June 2015 saw the first series of Face to Faith Intra-country video conferences outside the Peace Day series. Although it was not the first time for Xavier School Nuvali to participate in a VC session, it was the first time for this particular session’s speakers—the grade 8 students.
What made this even more special was the participants’ use of the vernacular, a departure from the traditional use of English to communicate with partner schools. Because the video conference was among three local schools and was facilitated by a Filipino, Ms. Pinky Cupino, the student participants were welcome to and were encouraged to use the Filipino language. This proved fitting to the topic of the Filipino identity. Students conversed with each other and shared their opinions and personal experiences on what it meant to be a Filipino and how they live out their Filipino-ness.
Prior to the actual video conference, though, the participants underwent rigorous orientation and training. They learned what the Face to Faith program is about—a venue for students to engage other people of the same age in a dialogue through a video conference, or, at times, through team blogging. The goal of the program is to broaden the participants’ horizons, to help them understand different cultures, and to break down racial walls. Aside from this introduction to the program, the students also had workshops focusing on dialogue and respect. Students learned the difference between dialogue and debate, how to go about a dialogue, the importance of and how to show respect to others.
The preparatory modules also not only helped the students understand the topic enough so that they can talk about it confidently, the modules showed the students HOW to make their dialogue meaningful. All the preparation proved fruitful as the students of XSN both confidently and humbly talked with their fellow participants. Lara Punsalan and Joaquin Umali, two of the participants, admitted that they felt awkward and nervous at first, but Lara believes it went well “since everyone got the chance to speak and share their opinion.” Joaquin even said that some of them wished it was longer. Nena Quiazon and Chloe Astorga both agree that they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and that they learned a lot from it including the different perspectives of people. Chloe adds that “each student should get a chance to talk to different students from different schools [as] it would help them in learning how to respect someone, [listening] and [having] an actual dialogue with them.”
Other notable reflections include the following from Justin Pablo and Tref Olavere. Justin says that he feels educated because he was able to listen to other people’s thoughts on what it meant to be a Filipino and that this, in turn, “inspired [him] to share what [he] thought to others.” He also says that he wants to be part of another VC and that he looks forward to Face to Faith being implemented in other schools in the country so that more people can share their thoughts. Tref, on the other hand, shares the following:
The Face to Faith was a fun experience of trying deeply to know one’s culture and religion. Face to Faith helped me know what being a Filipino means from a lot of people’s perspectives. I learned that no matter how far we are our similarities outweigh our differences.
Process observers also shared their thoughts on their batch’s first VC. Tea Pangilinan shares, “I think that this VC has helped us a lot because we finally got the chance to converse and understand people from other regions. I think that that has helped in a way that it will avoid us from misunderstanding and having conflicts in the future.”
Leanne Celis drives home that point further: “I think that f2f has been a very helpful way for us to communicate with other people from different places and it helps us understand people who are very different from us. When we understand them we realize that we are really aren’t that different.”
One of the key points that all students (and even the teachers) took away from this experience is that who we are is shaped so much by the people around us and the culture we are immersed in. Yet despite the geographical location and history surrounding our areas, our diverse culture enriches our Filipino-ness instead of dividing us. Through this initial dialogue that all of us hope to continue, the teachers hope that the students can help further strengthen the Filipino identity by taking steps towards unity through patient understanding and dialogue.