This was a speech I gave on an International Peace & Understanding Forum held at Ateneo de Cagayan - Xavier University.


The Peace Forum is attended by student volunteers coming from different universities in South Korea. University students from Mindanao, and some Lumads (natives) play host to this forum. Invited are different peace workers, government leaders and academic personnel.


Most of my audience, however, are students  who had also been to the Working cum Peace Camps that I had supervised. I reckoned that they do not want to hear what they already know and had experienced. At the eleventh hour I decided to forego the spill I had prepared (pertaining to the usuals on peace talks and etc) and listened to my heart and shared something more relevant me, and hopefully to my audience. Because I delivered something I constructed literally at the last minute, this is not the whole speech verbatim, but the gist of it. 





I am Wella Maria Hong, a volunteer for JTS Mindanao. I apologize for I wasn’t able to join the last Peace Camp (in Mantaboo) - it was my father’s 50th birthday. But I am here now. Although I really do not know much about peace, at least not something that you wouldn’t know anyway, I’m going to share to you, something that hits a little closer to home – my dad.


I just graduated from Development Communication and Mrs. Trel Borja was my teacher, she is also a great inspiration which is why I am standing where I am now. However, like most of my friends who also just graduated, I do not have a job.


In a third world country like the Philippines, to have a regular job is a luxury. I was lucky enough to have a part time job while I was a student, one that pays a little above the minimum wage. And the good thing also about this job is it guarantees me a work right after graduation. Usually, most of the companies here are on the look-out for experienced workers, so a fresh grad still has a lot to go through.


However, I have to give up this regular, 8-hour, Mon-Saturday job because I promised myself that right after graduation, I will be a volunteer for at least a year. I understand that my fulfillment as a complete human being does not lie in having a living but in having a life.


Unfortunately, my dad does not understand this. He is the son of a Chinese business man who grew up tending a local Chinese store. In other words, he grew up in business and up to now, he is still in business. He is also the kind of dad who would attend PTA meetings just to make sure that his daughter will make it at the top of the honor's lists. And sure enough, I did make it there. Which is what bugs him the most – because after everything, I’m still not landing the ideal job.


He would always question my trips to the mountains or, when he is in a bitter mood, he would find excuses to not permit me to go. There was even a point that when I went home late after a trip to the mountains with Mr. Lee and Mr. James. Upon knowing that I was wet in the rain while we were visiting the hinterlands, he was so enraged that he even threatened, among other things, to burn Ma’am Trell’s house (we are neighbors).


The greatest lesson I have learned from Venerable Pon Nyun Sunim was when he spoke at a previous Peace Forum just like this. He said that understanding is the key to peace. Mother Theresa also said that if you want to build peace, go back to your homes. Which is why, after that incident, I wrote my dad a five-paged letter, detailing to him what I am doing with JTS, why I am doing it and what my plans are. I poured out in that letter everything about how I honestly feel about work, about helping people and about finding meaning in my life. I tried to make him understand that the daughter that he loves so much is actually happy to be where she is now…


No, change did not happen overnight, like all peace processes -- it took time for him to finally accept my decisions. This is not the first time that I tried to communicate to him about what I want in my life, and I know that this will not be the last. But I will not give up with my dad. As much as he had never given up on doing things which he thinks will be best for me. I know that my dad loves me very much, and I try my best to see through his anger and his sincere ignorance of what I really want. In the same way, I also want him to understand me. Understanding though, is not as easy as it sound for it is not merely a mental exercise but an exercise of compassion as well.


On the other hand, because I graduated top of my class, modesty aside, there will always be people approaching me to ask about my job, taking me as a bench mark of some sort. I am proud to tell them that I am working as a freelancer, a job that does not exhaust my schedule while I balance this with JTS, as well as helping out my family (being the eldest I could not escape the family business). Sometimes, I feel like I am only doing so little for peace, but I am reminded of my family and I am once again encouraged that I have done, at the very least, something and therefore, I can still do more.


I know, we are all gathered here for one thing – despite our differences in color, education, language and more – we are all gathered here for peace. But by and by, all of us, one by one, will be going separately to our own homes, to share to our dearest family what we have done and what we plan to do. Some of us may feel rejuvenated from this encounter, some of us disappointed, some frustrated… but let us not forget, that we are all builders of peace, and the best place to start it is always, right at home.





with my mom and dad




PS. It happened that while I was delivering this speech, my brother was able to attend the forum. The gist of what I've said managed to reach my dad, which ironically helped patch things more between us. By now, we had tremendously improved our dynamics as father-daughter through a more honest and open dialogue with each other ever so often.

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