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A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Creativity and Sustainability

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/6 February) — If only for its logo – a radiant, multi-colored lotus flower  with a gentle  fire in its womb – the LIWANAG : WORLD FESTIVAL ON CREATIVITY AND SUSTAINABILITY was the event in Davao City in late January and early February  that should not have been missed.  Especially for the citizenry who wants to know more about the interfacing of creative initiatives towards the total well-being of the whole planet and all its creatures and sustainable engagements to protect the integrity of creation while providing for the everyday needs of peoples within their communities through social enterprises.

It took place at the Philippine Women’s College in Matina, Davao City last 29 January to 2 February 2013.  It was mainly organized by those behind the Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies through Initiatives, Organizing and Networking (MISSION), headed by the visionary Nicky Perlas who served as Festival Director, and their national and local partners.

The five-day event tackled four major areas: how the Liwanag movement’s vision would impact  culture and civil society, economy and business, politics and government  and give birth to sustainable societies.  At the opening ceremony, these four areas were represented by the main speakers: Felipe de Leon Jr. (Chair of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts), Cora Claudio (Co-Chair, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines), Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte  and Perlas.

In the following four days, the Festival would present speaker after speaker coming from various disciplines, livelihoods, areas of expertise and interests. There were environmental scientists, geologists, agriculturists, entrepreneurs, food producers, art managers, teachers, government bureaucrats and artists of all kinds. The prominent ones with their respective talks included Maria Ressa, the CEO of Rappler (The Strategic Importance of Independent Media in Sustainable Societies); Gina Lopez, Executive Director of the ABS-CBN Foundation (Mobilizing Business to Defend Nature); Tony Meloto of GK-Center for Social Innovation (Reinventing Philippine Agriculture through Social Enterprise); MVirgilio delos Reyes, the Secretary of DAR (Innovations in Governance to End Agrarian Poverty) and Jose Oquinema, Executive Director of Gawad Kalinga (Harnessing Business, Government and Civil Society for Sustainable Nation Building).

Through the availability of high-tech gadgets, the audience were also able to listen to Barbara Marx Hubbard, the President of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution (The New story of the Universe and the Future of Humanity) and Seth Jordan, Co-Founder of ThinkOutWord (The Global Message of the Occupy Wall Street Movement).

Apart from the main talks, there were parallel workshops and lectures in small groups. Some of the topics covered include: Abundance Consciousness: Pathway to Well-Being; Renewable Energy for Sustainable Living and as Mitigation, Measure Against Risks during a Disaster; Fostering a Culture of Social Action Toward Sustainability; Creating Today the Future We Deserve; Designing with Movements: Contextualizing Indigenous Dance and Rituals through Architectural Design; Sustainability: Healing the Earth and the Womb of Life; Art for Sustainability and a few others.

The best feature of this Festival was how a wide range of artists was also spotlighted along with the resource speakers.  As was the lament in the past, artists were only seen as providing intermission numbers during conferences. But at this Festival, their artistic contributions were considered integral in the whole design.  Through the efforts of Carlo Ebeo, who served as the Festival’s Artistic Director, nationally-known and local talents were mobilized and whose songs, music, poetry, mime and visual art provided the creative energy pulsating throughout the entire proceedings.

Taking a pride of place in the Festival were Joey Ayala, Bayang Barrios, the Kaliwat Performing Company, Waway Saway, the Talaandig Dancers/Drummers/Artists, the Davao City High School Choir and City Teens, Jay Cruz, the Bayanihan Dance Troupe, the Rondalla Anklung Group and Peter de Guzman.

I managed to attend only one day of Liwanag; I wished I had the luxury of time to attend the entire Festival.  I had only one regret and it was this: there should have been more people drawn to attending if not the entire Festival, at least some very significant portions of it. It was a pity that given the range of topics and the excellence of most of the presentations that the Conference was not able to mobilize a lot more people considering that it claimed to be a WORLD Festival.  A lot more in government, business, civil society especially the churches , media and the academe  – especially those who still need to be convinced about the urgent necessity of a Liwanag orientation – should have been enticed to come and join the Festival.

The organizers must have faced all kinds of obstacles along the way, which was why the mobilization of a really substantial audience was found wanting.  I am sure there would have been some people in the audience who would have found the Festival a bit too much of the centrist orientation that cater to the middle class dispositions.  One colleague who was not able to attend even one session asked me if the Conference spoke about the killings of the Lumad leaders in Tampakan owing to the mining issue, or the people’s action in the ComVal area demanding that the government pay greater attention to the urgent needs of  the victims of Pablo.

My response to her was this: perhaps the Liwanag Festival organizers wanted to carve its own niche within the broader ecological movement in the country today.  It would be unfair to demand of them to cover a much wider range considering their specific vision-mission.  In the sphere where they can make a difference, they did very well as can be seen in the unfolding of the Liwanag Festival.

This is perhaps an acknowledgement of how this movement plays out at the global, national and local levels. There are various streams with their own focus, thrusts, action programs and key figures. But there is no denying that this movement is expanding at the rate that has become exponential. There is no stopping the surge of positive energy.  One can only hope that in the near future, there would be a lot more convergences of these streams so that a big river will eventually coalesce into a People Power to protect Mother Nature while looking after the needs of the impoverished in our midst.

One stream is of course the one that was initiated by the Church and her related agencies that go back almost four decades ago.  The Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference Secretariat (MSPCS), various dioceses and AFRIM began looking into ecological issues as early as the 1970s. When the government expanded on its hydro-project in Lanao and began the one in Maramag, as well as proposed that Lake Sebu be damned, there were protests registered which caught the ire of the Marcos dictatorial regime.  People power to stop logging erupted in Bukidnon and Zamboanga del Sur – through the efforts of Scarboro, Columban and Redemptorist missionaries in the wake of the EDSA event. The killing of Fr. Satur Neri resulting from his militant stance against logging only further strengthened this movement.  The first collective effort to oppose mining was the one organized by the Dioceses of Dipolog-Ozamis-Pagadian-Iligan-Marawi, which today is strongest in the Marbel Diocese.

The Church remains at the forefront of this movement with the theology of creation providing a wellspring to sustain the militant efforts. Along this line, the St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI), Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) and the Association of Davao Schools and Colleges (DACS) are sponsoring a theological forum on Friday (Feb 15) and Saturday (Feb. 16) at the Finster Hall  of ADDU.  The theme of this forum is – CROSSING THE DIVIDES IN PABLO: STRIKING NEW KEYS IN THE MISSION OF HOPE.

This forum seeks to:  1) Theologically reflect on the ecological signs of the times (in view of the impact of climate change manifesting in calamities as the one brought about by Typhoon Pablo), 2) Pastorally deal with the suffering brought about by such disasters on the lives of our people, and 3) Missiologically look to the Springs of Hope that can sustain us as Christians responding to the challenges arising out of the impact of calamities.

We are inviting priests and religious, pastors and seminarians, university/college teachers (especially those in the fields of theology and social sciences), students, environmental advocates, civil society agents and those from government and the business sector interested in this kind of a forum; even people of goodwill of other faith traditions.

The two-day forum will have the following as speakers with their respective topics:

1. Fr. Dan MacNamara SJ (ADDU Dean) – Ecology: Enhancing the Mission of Hope; 2. Fr. Francisco Cajes OFM (SATMI Professor) – Crossing New Borders in the Mission of Hope: Missiological Shifts in Disaster Response and Management; 3. Fr. Victorino Cueto, CSsR (Baclaran Shrine Rector and Professor of SATMI) – Suffering and  Prophetic Imagination;  4. Ms. Maria Gina Cejeula (DLSU Manila Professor) – Liturgizing Pablo: Breaking “the” New Grounds in Liturgical Relevance and Praxis in a Disaster Context New Paths; 5. Bro. Ramon Coronel MJ (SATMI Professor) – New Challenges in Letting Things be… Dynamizing Mission Spirituality, and 6. Fr. Rey Raluto (Dean of Studies, St. Vianney Seminary) – Hope for a Sustainable World Order in the Midst of Chaos.

Truly, the ecological movement thrives as we face the environmental signs of the times. In this sense, we can all be like a lotus flower with a gentle light burning in its womb.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar of Davao City, former head of the Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Team and author of several books, including “To be poor and obscure,” and “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures,” writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English [A Sojourner’s Views] and the other in Binisaya [Panaw-Lantaw].)

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