I distinctly remember how on the 6th of May, 2018, I had landed in Davao City in Mindanao, Philippines, and was anxious about finding my route to the venue for the Annual Peacebuilding Training of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc. (MPI). MPI had sent a volunteer and a driver to pick up a participant from Sri Lanka and me from the airport. With a beaming smile, they welcomed us, and within a few minutes, they started sharing many things from snacks to jokes and put us at ease. MPI knows more than a thing or two about making utter strangers turn into friends in a very short span of time. Dazed by travel exhaustion, I hoped that my next three-week experience at MPI would be one of such warmth.
Little did I know then that the MPI Annual Peacebuilding Training would turn out to be one of the best experiences I have had in my life! Looking back, I know that it was intensely enriching for many reasons. It was truly an immersion in global citizenship. I gained invaluable international, intercultural and even intersubjective experience; got wholesome food for the soul; picked up skills to handle conflicts and build peace; and overall, felt humbled as a learner and expanded as a human.
My sense of the world’s geography, histories, cultures, conflict contexts, and peace approaches grew immensely in those three short weeks at MPI. I had soul-stirring interactions with participants from Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Palestine, Afghanistan, Fiji, Bangladesh, Switzerland, Bougainville, Germany, Pakistan, Laos, Kenya, Vietnam, Japan, etc. I’m sure many of those who attended with me would have similar accounts to highlight. Such exchanges inform us how beautiful and necessary cultural sharing is. And what do I tell about my Filipino friends! They were so adorably warm and friendly! I learned a lot in their company.