Surabaya Rendezvous, A lifetime Treasure  

Monday, August 4, 2008

I met Zabra Siwa during the 2006 PeaceTech video conference where youth from Mindanao and Luzon met and talk on gian video screens. It was the first time that an event like that was held in the Philippines. A person with a strong personality and a dedication to peace advocacy. Here he shares one of his many experiences in fulfilling his advocacy towards peace.
Surabaya Rendezvous, A lifetime Treasure
by: Zabra Y. Siwa (Philippines)

If I am going to describe my experience during the 2008 Asia Pacific Interfaith Youth Camp held in Surabaya, Indonesia last July 26 to 31. It would be in three simple words: Exciting, Promising, and Revitalizing.

Meeting young people from different countries with different cultural and religious background makes it feel like travelling around the world and this is the most exciting part of every convergence. New stories to be heard, strangers who would make a difference in your life, new experience that would enrich your personality, and a new place to widen your horizon. Those were just few of many reasons why I was so excited to be in the camp. I love people and I thought the camp will be a great opportunity to build larger networks, gain friends across borders and acquire wisdom for personal growth.

The city of Surabaya is closer to some cities in the Philippines when it comes to infrastructures and geographical setting. A lot of people use motorbikes as means of transportation which makes the streets look like there is a motor race all the time. What really amazed me was to see ladies wearing hijab driving a motorbike. It’s really cool. This is how the streets look like everyday which makes traffic manageable. Surabaya is known to be the cleanest city in Indonesia. When it comes to delicacy, almost all foods are spicy, mixed with chilli and cooked differently from what we have here in the Philippines. Kropic (Kropok) is always a part of the meals and not for snacks. Howbeit, it’s a good exercise for the taste buds to taste other delicacy.

Participants from 11 countries (Australia, Brunie, Fiji, Indonesia (Jakarta, Papua), Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor Leste) were welcomed and hosted by hospitable families in Surabaya. I was lucky to be hosted by Mr. Lawrence and his family – one of the Business Tycoon in the city. We lived for a couple of days in their mansion built with European structure. The people in Surabaya are cheerful, beautiful and hospitable. These made our stay more comfortable and at ease. Tunas Hijau – the organizing committee of the camp was impressive with its active and passionate members who are mostly from the universities and senior high schools.

We had community immersion which enabled us to compare and contrast how people abuse and preserve their environment. Personally, I believe these were the most significant part of the camp, being able to experience living in a metropolitan area, countryside and immersed in a depressed and marginalized community. I have realized a lot of things. Human beings can be abusive to the environment through exploitation of its resources and overconsumption without realizing that they’ll be the prime victim of the negative effects of their act. This is primarily due to negative attitude, ignorance and economic instability. Changing the mindset of people is very challenging. Challenging enough for you to think if you are still making sense in your effort in trying to save the world not for yourself but for the succeeding generations who will inherit the earth. That was exactly what I felt when we had our visit in Nambangan Community. However disappointed maybe, there should be no room for pessimism. Focus is the most important until you see the light that promises for hope. This was exemplified by our overnight stay in Pacet community – a village where people live peacefully with the environment. It was very inspiring how people in this community are able to preserve the nature and benefit from its abundance. As we bid goodbye to our hardworking and accommodating host family in Pacet community, I felt rejuvenated taking with me the promise and hope for a greener and fresher world of tomorrow.

Religion plays an important role in preserving the environment. Scholars in Islamic faith, Christianity, Budhism, and Confusian philosophy shared synonymous perspectives. All teaches care for the earth as part of religious obligations, keeping the environment clean, maintaining the balance of nature, and human beings as steward of the earth. This is a unique thing about the APIYC, using the religion towards a common goal. Involving interfaith sectors to combat social and environmental issues I believe is one powerful tool to achieve wellness.

Passion, commitment and optimism of all collaborators of this program creates a ripple effect as we go back to our own country. Now we have a global network and we just formed a community of communities composed of young people who care for the world, young people who choose to move against the current and dare to make a difference in their lives by taking the responsibility posed by the challenged world, and above all, young people who believe in their capacity to preserve the earth. I am just proud that I am one of them.

Moreover I felt revitalized now. I must confess that before going to the camp I was on the verge of giving up the cause I believe in to. Thanks to the people I met during the camp and to the program for inspiring me and resurrecting the passion within me, good enough to keep the flame burning and care for the world. Whatever happens, at the end of the restless day I know I’d still smile, enjoy the feeling of fulfilment for I know I’ve done something to make my life worth living, and cherish the memories of every single moment I spent with special people who left their footprints in my heart.

I’ll miss the smiles and the laughter, sweet memories and togetherness, and especially i’ll miss Surabaya and the rest of the group. I am crossing my fingers, believing that someday we will meet again in the crossroads of so called life. You’ll all forever be treasured.

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