#Imagine Philippines, through the lens of Leo

Leo

‘Peace is possible amidst diversity’

My name is Leo Buccahan, an MA student in Peace, Conflict and Development. I was raised in a remote village in Luzon, one of the three major islands in the Philippines. With 7,107 islands that are inhabited by various groups speaking more than 170 languages, my country is truly amongst the world’s most diverse societies.

The Philippines is situated atop the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire which makes it vulnerable to numerous earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and storms all year round. Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which is considered the strongest typhoon ever in the world, hit the country on 8 November 2013 and affected more than 16 million people, particularly those living in Tacloban and nearby islands.

Despite the many challenges posed by diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and exacerbated by the geographical landscape, Filipinos continue to strive for a safe and peaceful nation where caring for one another is the norm rather than an exception. Like in many developing countries, it remains that millions are still living in dire poverty even with all the efforts of the government and other sectors to drive away this ugly worm that refuses to leave many of our homes. Other problems that are not endemic to our nation also persist but I think that poverty is the most pervasive.

Having this in mind, my dream is for Filipinos to achieve a better quality of life through education that is geared not only towards intellectual pursuit but more importantly emotional stability with strong conviction in promoting and maintaining peace in every household. Strong family ties and hospitality are characteristics of this most basic Filipino institution, but many families succumb to problems associated with not having enough food on the table. They say that love flies out the window when poverty walks through the door. As Nelson Mandela said, education is indeed the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Easier said than done of course and pessimists might say this is wishful thinking, but it is not a bleak future out there as hope abounds everywhere especially from the youth who our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, called the hope of our motherland. I strongly believe that as we work closely together and help free our countrymen from the bondage of poverty, the positive impact will flow to undermine other forms of structural violence and will eventually alleviate the lives of thousands of families.

In many ways, my dream for a progressive Philippines is echoed by John Lennon in his song Imagine. I envisage that a prosperous Philippines will ‘no [longer] need for greed or hunger’ as I ‘imagine all the people, living life in peace’ and harmony with one another. In the last decade, the Philippines has steadily climbed, albeit slowly, the ladder of prosperity. I wish that Mother Nature will root out corruption and its tentacles in its own peculiar way. It is not a utopian life that I dream for my country, but a life where every child is given the opportunity to see it through no matter what, where every family has enough food on the table, and where everyone can enjoy an overall wellbeing. Only then can I sing that we are a ‘brotherhood of [men and women]…sharing all the world’ peacefully in unity and diversity.

I am now in the Philippines as I finish writing this essay that I have started in Bradford. In all my life, I have missed spending the holidays back home only twice. Cliché as it may sound there is indeed no place like home. As John Denver says,

Hey it’s good to be back home again

Sometimes this old farm

Feels like a long lost friend

Yes, and hey it’s good

To be back home again.

In the middle of longing for home, I would like to imagine that peace is possible and family will always be a wonderful treasure. Finally, I would like to quote a few lines in the flagship song of the Ship for SouthEast Asian Youth Program which I joined as a youth ambassador in 1997 and as a facilitator 15 years later. Nippon Maru:“…If you carry us over and out to the world, there’s a chance we can speak to them all. There’s a chance we can tell them the world’s but a home and all people’s a family…

May these lines also inspire all Peace students in our beloved University of Bradford. Happy Holidays Everyone!

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