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2015 June – July • Philippines Report
This visit by Sally Herzfeld and Valerie Joy was the fourth in a series of international visits which commenced in October 2013. The aim was to enhance and expand the delivery of Alternatives to Violence workshops, which took place in association with the members of AVP Philippines, who are the decision-making body. The relationship between Friends Peace Teams and AVP International was discussed, with Sally and Kins Aparece feeling comfortable with AVPI, whilst Valerie is focused on bringing the FPT-AWP energy and message. Ludwig Quirog is relaxed in representing both. Other facilitators, notably Frence Boiser and Siarol Divino are focused on delivery of workshops in the Philippines. Immediately before our arrival, two Basic Workshops had been held in Bohol, so there were considerable numbers waiting for the next two levels. With the training of 12 new facilitators, the development of AVP Philippines will be a primary goal, although one person works with an international NGO and hopes to spread AVP to wider circles. International visitors bringing AVP to the Philippines will be warmly welcomed in consultation with local organisers Kins and Ludwig.
De La Salle University (DLSU) This university is in Malate, Manila and is venue for the first workshop to be held in the capital. It was organised by Cyril Lituanas a senior administrator of DSLU, who had completed two levels of AVP in 2014. He arranged university accommodation for all 4 facilitators, and the venue was on top of the Henry Sy Sr Hall-a very pleasant outlook. We had our own caterer with Breakfast, Lunch and snacks being provided. 9 participants including Cyril finished the Basic, which is a smaller number than usual for the Philippines. All workshops were held over 20 hours, and usually took 2½ days.
Following this, an AVP reunion was held for participants in Manila who had completed one or two levels in 2014. We enjoyed Light and Livelies all afternoon and it was good to catch up with news of these people.
College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC): This totally new venue is in Cabanatuan, about 4 hours drive north of Manila and was arranged for us by Frence Boiser, through his Student Catholic Action contacts. The College goes from Kindergarten to Tertiary levels, and the staff of CIC were the participants- 20 in all. We were 5 facilitators this time. On arrival we were made very welcome by the College faculty with a very nice lunch and were shown the venue, which proved to be very suitable. We were accommodated in a motel out of town, and on the second night, were hosted to dinner there by the CIC President, Father Elmer and other senior staff, who reported they had heard the workshop was a great success. We hope there will be a continuation of AVP in CIC, and will rely on the contacts made there.
On returning to Manila, we were made welcome by Quaker Charlotte Lapsansky, who managed to accommodate all 5 of us. The next day four of us flew to Bohol to commence workshops there. Three of our 4 workshops were held at the University of Bohol (UB),
where we also held a 3 hour AVP “Taster” for 30 staff. AVP is well established here, through the work of Kins, the Dean of Research and Development. We were made welcome by the University President, Ma’am Jas, who has actively supported our work for the past 2 years. We enjoy free venues and for two workshops, lunch and snacks were provided. Administrative backup is arranged by Kins’ staff. Our final workshop an Advanced level was self catered, which meant there were no fees charged. Administrative backup was provided by Marge Angelot, who has completed all three levels and works for the provincial government- which is where AVP started in Bohol. Sally and I stayed in a rooming house near the University and paid for our own accommodation and all meals not provided during workshops.
I am disturbed by the stories of physical violence in most of the workshops- domestic and community. Use of guns and knives in households is commonplace and I hope AVP is making a difference with our graduates. We also made a visit to two prisons in Tagbilaran. A “taster” had been held in a Women’s Prison recently, and we were greeted very warmly.
We had 2 days off then and revisited Golden Links School run by the Theosophical Society and Quakers. Sally and I led singing games for one morning. There was feverish activity in Kins’ office making ready translated materials into the local language Cebuano ahead of our planned workshop in Loon. The arrangements were made mainly by Siarol, who comes from Loon. This town is a 1 hour drive from the capital Tagbilaran and suffered greatly in the 2013 earthquake. The venue was a chapel situated in the middle of town, with much activity going on outside-ball games, etc. We all liked this sense of being part of a community- they could see us, and we them.
Accommodation, dinner and breakfast was provided by Pew Pew, who had done a Basic in 2014. The 14 participants were aged 14-27 and were so delightful. They knew more English than we expected, but the translated materials were greatly appreciated and will be filed ready to conduct future workshops in that language. Several of them cried when we left.
T4F and Advanced: The final workshops were conducted back to back, but the demand was there, so Sally, Ludwig and I ran a final workshop the 2 days before leaving the Philippines. We are delighted with the standard of the workshops and the evaluations show how much has been learned. The “where to from here” segments were very interesting, but Sally and I did not comment a great deal. I think that AVP Philippines will gradually become established as a legal body, with a Treasurer and legal officer, and others providing a range of skills which will take the load off Kins and Ludwig. It takes a great deal of organising to develop new places, and it was good to see the contributions of Frence and Siarol in the development of the CIC and Loon community. One of the new graduates comes from Mindanao, and expressed a desire for AVP to be taken there. This has been the wish of AVP Philippines since its inception, but wisely they are not taking giant steps before the program is well established at its base in Bohol. Having just run 7 workshops in close proximity to each other, they will not resume until about October this year. They are now very competent to run any of the three standard levels of AVP, without outside assistance. There is a demand each time for trauma healing workshops, and any of the other advanced topics such as Discernment.
Future Involvement: For now, Ludwig and I will continue to be part of the monthly FPT-AWP working group calls and report on AVP Philippines. We would be greatly encouraged by any outside interest, either people interested in visiting, or financial donations. Ludwig’s paid employment with United Religions Initiative takes him to many parts of Asia, and he brings an international perspective to the work. They are all interested to hear about the proposed International AVP Gathering in Nepal in 2017, and I heard people say, “we must save up for this”. Further training in Indonesia is an option. There are now so many people who want to take AVP to deeper levels.
Sally Herzfeld made several offers at CIC and University of Bohol, and Loon, to return to the Philippines to conduct HIPP (Help Increase the Peace) Workshops for school age participants. This is conditional on local facilitators being willing to be part of her team. The teaching of alternative ways to respond to violence to young people and children would make a significant impact in families, schools and communities in the Philippines.