Posted by: mensab | October 28, 2008

Farewell Message to UPeace-DIPS Class 2008






Good evening to all of you. (See the video of this graduation message here.)


In Naga Pi Chaung Village in Delta region, the hardest-hit area in Myanmar by Cyclone Nargis in May 2008 and believed to be an underserved area, I went there with a team from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for my internship. We asked a group of villagers including the village chief about the village’s pressing needs. The village chief responded quickly and identified fishing nets, boats and agricultural inputs and tools as their pressing needs. The villagers agreed to this assessment. Of course, we took note of those needs.


Then, we asked the women present in the meeting the same question. One woman, apparently a mother, replied, “education.” Teary-eyed, she continued that children in the village have stopped going to school because they have no school to go to (their solitary school was flattened by the cyclone), no teacher, and no school supplies. Afterwards, there was silence in the meeting. (I know Indai, our professor in gender course, would be happy to hear this story.)


Education! Why not?


Amidst the shortage or lack of basic necessities in the village such as water, shelter (most of them live in a makeshift shelter wrapped around by blue and white tarpaulins as walls and roof), food, clothes, one woman stressed the need for education in the village.


I believe that three institutions would agree to the woman’s answer, education. These are the institutions that invest, develop, advance and facilitate education for the global village.


Nippon Foundation has various projects in education including scholarships. One of which is this program. Thank you Nippon Foundation for believing in education as a tool for social change, development and empowerment. Arigato!


The other institution is University for Peace, particularly our Dept. of Peace and Conflict Studies. This small university in Costa Rica is a giant in the field of peace and conflict studies. We, students, are privileged to receive trainings from its topnotch professors who are experts in their own fields. Its multicultural environment adds to the joy and struggles of our learning. It is truly a global village. Gracias UPeace. Pura Vida!


One more institution worthy as the first, Ateneo de Manila University which is going to celebrate its 150th years of great service through education to Filipinos and foreigners. It has formed and produced distinguished graduates. And we are pleased to be part of the roster of graduates of this institution. Thank you Ateneo. One big fight!


Oh, we also had our 3-week course in La Salle. Yes, you hear me right. It is our rival, La Salle. But it was Universidad de la Salle in San Jose, Costa Rica for our foundation course. Well, it is a long story.


Before the drafting of this message, I have asked my classmates if they have anything that they would like to be part of this message. One classmate emailed me. She wrote, “We are trees planted by the hands that have been working for peace.” You probably know whose hands she is referring to.


But these trees started from seeds. I have seen how the seeds were provided with the best soil, care, and nurturing environment. And now the trees have grown and ready to bear fruits.


Since seeds come from a source, I would like to acknowledge our sources, our mothers. Like the mother in Naga Pi Chaung Village, our mothers, I imagine, would also assert the need for education. We all learned first from our mothers – the best education in the world. Thank you, Ma.


And thank you for that woman in the village who reminded me of what I am holding now, what I’m thinking, feeling, speaking, dreaming – all products of the best education we just received.

I am confident that this education will find its way and expression in whatever career and mission we undertake to contribute to peacebuilding.


And another classmate whispered to me last night. He wanted to include this message here. As the first batch of the Dual-Campus program, we complained a lot for 19 months. (Balazs, the willing listener of our complaints, knows this). We complained about accommodation, course schedules, late information, coordination between Costa Rica and Manila, and many other things. We struggled too. We struggled with our deadlines, with English in different Asian and other accents, Spanish, the languages in our internship assignments (Bahasa Indonesia). Through these complaints and struggles, we have learned the language of friendship. We shared this friendship in MyPlace, in Bellarmine Building, in cafeterias, in Council room. We celebrated this friendship through birthdays, weekend and course break trips out of town and out of the country. And this friendship will tie us wherever we will be. We may be in the remotest village in Myanmar, conflict-torn areas in Africa or Afganistan, an air-conditioned room in Tokyo, classroom in Indonesia, South Korea or Japan; we will always be reminded that 27 others out there somewhere that peace is not always about the opposite of conflict, it is a way to live.


I remember Wolfgang who told us that whatever we do, say, think, feel, dream, literally whatever, an energy is released in the world that can make a difference. I once emailed a classmate about this, and I will say it to you again (although I usually don’t say words twice, my apology to that classmate), because of our education, of what we went through, of our unbelievable journey together, of what we believe in, we now all are a difference to this world. I can feel that overflowing energy in this room, share this. Bring this to the villages, to your home countries, to your friends, your families, to whomever we meet. Our energies together and of those we can influence can be a difference, can bring about change, can challenge and transform the structures that restrict others, can respond to human needs including those of the woman in Naga Pi Chaung Village in Myanmar. We can count on the three institutions to be with us. Besides, we have each other.


If there’s one thing I learned from this 19-month program, it is that I am responsible for my future, a shared future with you, with others. Let us believe then in the future that we can build, together, here.


Thank you, gracias, Dios mabalos!





  1. this is a master piece! I almost cried!!! Yeah, we have each other, I’m glad that you’re our first batch student!

  2. Men,

    I am touched!:)

    Dios te bendiga mi amigo!:)


  3. MEN!
    what a beautiful farewell speech.
    many, many congrats to you and the rest of the DIPS. i wish i could have been there to celebrate with you all in Manila, but please know that our spirits and hearts were there with you!

  4. Thanks for a moving speech. I am really glad of being a part of this mission.

  5. Nice work Men!

    Good call thanking mothers… they really are the first/best teachers and they usually don’t get enough credit in these kinds of speeches.

    Congratulations to you and the whole class — Peace!

  6. This is lovely, Men, and so profound. Is it okay if I repost it on Upeacebuilders?

  7. Thank you for your beautiful, inspiring words! I wish I could have been there to congratulate you all in person. I will send my good wishes to you all from this web site. We will meet again someday!


  8. Men,

    great to read… I miss having you and all of the dual campus around to remind me to be positive, but this speech will do in a pinch.
    All the best in the future.

    your friend

  9. Men,

    we love you for many reasons, that is just one more….

    Marcos & Marina

  10. Great speech Men, I know you have your way around with words. I totally agree with your message. So touching. Hope your graduation was great

  11. Thanks, Men, for being there!
    I will never forget you and the DIPS friends.

    Love and peace,

  12. i’m really touched it was amazing…..

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