As the peace art ritual took place last February 8 to inaugurate the peace talks and children were speaking intentions for light and healing for peace, I touched the earth to connect to the energy of the ritual and felt it breathe and move. At first I thought I was just dreaming but I felt it. I felt the heartbeat of the earth... so I made sure I connected to the land that has been fought for for decades between armed rebel groups and the military, the land that absorbed all bloodshed from centuries old colonization and the displacements and human rights violations in contemporary times.
Last March 12, I did the same with 70 interfaith youth as we closed our mandala making workshop and connected them to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan just the day before. Again, I felt the earth breathe - even if our hands were connected to cement.I asked them to touch the same earth that moved the tectonic plates and caused the waves to crash through Japan. It was a beautiful solemn ritual.
Last Saturday, I was illustrating the balete tree for a lecture ritual series poster at the University of the Philippines campus. The Balete is a sacred tree to the indigenous traditions here where diwatas (or fairies/goddesses) reside. Before I took my pencil and sketchpad out, I dedicated 30 minutes to clear out all the condoms, wrappers, syrofoams, and even soiled toilet paper around it and in between its root systems. I was appalled and embarrassed by the way we treated this tree. My heart was aching as I said sorry as I picked out one trash at a time. It was just impossible to draw its magnificence without doing so. I had to encourage every student who passed by to organize a clean up drive and ways of ensuring waste management in campus. It was sad to hear one of the students say, "This is U.P., students would rather march on the streets than clean the environment."
Yesterday, to continue the peace prayers for Japan by the Tala youth facilitated by Russell (I wasn't able to make it on time yesterday because of the tree illustration :-(. See photos of their prayers here) I engaged them in a lotus origami workshop and we used their prayers in combination with colored paper to make the flowers. The lotus flower is symbolic for the strength and beauty radiating amidst darkness and challenge. This beautiful flower can thrive in muddy and dirty water which is why it is a symbol for many spiritual paths that teach transcendence and wisdom.
No longer strangers to environmental disaster displacement, the members of the Muslim-Christian Peacemakers' Association of Tala have once been displaced by the flood waters that swelled and overflowed their river in 2009 during hurricane Ketsana. The entire community had to stay at the basketball court after the river erroded their homes and flushed out their material belongings. Luckily they all survived. The community was strengthened by the disaster as they worked hand in hand - Muslims and Chrsitians together to rebuild their homes and lives.
Below are photos from an arts relief I helped out in together with the Peacemakers Circle and Balay Rehabilitation Center.See more photos on this album - Climate Change Through the Eyes of Children
|Climate change through the eyes of a child|
|her home by the river washed out|
|Tala kids in 2009 during an arts relief for emotional recovery|
Together with the Imams and the Christian elders of the community, we brought the flowers down by the river side which once roared and engulfed them. After interfaith prayers in oneness with the Japanese people one by one we sent off each lotus flower with the river. We believed that the river and the ocean tsunami are one water. So we connected to that to transform future disasters to come.
|prayers and color paper combined|
|a mandala of lotus flowers|
|sending off the prayers|
As we got back to the interfaith center, many of the elders and older children reminisced about when the river was once clean where they swam, fished, and played. It was beautiful to hear them share that and to realize how the river has changed since then. It is now littered with plastic and styrofoam - a picture of disconnection with the earth. It was resolved that the community will continue with more inspiration and passion this time - cleaning the river. I hope to make sure this time I can continue sharing ecological solid waste management practices with them and a deeper understanding of our inner ecology.
It was fitting to make flowers on spring equinox and connect with the earth with these children again.We closed the day as I drew in the middle of the circle, the ancient baybayin script KA - a dugtong or bridging word we use for bridging: Kapatid (brother/sister), Kapuso (shared heart), Kaibigan (friend), Kamag-anak/pamilya (family), Kadugo (shared bloodline), etc. The word Ka in baybayin is a calligraphy of two rivers joined as one.
We honored Tala's river and the same body of water that connects them to the People of Japan by again placing our hands on the earth and with seven breaths channeled light and love for the earth's healing.