International Day of Peace 2014: The Right of Peoples to Peace

The International Day of Peace, held every September 21st, is very special to me. I started my current job in August of 2012, at first clueless about peacebuilding and what it entails. I guess I was hired for my technical skills, and not in any way because of either social awareness or passion in the field. (Or perhaps because my own father did have social awareness and passion in the field and the reputation kind-of rubbed off.) Eventually, I did acquire both. Or at least, I hope I did.

That said, I consider my first International Day of Peace Celebration in Aleosan, North Cotabato as my birth into peacebuilding work. I was about one month into the job, but when you’re in this field you will never truly “get it” until you’ve been immersed into the community. And the International Day of Peace, our lovely Cambodian intern, Chariya, and the art workshop she organized for the youth there all paved the way for my immersion. For last year’s celebration, I also made an illustrated banner for the celebration in Gingoog City

This year’s theme is “The Rights of Peoples to Peace”. This is quite relevant here in Mindanao, where years of historical injustice have caused peoples to be marginalized, and the effect is that until now many of us still live in volatile and conflict-affected situations. My special prayer for this year is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which I believe is, in a nutshell, one step further to inclusiveness and addressing many of the issues brought about by that historical injustice. But that’s another long story I’ll save for later, when I have the time to tell it in a way that does it its true justice!

Like last year’s banner, this year’s was illustrated with ink and paper, scanned, and then colored in Photoshop Elements. I’m not super 100% happy with the results, but when I saw it printed I think I can live with it. Fonts used are Great VibesGobold and Nymphette.

So how are you celebrating the International Day of Peace this year? I’ll tell you all about mine when I come back home!

Bonus, WIP shot: (Where anyone who knows Photoshop can see that the making of this banner was actually rushed and poorly planned)



Sketching in the Bus

Usually, I have a hard time sketching in moving vehicles. I like having control over my lines.

This weekend though, I think I got into my in-the-bus sketching groove. It did help that I finally found my soulmate ballpoint pen, a brown Leone. As much as I loved Andrea Joseph’s klass (featuring ballpoint pens) in Sketchbook Skool, my standard ballpoint pens were simply not cooperative. It was not until I got my hands on this beautiful ballpoint that it revealed to me its magic. (I’m going to have to test it for lightfastness, though. I almost dread the results.)

I doodled the brown lines on the bus and then colored afterwards. Next time, I’ll bring a brush pen for bumpy brush stroke and paint splatter goodness.


I had the most wonderful weekend. My boyfriend and I headed off to his home barangay (village) to celebrate his birthday. I don’t really get to visit it a lot because of work and all, but I always love being there. But being the shy type myself, they’ll probably never know how much I do!

I didn’t get much of an opportunity to sketch on the trip going there (too sleepy) and while there (too busy having a good time) but I did have a bit of time on the bus trip going back home.

15132539275_d9155ac540_oDuring travel, funny little thoughts about the things I see always pop into my head. I liked that this time, I’d actually get a record of all those thoughts! 🙂

The sea is PB29

This memory is all about colors.

My story starts with the trip back home. From Ormoc, Ate Xx, Ate Zarah and I got on a boat bound for Cebu City. I spent most of the trip de-stressing. That is, playing my latest favorite game, Guacameelee. (I swear this game is going to damage the keyboard of my new laptop in a matter of weeks.) So I wasn’t really able to pay much attention on the boat ride. (Especially since I had just decided to replay the entire game on hard mode.)

It was a bit liberating to have so much less luggage then when we started. So at the airport, we decided to have breakfast since we didn’t have time for that in Ormoc. I forgot the name of the place, but what left an impression were these beautiful paintings signed by a Ian Quiros:

Paintings by Ian Quiros

Just look at that. LOOK AT THAT.

I think my camera settings distorted the color to something yellowish. But even so, I’m sure you can see the beautiful shapes and, most importantly, the use of color. In fact, the colors are so perfect that I’m convinced they are pretty much everything I want in my life. They make me want to weep with joy. (Pretty colors just give me feelings.)

I swear, I will find a way to stalk this guy’s work. (Although that’s a bit harder with local artists than with international artists, because locals seldom keep regularly updated websites or blogs.)

Anyway, the food at that place was also really good. I had a delicious caesar salad, and the stuff everyone else ordered looked very nice too. But the coffee was not so much. It had an acidic aftertaste and was so unsatisfying that after Ate Xx and I checked in for our Cagayan de Oro flight, we had another round of coffee (and a really lovely, dense cheesecake) up at Bo’s. All that caffeine (and probably the cream cheese) gave me a headache.

On the flight, I got the window seat. It also happened that I was carrying the camera. It has been my lifelong dream to take photos on a plane.

(A dream that has been unfulfilled because back when I had a decent cameraphone, I never had the opportunity to get on a plane. Now that I travel more often, my decent cameraphone broke down and my new one takes pathetic photos. Plus, I’m too cheap to get myself a decent one even if I can well afford it.)

Dream fulfilled.

Thanks a lot, Cebu!

That was one of my better shots of Cebu. Or maybe it’s one of those other cities that all us non-Visayans call Cebu anyway because they’re on the island of Cebu. Anyway, it was nice to be there even if we were only there for about five hours waiting for either a flight or a float during the span of our ten-day trip.

Gorgeous Philippine Islands

On one flight to Cebu, I was struck by how beautiful small islands look from afar. You don’t just see the parts you’d see when you’re on it – the white sand, the green groves, the houses, the rocks. But you also see part of what it looks like underneath the ocean. I just love the underwater landscape, bleached teal by the sea. It was one of those sights that made me say that I am extremely lucky to be born in one of the most damn beautiful countries on earth.

I wanted so badly to capture images of tiny islands and their underwater landscape. But it seems that we didn’t manage to pass by the particular area that caught my breath some time ago. I did manage to capture this image where you can see that effect, though. (This may have been one of the factors why I impulse-ordered Cobalt Teal PB28 for my watercolor palette. Can’t wait to paint with that once it arrives!)


And here is where I realize why the pigment PB29 (the “modern replacement and color match for the historical pigment lapis lazuli that appears in the most precious medieval art” according to Handprint) is called Ultramarine Blue. I baaaadly wish I had a swatch of ultramarine to compare, but I left my sketchbooks and paint kit at home and I don’t have a camera to compare anyway. But the color is used in the following pieces of my horrible art:

Look! It's a tartol! Hinaharana ang Langit

In the second, it’s tinted with a rose color to make it violet. But you can see, particularly in areas of deep application that it’s a remarkably similar color to the sea and the sky. I am now in love with this color and want to marry it.

Waves, waves, waves

The little white specks are waves in the sea. They don’t look like they’re moving from this far up, but if you look closer at one, you’ll see that it’s slowly flowing and changing.

I bet it’s not just the sea that is like that from far up, too. I’ll bet people look as unchanging at this distance as the waves in the sea, as slow and steady as we perceive grass growing. It’s nice to have another perspective of the world.


Aaaand…. Touchdown, Laguindingan!

At this point of the journey, I was just exhausted but happily so. This trip was really one of the most unique and fulfilling experiences I have ever had… But I forget, I am yet to tell you all about it! 😀

The ghosts we hear

The Ampatuan Massacre Site

Word from the locals is that late in the afternoon, around sunset, you could still hear wailing from that hill in Sitio Masalay. Some go as far as say that you could hear the wailing all along the road that leads you to the hill. I never expected that the location would be this far from the highway. But it took us, perhaps, just shy of ten minutes just to get there.

By all means, it should be called a beautiful place. From the hill, you can see nothing but a vast area mountains and valleys and farmlands. Picturesque. Green. Untouched. Was untouched. Until 58 people were brutally murdered and buried here four years ago.

Perhaps it was because I knew what had happened there (and who doesn’t), but being at the site of the Ampatuan Massacre (also known as the Maguindanao Massacre) felt as if a heavy weight was pressed against my heart. Ate Jojow asked me if I wanted my picture taken at the site. I said no. It just felt uncomfortable.

I didn’t know any of the victims personally. But even so, the harrowing descriptions of how a caravan of vehicles were stopped at the highway, how armed men got in each vehicle and started shooting people on their way to the hill in Masalay where everyone else was finished off,  how a grave had been prepared for them days before… Any human being must be able to at least vaguely imagine the kind of terror and despair that happened there.

I felt that the very same terror and despair were weighing down on me that day. I was there with some members of the Good Wednesday Group for Peace1 on November 23, 2013. We were there for the 4th year commemoration of the massacre.

The convoy from Tacurong was late. Word afterwards was that someone was trying to sabotage the commemoration. But I know too little about that to confirm it. I didn’t probe all that much. I just listened.

Prayers were said and songs were sung. But the entire event was a string of speeches, mostly from friends and relatives of the victims. Numerous references were made to children who had had to grow up without their mother or father. Tearful statements were made about how four years had not extinguished the pain of losing a loved one so abruptly. Despite everything, there was also a lot of thankfulness, albeit not the celebratory sort.

“As time goes by, (we are) losing confidence and hope. But I’m still thankful that we’re still here, together.  (That) we’re still here for justice,” said Florita Ridao, sister of victim Anthony Ridao, in her speech. “Despite the many problems of the Philippines, I’m glad the leadership still gives importance to the massacre victims.”

It is an event that will be remembered, to be sure.  According to Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, there were some who even said that they should just  leave it be and make justice run its course. He said that he had then countered that he lost his wife and sisters in the massacre – how could he just forget?

He’s not the only one who will forget, either. Friends and family of 58 victims are not likely to forget. The media, who lost 32 journalists among their ranks, is not likely to forget. I’m not likely to forget either. Fifty-eight white markers stuck to virtually dry earth in the small space where the bodies were found has been etched into my memory. Nobody deserves to die like that.

Just a week after the massacre, news started to leak out that prime suspect Andal Ampatuan, Jr. had begun sleeping on a bench because he was “afraid of ghosts.” I just wonder if those are the very same ghosts they still hear at Masalay. I wonder if they haven’t forgotten either.

1 – I had written about the Good Wednesday Group before. Incidentally, the group “started” because of the massacre. It was initially a meeting of soldiers, civil society organizations, media, academe, and some members of the aggrieved and accused families. You may be surprised that “some members of the accused families” attended. That is simply because, contrary to what people who rage online like to say, not all Ampatuans are murderers and not all of them are involved in the incident. Naturally, it didn’t go very well at first: initial suspicion and a blame game took reign. Eventually, they began to trust each other and found common ground. Together, they were able to begin initiatives to prevent electoral violence in Maguindanao and to promote peace through dialogue and advocacy.