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Peace in our hands.

I am a songwriter. I tell stories through the songs that I write. I speak of what is closest to my heart through the words set in music. I open my world for everyone to see and hear through the melodies and rhymes my colleagues and I put together.

This is the weapon I hold. I battle out violence within myself and outside myself through works of art. I attempt to transform the wounds of war into beautiful pieces of music that people can harmonize with, such that healing may take place.

It all comes from the story of the kulintang of Mindanao, the bronze kettles that provide the melodies for celebrations in the south. It is difficult to find this instrument nowadays. It has been said that they have been melted down and recast as bullets. Now, you can hear more gunshots than kulintang music in the south. And if you hear them, they speak of faraway nostalgic stories of lives once lived in peace and prosperity and not of present day celebrations of thanksgiving.

Of the stories I carry, the saddest for me is having to keep peace and prosperity in my sacred place of hope instead of having it real and steady in my hands. My sacred place of hope resides within myself where all my dreams lie, waiting to be transformed and manifested into a tangible state. I am full of dreams and not once have I been accused of being a fool for their sake.

Dreams are tricky. You can either live entirely for them or end up as a naive idealist or go the opposite way--be a cranky pragmatist-materialist who cannot stand dreams. A good balance it seems is to live one's dreams while keeping one's feet on the ground. Good balance is achieved by being in that one point where everything is still--and peaceful.

If this is so, peace can be achieved when one finds and stays in that elusive still point. It is much like the moment in a good performance when everyone is just enchanted by the beauty of music and everyone breathes quietly in awe until the last note is played.

This is how music can be an instrument for peace, or be a symbol of peace. Music, even those without words, can transport those who choose to listen to a moment of harmony. This also happens when words magically embrace the melody of a song and when instruments dance with all these other elements. One can easily detect at this point when a certain element goes off key or offbeat.

With this imagery, the phenomenon of the moment belongs to a certain natural order to which people of different backgrounds, experiences and personalities can relate. When this happens, the piece of music as a symbol becomes a meeting point of different perspectives and becomes that which connects one with the other. The meeting point is transformed into a still point of harmony, a still point of peace.

Violence, in this imagery, is then that which goes off key or offbeat. It is that which destroys the order of the piece of music. In a live performance though, there are many ways to rectify such a situation. You either transform the off key or offbeat element into a different variation of the piece or just smile and laugh it off, and move on. After the performance, you assess the off key or off beat phenomenon objectively such that you can see clearly why it happened. If the situation can be rectified the proper exercises are done to correct the defect and if it had been just a glitch, then you just have to put it behind as part of experience.

The violence goes on if the performer, instead of doing the abovementioned steps, punishes someone (herself, himself or another) for the off key or offbeat situation. She or he chooses not to put it behind, much less smile or laugh it off, and focuses on the situation as a faux pas. This surely can affect the assessment of the live performance and keep the situation from being analyzed and rectified. The appropriate rehearsal exercises cannot be done and may either just keep the performer at the same level of proficiency or pull one down to the level of frustration, resentment, anger and disappointment. With this attitude, the harmony is sacrificed for the usual egoistic exercise of blame.

These principles are that which I apply to life, work and play. In this way culture stops to be an irrelevant museum piece but becomes a way of life. Culture becomes less of an economic commodity or a political handout and becomes more of a sacred woven mat heirloom used in an everyday thanksgiving prayer ritual--an art piece that has to be protected by the whole community it serves such that it shall never be sold or given out even because of hunger or fear.

And that is how music can be apart of the multitude of efforts for peace to be restored in our blessed land. I hope that more war weapons will be melted into musical instruments--kulintang, agong, gangsa, and saronay for everyone to play with and recreate cultures with. I hope we'll have more spaces for bamboos that can be the communities' tungatong, sugayfu, kubing, and gabbang, I dream of cultural spaces, not gigantic buildings with canned music, but places where everyone can freely tell their stories, sing their songs, dance their dances, and act out their lives for the community to celebrate.

Let us build peace spaces and moments with our hands--hands that work in harmony with our hearts, hearts that reside in sacred places of hope, and hopeful hearts that work in peace, with peace, for peace.
Peace in our hands

music by ernie caccam

 I've been singing my woes
 about this land
 And I can't seem to run out of
 things to cry about.
 Such tragedies, can they all
 end?
 Or shall I go on with peace in
 my hands?

 With peace in my hands, my
 heart overflows
 Not only with grief and sorrows
 But with hopes and dreams,
 yes, with hopes and
 dreams
 Yes, with hopes and dreams,
 yes, with hopes and
 dreams

 I tread on the path well worn
 With footprints of ancient
 heroes
 Yet they are too crowded with
 words,
 Too crowded with words.

 Shall I go on with peace in my
 hands
 In a road too narrow for hearts?
 Yes, with hopes and dreams
 Yes, with hopes and dreams

 And of this slumber that blinds
 us all
 I shall lull it to dreamless lands
 Where new worlds can be born,
 Where peace can rest in our
 hands.

 And peace shall rest in our
 hands, our hearts shall
 overflow
 Not only with grief and sorrow
 But with hopes and dreams
 Yes, with hopes and dreams


Bing Veloso is a member of "Shakilan" an ethno-fusion musical group. She has been a cultural worker for more than 12 years, of which the last 3 have been spent in the Cordilleras.
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Title Annotation:peace & the arts
Author:Veloso, Bing
Publication:Igorota
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Words:1174
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