It was a return to form for the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute as 2022 heralded in the Institute’s 21st Annual Peacebuilding Training held October 10 to 21, 2022, at Mergrande Ocean Resort in Davao City, Philippines. The modified two-week training brought together old and new faces and even saw international participants despite the COVID-19 restrictions.
I enrolled in one of the newest MPI courses in 2022, the Theory and Practice of Peace Advocacy (PA) facilitated by Vanessa “Ned” Bible and Gabrielle “Gabs” Sagaral. Aside from enjoying the learning experience, I also met engaging and passionate peacebuilders from various cultural settings, who were very open to exchanging ideas and experiences, supplementing the practice dimension of the course.
I brought with me my limited peacebuilding experience and a lot of questions, but I came out with so many valuable insights. With this piece, I share my experience in the course through what I would refer to as three spheres of reflection and four power bits taken from my self-made “Advocacy Toolkit,” something each participant made as we progressed through the course.
Attending the MPI 2022 Annual Peacebuilding Training in person was an act of faith and courage. When I received the invitation, I wondered if this was the right use of resources. COVID-19 was still spreading. The disturbing war in Ukraine and local issues demanded time. I spent a long time discerning whether to participate. Will it be worth the time and energy? Is this the correct use of resources? What can I contribute to the life and spirit of this event? Other peace advocates helped clarify my intentions, while former participants encouraged me to attend.
I decided to attend MPI’s Annual Peacebuilding Training with three goals: connect with other participants, learn from each other, and explore the terrain of peace work in the region. Peace work entails working with others, building friendships, and offering solidarity. I was very touched that some peace advocates offered to sponsor my travel and training costs.
My MPI training is perhaps the highlight of my learning journey for 2022. It not only introduced me to a world of peacebuilders and changemakers, but it also allowed me to understand more deeply why our very existence in this community of practice matters for a lot of reasons.
As a young communications practitioner from a small town in Southern Leyte, I never thought of coming to Mindanao, experiencing its diversity, and at the same time, realizing how this island has been challenged by decades-long conflict, fought courageously by peacebuilders and peace advocates. It then dawned on me how I was out of touch with this reality and maybe, just maybe, I can be part of this peacebuilding work with the skills I have when the time comes.
The experience at the Annual Peacebuilding Training of the Mindanao Peace Institute (MPI) in Davao City was a dream come true. It was a long and cumbersome journey with lots of new experiences ranging from airline regulations to emergency landing that resulted in missed flights and finally an earthquake. In spite of all of this, the climax was a safe space that brought different experiences gained not only from a post-war country in Africa but also other parts of the world.