By Melissa Reanne D. De la Cruz
The event Dance for Peace was more than just being a dance concert but an opportunity for a Filipino community in New York to gather and discuss peace-related the issues in a press briefing. Never have I seen a community gathering with such an involved group of guests.
Building a sense of community in this day and age is a challenge unlike any other. In an era of individualism and mobility, how does one maintain his and her roots most especially when they are in a country far from their own? How is understanding and peace achieved? This, I asked myself as I entered the hall on 4W 43rd Street.
However difficult it is to define community these days, I certainly saw it with my own eyes.
In all honesty, I have never seen a more participative and conversant bunch during the press conference and concert. I had the distinct pleasure of listening, observing and conversing with what could be just a fraction of the Filipino community here in New York.
I reveled every minute that I spent with my fellow Filipinos from the time I stepped on to the event hall and to my train ride home. There should continually be a valued importance of constantly writing and learning about Filipinos in the international community.
In that Filipino gathering, the discussion on the West Philippines Sea dispute between China was expected. Hearing the opinions of people from different backgrounds was a feast for my political senses. It showed how greatly involved Filipinos still are in issues that affect close to home even if they are thousands of miles away.
Ambassador Mario Lopez de Leon Jr., the highest official representing the Philippine government in New York, emphasized that peace is achieved when the people keep faith on the rule of law in the peace building process.
Community leader Rene Ballenas said it is in understanding through conversations that we learn so much to respect one another and bring a sense of peace to the community.
War is a primitive way of ending conflicts. Dialogues and activism are the better options, said Rev. Greg Agulan who is executive director of the UPF-Office of Asian Affairs.
Peace is a goal as well as a process, said OSM! publisher Marivir Montebon who is also an ambassador for Peace in 2010. To achieve peace, justice is an indispensable element. The way to peace is through dialogues and not war.
Peace will always be a topic that will hit close to home. It is in the best interest of people young and old to bring about peace in the community. In the local sense, concerns of safety and security become a non-issue. In the international aspect, this safety and security can mean a world of difference to nations.
How does one define community in this day and age? Communities have truly transcended its definition from just being a group of people who live in the same territory or a group of people with the same traits, race and characteristics. This was what struck me at the Dance for Peace event whist among people of different backgrounds, countries and such in support of the sought after ideal of peace.
Ms. Elvira Green emphasizes the need for positive attitude so that discussions and dialogues can begin in the light of conflict and chaos.
For a young person, this was a great introduction to New York but it was great reminder of why, in time and after my studies, I have to come home. The stories of these spirited members of the Filipino community are something that needs to rub off into the people that actually live in the Philippines. (Photos by Greg Agulan and Daisy Benin)
Melissa D. de la Cruz is a student of the New School of New York taking up a master’s degree on International Studies. She just arrived in New York less than a week ago from Cebu, and the Dance for Peace concert was her coming out gig – a gathering of Filipinos and other races in the city. Welcome to New York, Melissa.