the Capitol Grounds in Cagayan de Oro City on September 21 in celebration of the International Day of Peace. All the vibrant colors of Mindanao were unfurled as the 3,000 members of the different ethnic tribes including the Subanens, Higa-onons, Balangas and others performed their traditional dances during the parade and pre-program. Garbed in bright costumes, they danced along the streets of Cagayan de Oro to the delight of the people until they reached the main venue of the program in front of the Capitol Building. The lively and heart-stopping performances from the delegation of the different tribes in Mindanao with their rich and colorful costumes added more joy and festivity to the event. Their dance numbers showed how unity is achieved even in diversity.
Before the main program officially started, high school students along with the audience recited the Pure Love Pledge, as they committed themselves to keeping their purity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. Right there and then, True Love Power International offered the 1.4 million signatures of high school students who pledged to keep their purity to Senate President Manny Villar, who was again represented by his brother, Mr. Jojo Villar.
International blessed families were also called onstage to share about their unique experiences as they live together despite their differences. They showed how the family is indeed the school where children learn the values of love and peace so they can practice it in the society where they live in.
To officially open the Global Peace Festival Main Event, Hon. Governor Oscar Moreno of the Province of Misamis Oriental gave the 13,000 people in the audience a warm welcome. He emphasized that only through peace that is all encompassing can we achieve peace and prosperity in the nation and the world.
Dr. Estrella Babano, as Co-Chair of Global Peace Festival-Mindanao, challenged everyone to work for peace with the recognition that since we came from one Creator, we are all one family under God. She urged everyone not to waiver until they see the beginning of peace in their midst.
Former Speaker de Venecia gave a powerful speech about the need for peace in Mindanao. He praised the Universal Peace Federation for initiating substantial peace initiatives that can truly bring change to the world. He stressed that UPF is the only solution to the problems of unrest in the world.
Mr. Jojo Villar read the prepared speech of Senate President Manny Villar who could not come because of an important trip to Jordan. In support of the peace initiatives of UPF, he pledged his support to the vision of the Global Peace Festival in its endeavor to bring peace and harmony through realizing the vision of "One Family Under God."A video of the Global Peace Festival 2007 in the Philippines was shown to all the audience. It was immediately followed by the Global Peace Address of Dr. Hyun Jin Moon as read by Dr. Chung Sik Yong, Regional Chair of UPF-Asia. Dr. Moon in his message stressed the centrality of the family in building peace in the society, nation, and the world. The audience resonated with the main message of building one family under God, one family under Allah.
The presentation of Ambassadors for Peace certificates ensued. Governors and mayors as well as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines including artists Ms. Iya Villania, Mr. Cris Lawrence, Billy Crawford,and Miguel Escueta, were appointed Ambassadors for Peace.
Before the Peace Concert began, everyone sang the Global Peace Festival Theme Song, "Where Peace Begins." As they lit the candles together, they gave peace signs and called for everybody to give peace a chance.
The Peace Concert with the artists capped the grand celebration of the Global Peace Festival 2008-Mindanao.