The Peace Poster by the Youth
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADeath is inevitable. It comes when you least expect it or it comes naturally as part of the cycle. Lately there had been losses in my life but not as significant as death. Nelson Mandela was one of the best leaders the world could have but sad to say he had passed away. As apartheid leaders who have united the rainbow nation into one, we can always count on his steps and be inspired from his work.

The lost of a person like Nelson Mandela is incomparable. It is a natural cycle of life that we cannot avoid. But lost due to war and conflict is something different.

Zamboanga, a promising land and rich in all aspect was the least place you could think of traveling right now. Why ? I don’t think you been living in the cave not to hear about the siege that broke out. The followers of  Moro National Liberation Front under the ruling of Nor Misuari hostaged 14 Barangays and held the people in captives. They created scare, attacks and bombings. Estimated of more than 57 million pesos was worth of the damages in the land with regards to property and economic goods. Not to mentioned the death tolls affected by the war.

Silly it may seem, Zamboanga as the melting pot of different culture in Mindanao is like an apartheid nation but I don’t think we need a Nelson Mandela to unite it. I mean if the youth of today stand up and be counted in working for Peace then there is no need to rest the future of the land in the hands of one man. It’s time to stand up and take initiative for our rights, Our Human Rights.

Seeing Zamboanga with my own eyes and the rich culture it had amidst the diversity makes me say it had a lot of promise. Promise that its youth can hold and flourished. Meeting people and working with the youth for the Peace campaign opened my eyes to the real treasure Zamboanga hold, it’s the Youth.

#CountMeIn Zamboanga project was one of the testimonials that could prove how Youth can be able to rise from the rubbles of war. The overwhelming participation shows how Zamboanga Youth was able to manage the pressure that it has been put up  by negative forces.

As a celebration of the International Human Rights Week, let me end this by saying that no one deserves death by violating ones human rights. Everyone should have the peace they deserve. J

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By: Jumjum Ouano

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Today, November 6 2013, the State of Illinois had adopted the Gay Marriage Bill capping it to 15 states in the United States of America to have recognized the Rights of the Homosexuals to be married in the Church.

Today, November 6 2013, the marginalized sector of Albay marched down from Bicol University to Albay Capitol Grounds to shout to the legislators to have the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance be  approved.

This significant day marks a new hope for the People with Disabilities (PWDs), Deaf Community, Senior Citizens, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuals, Trangenders (LGBT), Youth and other marginalized sectors of Albay that once in for all, end all forms of Discrimination in the Province.

Let me bring you back in time. 2006, Where the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance was filed by the Civil Organization “Gayon” headed by Rolando Rivac. Gayon was an organization of LGBT community who seeks to end discrimination they have experience in the Province. Homosexuals are assaulted in the streets and the Police officers won’t even take the complaints of the victims seriously because of being stereotype as “Gays”. Worst, the Ordinance did not even survive the first round of Public reading since it was protested by the Church.

The Ordinance is not only for the LGBT community as stressed by the People behind the filling of the Ordinance. It is for all marginalized sectors in the Province who has experience inequality and discrimination in any forms. It so happen that “Gayon” was the one who took the initiative to file the Ordinance but the benefits of it is not only for the LGBT community but also for PWDS, Senior Citizens, Youth and other sectors.

Yesterday, we went out to the Media to disseminate some of the advisories for Today’s event. We did some plug-ins in the radio and some casual conversation with the media people to at least enlighten them the importance of foot parade. After that we head to send out the invitation to the partner community that will join us tomorrow, the Deaf sectors. Then we learned some disheartening experiences of discrimination they had themselves in the hands of the people of Albay.

There was one experience were a deaf person tried to apply a driving license in the government office. Because he was not able to talk and the attendant on the window can’t understand sign language he tried to write down on a piece of paper the transaction that he needed. The attendant then realized that the person had disabilities she then got irritated and threw away the paper.

What the PWDs wanted to happen was to have a special desk for them that will accommodate their needs in all private and government offices but of course it’s better if we end all forms of discrimination and mal treatment to everyone regardless of gender, age, religion and race. No single human needs to be treated like that and that’s why the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance is a small step we can make to ensure this.

Today, the move to re-file the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance and have it approved will start with a small step. The step which we make to let the public hear our voices, the voices of the marginalized sector, that out there discrimination and hate crime is true and happening. On our back was the hope that Hon. Glenda Ong Bongao together with other Board Members will help us push thru the approval of the Ordinance. We had send the message to all thru various media that we want Equality and we want it Now! We want the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance approved for Albay same as it happened already in Cebu. We might not be able to change the National Legislators to push the Anti-Discrimination Bill but we are doing it one step at a time. It’s time for Albayanons to step up and be brave to end discrimination now!

October 15, 2013

I was trying to browse my facebook when I stumble upon a post that says a 7.2 M earthquake hit Bohol, my hometown. I read more and saw some devastating pictures of old cultural heritage church turn into rubbles. We head to Brngy. Apopong in General Santos City to do some feeding for the poverish children of that community, I was not at ease and my worries increase when I heard my mother told me that our fence collapse and it hit the back portion of our house.

October 22, 2013

After a week of that devastating event I was able to go home (together with my Fellow Youth Leaders) and see the real situation in my province. The moment I step into the brick road of the Tagbilaran Port you can see how the road cracks and how the earth did move. Although most houses were not damage you can still feel the effects of the earthquake because most establishments are close, afraid of the still ongoing aftershocks.

The Relief Operation

 

The next day together with my fellow Youth Leaders, some Akbayan Youth members and Youth volunteers we went to a far flung Barangay in Inabanga. We did not donated more goods to the relief operation centers since there had been a lot of it stock already. What they need most right now are vehicles that they can use to deliver the relief goods to affected areas. So we hire a private car to carry all the goods for Brngy. Ilaya, Brngy. Datug and Brngy. Baguhan of Inabanga.

It was a long travel of around 2 hours or more in very tough roller coaster road since the easy route is inaccessible anymore.  Passing the towns of Balilihan, Catigbian and Clarin you can see much more of how the earthquake tried to tear the land apart. Public structures like the municipal hall, markets and among others were cracked down or collapse. I don’t know what to feel upon seeing these scenes. Lots of people are camping outside because they feel not safe in their homes anymore, children weaving for placards with sign asking for food to any vehicle that pass by them and lastly some of the famous chocolate hills corroded.

Finally upon reaching the area we set out the paper asking for representatives of each household to sign. “If the household has no representative we cannot try to release some relief goods for them”, one of the relief operation coordinator said. “But I am representing five families ma’am”, one of the Barangay Councilor pointed out. “Where are the people from the other four household you are representing? Why can’t they send a representative?” the coordinator asked. “Some of them are not able to come here ma’am. They are old and others have sick children to tend. Aside from that we are camping in a bit farther area from here” he answered. “Where is it then your camping? The coordinator replied.  “Over there!” while the councilor pointed out a blue improvised tent out of used tarpaulins in a very far area, about miles away or shall I say 2 – 3 mountains away.

Then with the help of the Barangay Chair we had dispatch the goods properly. Household who were not represented were given relief goods through their relatives or neighbor (We just hope it would reached to them). Then we moved to the next Barangay.

Lessons from the Aftershock

With all of this coming home and lending a helping hand somehow I felt fulfilled to do a little share of my time and strength to help out. I may say I am still lucky since my family are not really heavily affected by the earthquake and I can’t stop but share this opportunity of showing others how life can still be good in spite the odd situations.

  • Selflessness

That in this time of crisis selflessness is more of a value, sometimes life is not always about you, it’s not about getting all the attention and recognition people around you can give because sometimes it’s okay not to be recognized when it’s for the good of others. That it’s okay to give your strength when others are weak, you adapt when others are misplaced and that you give without expecting to gain anything. That sharing is not just a mere word of giving a piece of goods because sharing is more than that. It is giving to ensure that everyone had equally received but also the equity of what they received.

  • Integration

Integration is action, it is not staying with the people sympathizing, it is being with the people. You eat what they have and you live the life they offer. You can never integrate when you hold hesitation, when you buy food because it’s what your appetite can consumed, you live with your mobile and the internet services it offers because it is your lifestyle.

  • Volunteerism

You offer your help without anything to expect in return. No not lunch or food or any amount of money. Volunteerism is giving yourself because of the passion that burns in you and you can’t contain it, the passion to help. You are not the star of the show this time. So don’t expect special treatment from others or even from the people you are trying to help out. Your own special interest is not welcome here either.

  • Leadership

Everyone can lead. All it need is the power to take one step. That you start to care for your fellowmen and you can offer what you have. That you are strong to left them up in times they are down and that you are capable of bringing them to greater heights because you see the importance of growing and developing together as a group, as a community.

During the relief operations this values had surface and some had lack to understand it. That it is sad to note that some Volunteers don’t understand what they are up to when volunteering. Maybe they are confused of their role or maybe they are not ready to take part in the responsibility not only them but even some of the leaders in the community or the relief operations coordinator.  They forgot about integration and selflessness, about leadership and volunteerism.

Some families teach their children that relief goods are charity when it is not intended to be like that. Relief goods are temporary aid because the area is incapable of access to the market or to any basic needs. And relief goods are intended for those who badly need them and not to those who are capable of doing work to put some food in their table but choose not to do so because someone provides them help. Consider this, how are your lives before the calamity and how does it badly affects you? Karma my friend you might not want bad things to happen to you in thousand folds.

Some of our leaders and government officials are doing a bad business of politicking. Do not delay those relief operations because you feel like you have the ownership over a community. Do not try to corrupt the tax payer’s money and when the people badly need it and you cannot deliver the services. Affected areas do not need more of those charitable goods already, business and private sectors had delivered that for them. What they need now is fast recovery of the infrastructures for them to sell their fruits and bring back their economic life, rebuild bridges, fix roads and put up their markets.

Barangay Election in Bohol was moved to a later schedule from the original national local election schedule. It was moved by the Commission on Election because the area is not yet ready to hold any election. You can never stop these politicians to mix business with pleasure, put in their personal interest and political gain but spare the few good and honest ones. Again, Karma my friend you might not want bad things to happen to you in thousand folds. Are you not ashamed looking at the faces of the people you had just corrupted?

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Note:

Bohol still experience shaking (aftershocks) often in the morning and in the evening. Some establishments in the city are open already, Panglao and its beaches were not affected heavily, same in Ubay, Guindulman, Jagna, Anda and other parts of Bohol in the northern side. Some parts of Antiquera, Maribojoc, Loon and Tubigon are still isolated. These towns which I have never been to after the earthquake had smell a bit different already according to some rumors. 

Splish, Splash…

As we walk to the road wet with the rain mixed with spit, phlegm, urine, and human shit I can picture all the squalid community that awaits us to Barangay 105, Smoky Mountain 2, Tondo, Manila.

I had always known how the slum community in country had been so overused as the image for the nation’s poverty. Somehow I don’t know how to feel or to react seeing such images as sometimes they might be exaggerated by the photographers or the media. Shanties of poverty are always touching image for an artistic piece and often I don’t believe that they exist  but this had never sink into me not until today (Monday, September 30, 2013)

Sunday evening. I am already anticipating for the itinerary on a visit to Tondo. I had ambivalent feeling of what to expect when we get there. We prepared all the things that we needed to bring at the same time part of it was preparing ourselves, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Tondo, Manila. One of the oldest are in Manila, almost one tenth of the slum dwellers are situated in this area. But before hand, if you are going to trace history probably the area of Tondo or “Tundu” was the riches kingdom before the Spanish came. They were ruled by the Lakans and had established their own system of writing. Probably it’s not a coincidence that even the two prominent names in the history of the Philippines revolution against the Spanish Regime came from this district of Manila, namely, Andres Bonifacio (the Leader of the Katipunan) and Emilio Jacinto (the Brain of the Katipunan).  But what happen to this place now?

Monday. We left the house around quarter to 10. It was a bit sunny on the way. One of my comrade suggested that we buy something for the people in the Barangay that we will visit, probably, some food or some toys for the kids. When we were in the grocery, we had a hard time deciding on what to buy and how many. We are afraid that we might be able to give something for everyone but at the same time we don’t want anyone will be left without nothing. This dilemma had left us with a decision of rather not bringing anything than to bring something not enough for all that may lead to disappointments.

We have to take to trains, one from Anonas – Recto then shifted to Doreteo Jose – Jose Abad Santos. On the way the was orangey mixed with grey skies like a scene you can imagine when the world is going to end. Dusky and eerie while you are inside the train with people standing waiting for the other line.

When we had to go down we meet Nonoy and his two companions who will help us talk with the Barangay officials to let us get inside the Charcoal area of Barangay 105, Tondo. Sadly, the heavy drops of rain started to pour as we had the tricycle and few rides of Jeepneys. A few more walks to the muddy road leading the Barangay Hall where we meet the officer in charge.

Beside the Hall was a basketball court (as often Barangay Halls are always near the Basketball court) packed with people camping in cardboards and blankets. Scantly children running from here in there while families sleep with their dogs or their roster.

“A fire broke out last Saturday”, one of the Tanod (Barangay Police) said.

“These are the families affected by the fire, they have to stay in the basketball court since they have nowhere to go”, she added.

After waiting for several minutes to get an approval to be inside the Barangay we then started walking towards the other end, The annex of Barangay 105, the Smoky Mountain 2.

As we head nearer to the area, I don’t know what to feel, deep inside me is saying “Is this real?” You can see big cargo trucks everywhere in the area. Most of it is carrying garbage being segregated by some of the communities within. Plastics are being separated from metal and wood is being kept in the other side. While the rain had stop pouring, you can see some kids playing in the mud or digging something on it. Foul smell is everywhere, smell of human feces, urine, sewer, rotten food or anything you can’t describe. There is something in the place that struck me; everything is dull and dark from the ground to walls of the houses even to the sky.

We walked inside the Charcoal making area, on our way, a young kid was mumbling. “Roll out the metal carpet! If I would become the President of this country I would have this road made of metal so that it won’t ruin easily”. Well, how can you blame her? As I try to figure out what we are walking into it’s not even a road. The ground is mixed with plastic and all sorts of trash, muddy soil in black and it’s soft. I don’t know if were walking in pile of trash but the looks of it, it’s something you won’t like to fall with.

Some dump sites in Manila are located in Tondo. Garbage from inside the city and other areas are carried here to be segregated or burned way back years ago. But since the practice of burning the trash had became an environmental issue and segregation did not really worked out well the file of trash just keep on increasing every year.  With this, families who are coming from the rural areas seeking a good life in the city fled to the place and lived as slums. They earned a living by scavenging trash from the mountain of garbage within the place.

Careful as we walked thru the Charcoal making area, a child around two or three years of age and naked just run pass us. The child seems dirty but does not mind at the garbage mud road at all. You can see a small community living their normal lives without minding the background of trash that propped in their everyday life. You may say they are malnourish or unhealthy but it does not show. They seem to be adopting well to the environment and for them garbage everywhere is normal.

After we went thru the community we emerge in an area where smug slowly fills your nose. More muddy garbage road as your path and on the lower side of seems to be a cliff you see huts in wooden skeletons and metal sheets with smoke. At first thought it seems the area where the fire had broke out last time. You can see kids in the hammock sleeping. When we drew nearer the hut hold some woods inside it and some were fenced mountain of soil. The smoke was coming from below the soil mountain (later it was explain to us by the Tanod that came with us the process of making charcoal. The pile of wood was burned while covered with metal sheets and soil to prevent too much smoke).

There were not just able men working in the Charcoal area but even kids or families. It serves as one of their livelihood in the place. Charcoal making takes 3 days so after the days off kids enjoy swimming in the bay nearby. They never mind the pollution that’s present in the water which is very evident by its black pearl color

Most of the residence from Baranggay 105 are not really from the place, they are immigrants coming from the rural areas of the country. Probably, they see Manila as a place they can escape poverty in their province as Manila is the center of commerce and business in the country. They abandoned their fertile lands to achieve as what my comrade coined as “The Pinoy Dream” without realizing the uncertainty that they have to face in the big city. Worst, they can never go back their hometown since food and surviving is the basic necessity than the expensive fare for ferry or plane. They learned to teal the futile lands and have their family survive in such place. Simply, the image of poverty? or the image of having no choice?

Then we had back to where we started a small hut with all the components of being a house. We were so thankful to our guide Mang Ayong and his comprades. Then we say are thank yous… One of our comrades ask him from where is he originally? And he replied, “Taga Cebu” (From Cebu).

“Ahhhh bisaya diay ka noy?” (So you are from visayas)

“O doy! Kamao diay ka mo bisaya?” (Yes I am, so you know how to speak bisaya?)

“O noy! Taga Bohol man ko (Yes, I am from Bohol)

Then he gave me a shy smile.

A shy smile that is all I need to understand how much he misses his hometown.

Afterwards we have left the place. Then the rain stops and the sun had started to shine again.

At the Manila Bay

H.C. Andersen Statue at the Copenhagen City Hall

H.C. Andersen Statue at the Copenhagen City Hall

While I was touring around Denmark I can’t help but compare what they have to what our country look like from the inside. Physically both countries looks very nice, the environment was very stunning but in the real sense of governing each country Philippines is slowly rotten and decaying.

To further see the big comparison of each country I would like to use the life of two known writers with different backgrounds while moving into how was it during the past few years to the recent condition of their country.

Who would never know a great fairy tale writer? Yup, Hans Christian Andersen, the fame writer of many children literature. Perhaps, the Little Mermaid? Or the Ugly Duckling? But have you ever wonder where he came from?

Yes, like you I never care from which country he came from not until I step into the land that cradles him to write some wondrous stories, stories that are not really intended for a very young reader but for the youth and adult (the fact that most of the stories don’t have really happy ending but sad tragic ones).

I would never stumble upon H.C. Andersen’s name not until my friend ask me for a souvenir from Denmark, a souvenir that signifies the place, a landmark or a popular association. I had to google for that symbol and to my surprise the statue of the fame Little Mermaid on the rock of a Harbor by Edvard Eriksen pop out as one of the keywords in the search engine. Because of this, I further broaden my research and had reach to a realization that H. C. Andersen is from Denmark (He even had a street name in Copenhagen). And a big statue of him can be found at the side of Copenhagen City Hall if you care to read the labels.

The City has lots of statues all around, statues of famous people, symbols and mythological figures. Most of them labeled and the rest are not. Copenhagen, the largest city in Denmark and one of H.C. Andersen is also the oldest city around Denmark. Evident from it architecture you can say it has been around for hundreds of decades. The well preserve houses, cinema and brick road in the Center of the City was now converted into shopping place maintaining the exterior look but modernizing the function. It is also the busiest place in town.

Copenhagen is also where H. C. Andersen moves out after he finished studying in Odense to seek out employment as an actor in Royal Danish Theater before becoming a writer. His Education in Odense was paid by the King where in if we translate it to the recent condition every kid in Denmark studies for free. Denmark has this “Social Welfare System” where they invest a lot in giving the citizens the best possible access to basic human rights. Visiting their government schools from elementary to tertiary encourages you to study. A Government school which has all the best facilities for you to get the best possible education for free. Even during H.C. Andersen’s time education is accessible for every child since the Government had tried its best to give what is necessary for its people.

Later on when H. C. Andersen became a writer he read stories to the Labor workers and their children. The Labor workers which created the Trade Union had much to say in the history of Denmark. It had brought social reforms in the country, established the Social Democratic movement and internationalism, thus, giving importance to the labor market who strives to make the Government better. Much to say, my visit to the Trade Union (LO) office in Copenhagen proves a lot. Kasper Sand, LO’s youth consultant, had explain to us the importance of labor unions in Denmark and how it safe guards the rights of the workers, how the Trade Union keeps Denmark’s economy going and how it help in making the Social Welfare System effective. I even attended a forum which participated by the youth who are so interested in the labor conditions in their country (Given the situation in the Economic recession in some EU countries). It was very informative and you can really see the eyes of the youth the passion to move their country to even a better place.

I can say even the rich history that Denmark had has inspire H.C. Andersen to write stories of values and culture, The Emperor’s New Clothes perhaps. Evident in the nation’s landmarks are the huge castles that once own by Kings and Queen, the Kronborg Castle for example (Which also inspired William Shakespeare to write the “Hamlet”). Before, Denmark and other Scandinavian countries were under the role of a Queen, Margaret I. Which means women can assert their role and power in the Scandinavian society. Recently, Denmark’s Prime Minister is a female, Helle Thorning – Schimdt. And to note the monarchy in Denmark had lost its ruling power they are now for ceremonial purposes which gives the Prime Minister and the Cabinets the responsibility to run the State.

H.C. Andersen did not stay in his country but further on went to travel and wrote travelogues those strengthening International Solidarity with other writers in other countries. He died due to illness in Copenhagen. Eventually, he had made used the time of his life.

Now, how about a well known Novelist? Surely you are familiar with Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo? How could you not know the famous books written by our nation Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal, since elementary till college education we are taught how this man had fought for our freedom.

The novelist had shown exemplary skills since he was a child. He flaunt his public and literary skills when he recited the poem “Sa aking mga kababata” (To my fellow youth) when he was still eight years old. Taught by his mother at home, the young Rizal fancy so many stories, specially the one about the Mother and child moth.  Well, most Filipino children are taught by their parents at home to prepare them to school or often they have no choice since education in the country is expensive. Even the going to the Government school requires you to pay for the basics like the uniforms, projects and school events. Luckily, our national hero can afford to study in educational institutions since his mother really stressed out the importance of education. Compare to our other hero, Andres Bonifacio, who grow up in the rural area where education is rarely a thing for the youth.

Dr. J. P. Rizal who grew up in a middle class family did not escape the atrocities of the Colonial Spanish regime. He struggle to pursue his education and travel abroad (especially to the western countries) to make friends, pondering on the importance of International Solidarity. While he was gone our other hero, Andres Bonifacio strengthen the labor forces and tried to unite them to fight against the conquerors.

But Dr. J.P. Rizal who was almost one of the elites during that time (since even the Spanish Regime the elites are the ones who are in power) came home and showed to the people that the Philippines as a country are for the Filipino people. He tried to fight for democracy and crafted his Novels spreading the message of hope that liberation is possible if Filipinos work for it.

Dr. J. P. Rizal was declared enemy of the Spanish Friars, well they hated him. Probably that’s what happens to you if you step down from being elite to commune with masses. How I wish leaders in our government will do the same, just wishful thinking.

Our national hero died in a young age and have not able to see the fruit of his labor came to realization, but have it?

Even thought up to this day we are enjoying a democratic country I can we are still not fully liberated. It’s not true democracy that we are experiencing since the power is not in the people but with the few elites. Corruption and patronage politics still lingers in the air.

Comparing to the parliament system in Denmark, the Politicians hold accountable to the people. They create laws and opportunity for the people to grow and develop, whilst in our country, the Politicians creates law and opportunity for their pockets to grow and their business to develop.

But the two countries are not far different from each other in terms of youth participation. Both Rizal and Andersen understand the importance of education and their contributions to make their country better to live in. H.C. Andersen struggles to let his stories be told to young people and children of labor workers to give them hope that in spite the struggles they have during his time they can still achieve a better Denmark. Dr. J. P. Rizal wrote some novels about a Protagonist effort to liberate himself from selfish people as it gives hope to the real people struggling for freedom from Spanish regime. Translating it to what’s happening now, the young people of both countries does not see how political involvement and participation can changed the country. Maybe for Denmark, the young people are enjoying a lot of comfort and privilege that they less care about the system. And maybe for Philippines, the young people get tired of fighting for true democracy that they get used to this kind of system already.

You may say I’ve used two different personas as comparison, that I could have used Soren Kierkegard or Andres Bonifacio for instance, but why should I? These two countries are meant to be different in any ways.

But what I am trying to put across here is that that Philippines politics can still be change, Denmark have done it in years. My short trip to Denmark has made realize that anything can be possible, that change is inevitable and we need to take action.

International Solidarity, What is it?

Imagine

If I could describe International Solidarity in a song it would be John Lennon’s “Imagine”, world that is united regardless of race, color, beliefs or government.

“Imagine” was the track from John Lennon’s (Band member of “The Beatles”) second album during the years when he started to go solo. The hippy song was inspired from the book “Grapefruit” of Yoko Ono, his wife. Eventually, the song was not release not until 1975 and was placed #6 in UK singles chart. Right after John Lennon’s death on 1980, the song hit #1.

The song was about hope and peace, urging the listeners to fly away in a land where there is no country, religion, war, and property. That everyone is equal, there is no divisiveness, to consider the possibility that the focus of humanity should be living a life unattached to material possessions and that it is easy to achieve if we are united.

Well, the ambitious song may seem not possible at a first glance but I guess it was.

What I am talking about was the experience I had during the DUF (Danish Youth Council) Leadership Course. I’ve been to Denmark because of this awesome partnership project that we had with the DSU (Social Democratic Youth of Denmark) and Akbayan Youth.

During this Youth leader course I was able to meet young people like me from 8 different countries around the world, in 3 continents. It’s like being around the globe for a shorter period of time. I’ve meet the youth from Uganda, Rhowanda, Palestine, Jordan, Morroco, Bhutan, Philippines and from Denmark which made me to aspire more.

Two weeks, In-house, course was full packed with stories, tears, inspirations, love, hope, fun, surprises, creativity and camaraderie. Surely, I had taken with me a lot of insights and friendship that is all over the world. We have learned from each other and it was a rare opportunity. Somehow, we made an invisible bound that is rooted in the hearts of what we are moving for, that we might not able to change the world but somehow we can make a difference, the “difference” as an agent for change that will inspire the other youth to do the same. That wither, social democrats, liberals or fundamentalist, unity is possible if we learn to “respect” each other. That Christians, Muslims, Hindi, Buddhist and non-believers can co-exist if we keep an “open mind” and an “open heart”. And that it does not matter if your black, white or orient as along as “love” resides in our hearts.

In the course we were taught to recognize each other’s flaw, embrace each other’s culture and make it something special. Acknowledge a person as a human being with rights and the obligation that comes with it. We are taught that a conflict can be solved by listening and that dialogues are not meant to argue but to meet in between and agree on something. That a song starts with a melody and so are peace, love and healing.  Lastly, that peace and change does not begin with others but with the man you see standing in the mirror.

Say, a big thanks to Marie and Jesper, the people from DUF that serves as our role model and to all the facilitators who unselfishly give their time and knowledge to help us see more clearly of what kind of future that we want. My co-youth leader, who made it not hard for me to “Imagine”, that at the end of John Lenon’s song:

“You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one…”

But with DUF and the Youth Leaders I meet from around the globe we have join together to make the world live as one.

School had started and I always go home late since my last class ends at 9:00 in the evening. I had never updated my Friday conversation blog for a while and made me panic that I may not be able to start from where I left it. Worst, it might end up like all the other blogs that I have which are only good from that start but became idle for the rest of the years.

So to be honest, I don’t know how to start since I have never been interviewing people around on a certain topic and I never did the conscious effort to do so. But luckily one Friday just give me a reason to write again.

I just finished my class at 9:00 and decided to walk myself home since I don’t have enough cash left anymore for the ride. I was also worried that by the end of the week I might not be able to go to school if I spend most of my money on the ride. Since its Friday and I had never done any physical activity lately I gave in to the idea of walking home.

As I was starting to exit the school gate, I fasten my walking phase towards the main highway. Not so far away I’ve seen two familiar figures walking themselves home, I assume. I tried to catch up the two petite girls who were in my class too and decided to walk together with them. Well, they were kind enough to let me joined their phase on the way home while both of them were chatting. In the nearby intersection the other girls bid goodbye as the other one had to continue walking straight that were we started our conversation.

Her name was Fritzie, petite, slender and tanned colored. She lives with her Aunt in a big house but her family hails in another Municipality. She was one of my favorite to say since she’s not only good in sewing and designing she’s also polite and soft spoken, a girl full of Hope, ambition and dreams. While on the road I ask her a few several questions just to draw out her ideas on the certain topic, Hope.

So you live with your Auntie? Isn’t it hard?

Living away from your family is difficult but at least I am lucky that I am living with my auntie. She’s still like family to me but it’s really different when its not your own comfort zone but i know this condition will not be forever so i have to do my best and waste no efforts.

Do you miss your parents?

Of course I do but I don’t need to worry much since they often come to visit me here in Tagbilaran. We really live in Negros Oriental, in San Carlos and it’s just that I have to go to college that we have to migrate here for a while. As much as I want all of us staying together in one place I had to bare with our recent condition to be able to fulfill my dream of graduating in college.

How important is Education to you?

It is very important for me. I have hope someday that if I finished college I might be able to find a good job and help my parents uplift our condition. Who does not dream for a better future? I guess everyone does but the perseverance to achieve that better future should be something more bigger than your dreams. Do you think you can achieve your dreams? I do. I am already in 3rd year of my college and I think I will not be able to succeed all those years of torture in school if I am not holding to my dreams. I do hope that this is a key to succeed in what ever ambition we have in life. I hope to be a good designer someday and I am trying to achieve that simple ambition a have in life.

Do you have failing subjects?

Honestly, yes I do have. But I do not stop from where I stumble. I always make it a point to stand up every time I fall down. I am not so good with numbers so to be honest but I am trying my best to understand and love mathematics. I do not lose hope so easily because if I do how will I be able to proceed?

How come you have lots of hope? Aren’t you hoping too much?

Because i believe that in times we are troubled and don’t know what to do hope is all that’s left of us. If i let go of that single thing that keeps going with my dreams then maybe i might not be able to achieve my goals. I also believe that there is no much if its hope. Its not wrong to hope you aid it with actions. In my case i am not just hoping and waiting for it to happen. Of course, i had to do something and that’s why i am studying very well to finished my college. This is what i hope for and this is the hope of my parents which i will not fail.

Then our conversation had to be cut short since her home was already nearby. But to myself that short and interesting conversation with Fritzie brought me to one of the quotes I will borrow from Percy Jackson and the Olympian series. At the book four of the said series when the conflict of the protagonist was at its tipping point he said “Hope survives best at the hearth”. That means when your about to give up always hold on to it because it will never leave without being given permission. To dream is free and so is to hope. Perhaps if we all hope for something better it might be given.