Peace-building in Sapang Uwak

Hello!

It’s been forever since my last blog entry for the reason that I’ve been pretty much occupied by a lot of school and organization requirements. It’s quite an exhausting semester I must say. It didn’t allow me to do things I usually enjoy doing like reading, going on road trips, just chilling out at a café, and similar activities.

Fortunately enough, I was able to squeeze in a trip last May. Me and my friends in UP ROAD TRIP went north to Porac, Pampanga to have our annual community service activity.

As you know, we don’t travel just to enjoy. For this trip, we partnered with Teach Peace Build Peace Movement (TPBPM), an NGO whose goal is to make people become peace-builders through means such as peace education, arts, and sports. We went to Barangay. Sapang Uwak in Porac to assist them in their Brigada Eskwela mission.

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The community we visited is an Aeta community. According to an Inquirer report, Sapang Uwak is part of the Pinatubo Ayta ancestral domain. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the Aetas went down to the foot of the mountain to look for a safer haven. They found refuge in Sapang Uwak.

Our way to Porac from Los Baños has been a struggle for we traveled using public transportation. We left at 10 in the morning and arrived at about five in the afternoon in Porac. Seeing the place nature-filled gave us some sort of escape from the stress brought by the ton of academic loads. It was relaxing despite the long travel time.

When we got there, we had a briefing session with one of the interns of TPBPM. The place was quiet which made it more engaging to listen. During the middle of the orientation, the other members of TPBPM arrived at the headquarters. Meeting them was like meeting long-lost family members. They were warm and welcoming. In fact, we had dinner with them that night.

The next day, the real deal is about to begin. We had our breakfast at the headquarters then immediately prepared for the brigada mission.

Sapang Uwak Elementary School is just a few walks away from the headquarters. This is where we will have the mission. When we got to the school, the other members of TPBPM have already started re-painting the walls of the classrooms with murals. The design was beautiful and fit for the elementary students (see header photo too!).

Aside from assisting TPBPM in their brigada, we also conducted an activity of our own. We anchored it to one of our core advocacy, Environmentalism. Aeta kids of Sapang Uwak were invited to join. We were surprised to find out that more than 25 kids were participating although we were only expecting 15 to 20 kids. Nevertheless, more kids means more fun and more people to share our advocacy with.

The activity we prepared is a drawing activity. We asked the kids to form two groups. Each will have a cartolina folded in half. On the one-half, labelled Kasalukuyan which means “Present”, the kids will have to draw what they currently see in their community’s environment. They have to describe their surroundings whether good or bad. On the other half, labelled Pangarap which means “Dream”, the kids will have to draw how they want to see their community’s environment in the future. Do they want more trees? Do they want a cleaner lake? These are just some of the guide questions.

Most of the kids were actively participating in the activity. They drew a waterfall, fruit-bearing trees, and they even drew themselves happy and enjoying the waters. The activity was to let them realize the importance of the environment. It is also meant to inspire them to start protecting it.

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A pledge on protecting the environment was recited after. This is to sum up and conclude the mini activity we had. While holding hands, every kid promised to protect mother nature even at such a young age. They promised to make peace with Earth.

After the activity with the kids, we helped the rest of TPBPM in cleaning the classrooms. We rearranged the chairs and tables, put up the posters, painted the rooms, and cleaned the cabinets and storage areas. Although it was tiring, everything we did was for the students, for the community.

The next thing we did after the brigada mission was to go to the lake. It’s now time to relax! Together with TPBPM, we went to the lake to go for a swim. The area was actually a resort with activities such as wall-climbing, zip-line, and some sort of ‘survival trail’. We were the only ones in the resort for some reason. But we enjoyed it so much. A delicious sotanghon noodles for merienda completed the experience. We were very thankful for TPBPM’s warm welcome even if it’s already the end of the day.

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It was an inspiring experience for all of us. One of my main takeaways is that when you build peace, you don’t only make peace with people. You also make peace with the environment, with mother Earth.

I look forward to come back to Sapang Uwak especially when I remember seeing the kids smile for the camera. I do hope they can still remember me, and more importantly, what they learned from us.

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All photos used are mine, otherwise mentioned.

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