The Words of the Zablan Family

Global Peace Festival - Interview Of UPF Philippines Executive Director Michael Zablan

March 2008

What came to mind first when you heard about the Global Peace Festival?

Dr. Zablan: We could not imagine how to do it. To gather thousands of people in one place was way beyond our capacity, in manpower and finances.

In the Philippines, we have a lot of young members who are guided by the elder members. We have a very strong desire to build the kingdom of heaven, so when Hyun-jin nim began talking about one family under God, it was easy to unite, even though we didn't have the financial resources.

How did you begin preparing?

We have a National Steering Committee, which includes ambassadors for peace who are highly respected in society. At a National Steering Committee meeting, we discussed the proposed Global Peace Festival.

How did people respond to the theme, "One Family Under God"?

We were pleased to find that the concept of one family under God is very easy to understand. We did not have any difficulty at all to explain it to the ambassadors for peace and the general public. Most especially, because of our nation's Christian foundation, it was easy for people to understand the idea. In fact, the majority of the leaders found it easy to explain the Global Peace Festival. They did not encounter obstacles explaining it to Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus or to government agencies.

We presented the Global Peace Festival as a project not only of the Universal Peace Federation but a project in which every organization should be engaged. We presented the vision, mission, core values and objectives of the Global Peace Festival to our Steering Committee. It was not hard for us to explain in detail because they have been connected with us for many years. I asked them to find someone to chair the festival whose signature on the invitation letters could create an impact and establish a foundation for people to get involved.

Who became involved first?

We listed all the prominent figures connected with us. Two stood out. One was Governor Leonida Bayani Ortiz, the treasurer and governor of the Philippine National Red Cross. She has been connected with us for many years and has many connections with senators, congressmen, mayors, religious leaders and NGO officials. The second person, Undersecretary Josephine Dominguez, works in the office of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and is a real advocate of peace. She really loves True Parents. Every time they come to the Philippines, she asks for a blessing prayer from them. Once, she put True Parents' hands on her head and they prayed for her. When any member of the True Family comes here, she receives that blessing. Sometimes I tell her, "I think you are the most blessed person in the whole universe."

Next, we organized a working committee made up of our important contacts and ambassadors for peace, and we assigned members to particular responsibilities in the working committees.

Once we had confirmed the chairwomen and members of the working committees, we listed them on a Global Peace Festival letterhead. Having the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Jose de Venecia Jr., as the chairman emeritus of the Universal Peace Federation added to the impact of the letter.

Was getting a large number of people your main priority?

It seemed that way at first. We identified the different government organizations and non-governmental organizations that we have worked with and considered which groups could bring the most people. We decided that schools were best. So, first on our list was the Department of Education, which deals with high school students, and then the Commission of Higher Education, which deals with college students.

Next, we contacted the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in order to get people from the community involved, and finally, religious groups, because we also have a good foundation working with various religious leaders. We focused on these top four types of groups and also included other organizations. One by one, we visited these people and explained the Global Peace Festival. The concept was mostly welcomed by these people.

What got the attention of the schools? All throughout this preparation -- when we sat down for discussions and when we started implementing the plan -- I really felt God was very clearly behind the Global Peace Festival. One after the other, doors were opening.

Three years before the Global Peace Festival, we began introducing the UPF character-based educational material to the Department of Education, and they welcomed it. When we approached them about the concept of one family under God, they appreciated it, especially since we have Muslim-Christian conflicts in the Philippines, and they are very seriously trying to resolve this in Mindanao. We also have the crisis of how to maintain the moral standard of our young people. Thus, the Department of Education welcomed the plan for the Global Peace Festival and spoke of bringing a hundred thousand high school students to participate, along with the teachers.

The Commission of Higher Education has a program, the National Service Training Program (NSTP). College students, the men, can choose to take either a two-year national service program or a military training course, which in the Philippines takes place on Sundays over the course of two years. The NSTP has existed for many years, but has had little impact through its own activities. Each school used to do its own projects. The Global Peace Festival was a tremendous opportunity for students in all the schools in Metro Manila to be unified under one project. This cooperative relationship resulted in more than ten thousand students cleaning the beach on Manila Bay. The Commission of Higher Education eventually recognized that they needed a student organization behind NSTP and have designated World CARP as its driver. WCARP will provide ongoing educational and service programs for the students.

"I know UPF, and I will explain to people what the Global Peace Festival and UPF stand for," Dr. Peresita Domalanta told us during the planning stages. She is the regional director of the Department of Education for the National Capital Region in the Philippines. Dr. Nona Ricafort, a commissioner on the Commission of Higher Education, has been very close to us. She said, "This is the best program, the best project of the Unification Movement; I found it so easy to explain it to my subordinates and to presidents of the state universities under me. It was easy to write a memo and urge everybody to get involved." She also spoke at the International Professors and Educators Conference.

But the work involved more than getting a large audience, right?

We realized we had to educate people and prepare their hearts to participate. We wanted to help them understand the project so they could take ownership of it. Hyun-jin nim kept telling us, "This is no longer an era of mobilizing people to come to watch. It is an era of educating people so they can participate in the event and become its owners." We scheduled many educational presentations in different schools and communities. We were visiting places every day. For us, the main factor and key to success was educating people to give them a sense of ownership of the project.

When we started working, one door after another opened. It was something we could not have imagined. This was not our effort. We could not have done this without God.

Whose response surprised you most? We were encouraged by the participation of the different religious leaders. There are many tribal religious groups in the Philippines. Many of them found that the Global Peace Festival was a way for them to be recognized and be part of a larger community. They really love the concept of one family under God.

Very significant leaders in Philippine society became involved. For example, we introduced the project to Chairman Don Emelio Yap, the owner the Manila Bulletin daily newspaper and of the Manila Hotel, a five-star hotel, the oldest hotel in the Philippines, where the GPF-related conferences were held. He gave us 70 to 80 percent discounts on all the expenses at his hotel and front-page coverage in his newspaper nearly every day for almost two weeks. This was tremendous support.

We did not have the capacity to hold six conferences at the same time, but when we introduced the GPF concept, the president of a university offered the university's deans, professors and vice-president to serve as conference staff. They also assigned students in their Hotel and Restaurant Management program to serve as ushers for all of the conferences.

How did you get such extensive television coverage?

One of our close ambassadors for peace, Dr. Samuel Salvador, who's the vice president of a university, brought the Global Peace Festival idea to the government television network. The Philippine Information Agency, the information arm of the Philippine government, became the number one sponsor of the Global Peace Festival.

We never expected to appear every morning on a two-hour TV program for two weeks straight. Nor could we imagine that there would be a live telecast of the festival. As the staff attended more meetings and got involved with us, they discovered it was a very valuable event that they needed to cover. It was something they felt they needed to show on TV.

The Philippine Information Agency offered its full support. Seventy of its staff members at the television network worked for a full forty-eight hours with the Global Peace Festival to get full coverage of everything related to it. Mrs. Julia Kim was astonished to find that the TV shows were even reaching the Middle East, and other parts of Asia-basically wherever Filipinos are living overseas. She was so inspired.

What's your advice to other countries planning festivals?

We experienced being in a community of people with the same feeling, with the same concept, with the same vision. Having an experience like this, I could see the way toward Cheon Il Guk. Now I often tell other leaders, "You really have to do a Global Peace Festival. GPF is opening the door to Cheon Il Guk."

With or without a foundation, the Global Peace Festival will open doors. All you have to do is start doing it. Start talking to the people. Write the names of the target people that you would like to meet, share the idea with them and enlist them as members of your working committee. They will increase your capacity, providing manpower and resources.

My advice is to believe it can happen. Start meeting people; these people will open the doors for you. It is very, very important to select as your chair a prominent person who has a heart for global peace and a foundation of working with you. You can provide the necessary materials, and that person will bring his or her friends and influence high-level people that you may not be able to reach directly.

The participation of the Armed Forces gave our festival an atmosphere of great dignity. General Alfredo Cayton, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, reported to the chief of staff and to the Philippine president that the Global Peace Festival was "the most significant event that the Armed Forces of the Philippines participated in during 2007."

What's the next big step?

Two million people at the 2008 Global Peace Festival.

Two million people in one place at one time?

If we hold the 2008 Global Peace Festival simultaneously in many schools on all the islands of the Philippines, this will involve more than two million people, including the students and their parents. There are large assembly halls at each school. People wouldn't have to travel. They would gather in their schools just as they do to celebrate United Nations Day, which is a fun-filled yearly celebration in the Philippines. We can do the same for the Global Peace Festival.

How will GPF 2007 help you reach that goal?

I heard people talk about how GPF has become the hope of the Philippines. Some of them are people who attended an International Leadership Conference. They knew UPF has been doing great things, and they experienced it directly through the Global Peace Festival.

Undersecretary Dominguez is so inspired about the Global Peace Festival that she is urging the governors and mayors in the provinces, municipalities and cities under her to support it. She gave us the idea of getting the endorsement of different religious organizations, mayors, governors and NGO leaders for a petition to the president of the Philippines to declare it a national holiday. We sent a letter to President Arroyo, inviting her to attend the festival and to sign a proclamation stating that the Global Peace Festival is an annual event and a national holiday.

Speaker Jose de Venecia told me he never expected we had the capacity to bring such a tremendous number of people. He invited me to be a part of the Moral Recovery Movement, a new group of religious leaders in the Philippines. I am like a toddler compared to the rest of the group. He introduced me as the youth leader of the Moral Recovery Movement.

JR is a heart-throb among the young people and a well-known rhythm-and-blues singer in the Philippines. He sang for free at the festival. "I loved the crowd," he told me afterwards, when I tried to thank him. "I was looking for my family, and I found my family here. Thank you for making me a part of this very important event."

The impact on the NSTP has been especially significant. Dr. Florida Labuguen, president of the National Service Training Program, told me, "The Global Peace Festival has transformed the National Service Training Program." 

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