Rising, Flying, and Soaring on the Wings of Peace
By Madeline C. Marasigan
Over the passing of time, numerous symbols stood to represent peace, the most known of which are the Chi Ro and the dove with the olive branch. In the 70s, the YO and the V sign became the favorite pose of most people to show their stand against war. However, on that certain Saturday morning, September 14, 2013, the crane was evidently the chosen symbol of peace as the entire Sr. Caridad Barrion Hall shone brilliantly with paper cranes of all sizes and hues.
September 14, the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, is indeed a significant date for the entire Scholastican Community. More than a century ago, the first five German Missionary Benedictine Sisters braved the tides to reach the Philippine shores as they commenced their work of peace and love in the country. Now, this date is made even more significant as St. Scholastica’s College fortifies its commitment to this mission by launching its Peace Education Program and Peace Education Sourcebooks/Modules.
The program started with the viewing of the CEAP Peace Video produced by AB Mass Communication students under Prof. Mike Sandejas, dgpi. The lyrics and the melody of Simon and Garfunkel’s Sound of Silence proved to be a suitable music to accompany the pictures that illustrate the active role of women in the work for justice and peace.
Gracing this important event is our school president, Sr. Mary Thomas Prado, OSB, together with the other institutional administrators, members of the Manila Priory and the module authors themselves. In her opening remarks, she shared that the PAX is so ingrained in the lives of the members of the community that it is a greeting , a place, a recognition of a well-lived life, even an identity.
“The PAX Benedictina heritage is written all over us if only we take time to notice signs and cues… PAX is written all over our buildings. PAX is the name of the garden in the Grade School. PAX is our logo. PAX is the highest honor we give an alumna.”
On a personal level, one of the points of Sr. Mary Thomas’ remarks that struck me the most is the appropriateness of the timing of the launching. She related that in these moments of crises and state of unrest, she believed that everyone has a longing for peace in our lives, only in varying degrees.
“This is the moment to launch the Peace program and modules not because we are in a state of peace, serenity, calm and prosperity but because we are in a state of un-peace….. This is the right time because our world, our country, our community, is in dire need of peace.”
Truly one need not read the morning papers or catch the evening news to know that the world we now live in is stung by the venom of violence. Sr. Mary Thomas mentioned the crisis of good governance; the large-scale stealing of corruption; the local, national and international wars and conflicts; the swelling problem of poverty; and the amplifying environmental destruction. In my own humble reflection, it crossed my mind how one need not go far to feel the absence of peace. Unfortunately even inside our homes, workplaces and classrooms, peace can be overpowered by the shadow of apathy towards the marginalized, non-tolerance for differences among students, seemingly irresolvable conflicts with co-workers and lack of respect for authorities. However, I refuse to believe that everyone has succumbed to the fangs of indifference and has grown comfortable with the bites of violence. In my heart, a glow of hope is still flickering, no matter how weak it is, that inside the halls and surrounded by the walls of this institution, are numerous people who still believe in the essence of this journey towards achieving and experiencing real peace inside and outside our hearts. The only problem is we do not have, on our hands, the concrete blueprint or the map or the compass to guide us in our quest.
Sr. Mary Thomas shared that SSC has a rich culture and tradition of education for peace across different units and offices. However, there was a need to formalize, consolidate and uphold this body of knowledge and practices so that it can be passed from one generation to the next as a “guide and rich resource in shaping the lives of young people entrusted to us and our community as well.”
The Peace Education Program is St. Scholastica’s College concrete response to this call. Hence, in September 2011, Vice President for Academic Affairs Virginia R. Fornias courageously accepted the task from Sr. Mary Thomas, who began the project when she was then the VPPA. Hence, together with four other educators of SSC, Professor Fornias spearhead the creation of the modules entitled, “On Wings of Peace: Source books for Peace Education”. She shared that the project was conceptualized two years ago when SSC embarked on collaborative work with the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation and the Mayors for Peace Movement through Ms. Naoko Okimoto. It was the said movement that provided SSC with peace book collections which were helpful in the completion of the modules. These materials also helped increase the peace education collection in the College Library.
During the launching of the books, Prof. Fornias explained that On Wings of Peace is composed of five modules — 4 modules under Faith-inspired Modules for Peace Education in the College Setting written by Dr. Angelina Gutierrez of the Theology Department, School of Arts and Sciences; 1 module on War and Peace for High School written by Mrs. Malou Cura, the Assistant Principal and Social Studies teacher of the High School Unit; 17 modules on Creating a Grade School for Peace written by Mrs. Florina “Lala” Castillo, former Grade School Principal of SSC and Mr. Juanito Dona, Jr., Grade School Faculty; 2 modules of Peace Education Modules in Homeroom for High School written by Prof. Virginia R. Fornias, VPAA and 2 modules on Peacemaking for Employees written by Prof. Virginia R. Fornias, VPAA. The lay-out and design was done by Prof. Happy Castillo of the Fine Arts Department.
During her short speech, Professor Fornias shared that the release of the On Wings of Peace is not yet the end of the task but actually a part of a continuing journey. These modules will be made part of the curriculum across the three Units so that in this manner, peace education become something integrated and connected to the students’ learning, to be learned, assimilated and lived, inside and outside the classroom. She adds:
“The Peace Education Sourcebooks, “On Wings of Peace”, symbolized by the peace cranes, hope to bring peace to every hearts, to every individual, students and employees, young and old alike. On Wings of Peace aims at making each and every individual peace makers, peace builders and peace agents.”
She thanked all the people who have been instrumental into bringing this project into fruition. This made my heart so swollen that I have been given the honor and privilege of content validating the Homeroom Modules. During that time, I realized how important Peace Education is for I envision how many lives it will touch as each lesson is translated into discussion, activity and application. It was then that I realized, for us teachers and for our students, peace education is a starting panacea towards alleviating interpersonal conflicts and classroom bullying and fostering a more harmonious, accepting and loving classrooms.
As the event draws to its end, Mrs. Florina “Lala” Castillo, former Grade School Principal and an icon on peace education, brought us back to the past when more than a hundred years ago, five young brave German sisters set foot on Philippine shores, not knowing what lay ahead of them, not knowing that they will actually be planting the seeds of peace education in the school of the Lords’ service.
“Humbly, today we are making history again, coming full circle to that morning in September, when amidst winds, a dream of Peace began.”
Her closing remarks were brimming with gratitude for this is a time of “harvest”. She thanked not only to the founding members of the Benedictine Community in the country but also to the teachers who over the course of time, educated the students to more than just read and write but to “ listen to the human condition with the ear of our hearts.” She thanked our school president for commissioning them in this work, and entrusting to them the privilege of helping make the Peace Modules come true. In nostalgia, she recalled one grade school class which was tasked to write a book as a punishment for writing graffiti on the walls of the comfort rooms. The book was actually the first Peace Book written in SSC and was brought to the United States to a World Conference for Gifted Children. What made the anecdote more interesting was that the child editor of that book is now one of the authors of the On Wings of Peace — Mrs. Cura.
The singing of the closing prayer Let There Be Peace on Earth gave chills to everyone in the room as there could be no other song more appropriate for the event. As we belted the last lines of the song , we were all challenged to be beacons of light and living symbols of hope as we rise, fly and soar to bring peace to the lives of the all the people we “cross skies” with.