Manila: report by Mario Fungo
On May 16, in the heat of the summer sun at the Riverbanks Plaza in Marikina City, Manila, the Philippines once again participated in creating a wave of prayerful vibrations around the globe in an SOPP ceremony hosted by the Mandala Peace Arts Initiative (MPAI), in partnership with the Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation, Inc. (PCFI) and the Riverbanks Center. Marikina City is one of the areas that was gravely affected by the recent flood in greater Manila a few months ago. It was a timely and appropriate site for prayers for peace and healing to take place.
The park by the river was energized by the flags of the United Nations, together with symbols of different faiths and a peace pole. A globe, a cloth mandala and an indigenous altar pole called a tambara became the center of the circle around which an intimate yet powerful group of about 50 people—representatives from various religious and spiritual groups, peace advocates, cultural workers, youths, and others—gathered together in an atmosphere of oneness and prayerful celebration amidst diverse backgrounds.
Mr. Mario Fungo, founder of the Mandala Peace Arts Initiative, welcomed everyone on behalf of the partners and co-organizers. To begin the program, a group of presenters performed a prayer without words using peaceful breathing. Opening the sacred space for the interfaith prayers, Prof. Grace Odal-Devora, a neo-babaylan (ancient pre-colonial priestess) from the University of the Philippines-Manila, performed a Sayaw-Bathala—a ritual dance around the tambara which also involves offering objects from nature. Next, Br. John Dowling and company from the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University led an open-eye meditation exercise to prepare everyone to enter into sacred silence.
Sr. Vida Cordero, SFIC (Franciscan Sisters) then engaged everyone in a blessing from the Christian faith. Mr. Ishilta Pinlac, United Religions Initiative (URI) youth ambassador offered a peace prayer on behalf of the Earth-based traditions, and Ms. Sharon Vaswani (URI Southeast Asia-Pacific Youth Coordinator) offered a Hindu peace prayer. A Tibetan Buddhist prayer for peace was offered by Mr. Reimon Cosare and a Muslim prayer for peace was offered by Alan Berguia from the Culiat community.
Mr. Rishi Kumar of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) offered a prayer for peace and invited everyone to sing “Hare Krishna!” Baba Surinder Singh Ragi of the Guru Nanak mission recited a Sikh prayer for peace, and Ms. Racquel Castillo of the National Baha’i Spiritual Assembly in Manila read prayers from the Baha’i tradition. Ms. Tomomi Cathy Shima represented the Japanese spiritual organization Shinji Shumei Kai and offered her own prayers for peace.
Following the interfaith peace prayers, we offered the prayer for a world free from conflict (led by Ms. Norma Beltran) and the prayer for harmony between humanity and nature (led by Ms. Queen Frilles) that were first introduced in SOPP ceremonies at Fuji Sanctuary. These prayers were accompanied by noseflute music rendered by Mr. Leo Emm. Castro of the indigenous cultural workshop group Sanghabi.
Highlighting the event was a prayer ceremony for peace in each country, where participants prayed for peace to prevail in each nation and region on Earth. Afterwards, participants took a few moments of silence to feel the vibrations of the blessings that were radiating around them. Mr. Ding Reyes of SanibLakas Foundation, chair of the Philippines network for the upcoming UN World Environment Day, shared a declaration of action called the ‘New Seed.’ Then, with uplifting music from the Kaya Green Band, along with the ISKCON and Sanghabi, the program was concluded with an indigenous gesture of oneness and kinship. Warm conversations continued as a bounty of vegetarian food (lovingly prepared by the ISKCON) was shared by all.