The Power of Little Things: Reflections on Liwanag World Festival 2013

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There is nothing less than grand about Liwanag World Festival. But this is only because it is made up of many modest, well thought-out, things. Indeed, we witnessed what Aristotle meant by “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

Baby steps. Liwanag dared to take little steps to making grand things possible. It only took commitment and the leap: the Padyak tungo sa Liwanag Bike Pilgrimage is probably the best example. It started with almost nothing, just two people who committed to do it. Like the last line of one of the songs that the bike pilgrims sang on the toughest times “Kung kaya mong isipin, kaya mong gawin” “ang lahat ng mga dakilang gawa ay nagmumula sa guniguni”. Commitment and the first step was all that was needed for the universe to conspire and allow them to safely reach Davao signaling the beginning of Liwanag Worldfest. The greening/carbon neutral initiative was almost like an afterthought and although much is to be desired, it did materialize and contributed to what Liwanag is as a whole. New technologies like open space, sensing and weaving circles came just in time and made Liwanag a landscape for presencing and emergence.


During the last press conference. I donned my Climate Reality hat and helped announce the Beyond Carbon Neutral Initiative for Liwanag. Happy to be in the company of Liwanag’s visionary leader Nicanor Perlas; Leo “Happy L.A.” Avila, festival consultant; and Maya Vandenbroeck, head of the Volunteer Committee. Photo by Louise Far

Tiny voices. Liwanag was a space where the tiniest of voices could be heard. There was no one merely an audience or viewer, as everybody was encouraged to engage in a conversation. The plenary, for most part was participative. The audience was not a recipient of a show, but made part of the Liwanag experience. Take for instance the opening cultural presentation, wherein the audience was part of the feast. Each of the plenary talks had a corresponding a artistic response, a feature that highlights the importance of the creative voice in helping address societal problems. There were many opportunities to make the voices heard: the freedom spaces, pledge wall, text roll, the interactive exhibits, open spaces, even the Facebook page was an instant hit, because it’s wall is open for everyone to be heard. The daily reflections before the start of the plenary sessions are among the best sharing’s during the plenary. For me, it was this buzz that truly created the Liwanag field. With all the voices being heard, the Liwanag energy became palpable. This was not a one-way show or a lecture where the audience is recipient of information. As Maria Ressa has shared, these are the times when the common tao is the expert; they are believed, even more than those in the establishment, because they have their own, real stories and insights to share. Liwanag allowed those voices to surface and be heard.

Bright spots. The entire festival was illuminated by bright spots, inspiring initiatives presented during the plenary, showcased in the exhibits, shared in the workshops and lectures, and discussed during open spaces and side conversations. Without focus on these initiatives, Liwanag would have been just a conference with outstanding speakers, exhibits, and parallel sessions. Liwanag is the good news, the positive in people, and their inspiring deeds. These initiatives are what continue to shine long after the event has ended. These initiatives are what inspired people, connected them and gave birth to new ones.


The beautiful people of Liwanag. Hats off to those who are not in the picture but who were very much part of making Liwanag happen. Photo by Haresh Tanodra

Powered by volunteers. I have said many times that Liwanag is powered by the renewable energy of the volunteers who worked tirelessly day and night, and some for many months, to make Liwanag happen. These are the people who really made it possible. They did not have a chance to go up the stage and be recognized, nor had their names displayed on posters and billboards. Most of them worked on areas outside of their expertise, but accepted the challenge nevertheless, because, if not them, then who? The volunteers also included the Liwanag Organizing Team, the artists and performers, the plenary speakers and the workshop facilitators, as well as many others who in one way or another helped make Liwanag a reality. But together, they were able to accomplish an incredible feat, of giving birth to a festival like no other. And because of this, together, they became the giant from whose shoulders future Liwanag carriers will proudly stand.

Three-folded partnership. Liwanag is a conscious convergence of civil society, government and business. This three-folded partnership is evident in the over-all design of the plenary program, in the exhibits and of course the festival presenters including the Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies through Initiatives, Organizing and Networking (MISSION) represented by Festival Director Nicanor Perlas, LifeBank Foundation and the City Government of Davao under the leadership of Inday Sara Duterte. The concept of three-folding elevates the civil society among the government and business as a transformative force in the society. It means not one is greater or more superior to the others. This concept has been woven in the Festival as a whole.


This is one of my most favorite Liwanag pictures. Kaliwat performed Danaw and got the audience, including me, to participate! Photo by Haresh Tanodra

Going back to the Aristotle quote, I searched and found from Wikipedia a definition for synergy. It means the working together of two things to produce a result greater than the sum of their individual effects. The term synergy comes from the Greek word synergia from synergos, meaning “working together”. No wonder the whole is more than the sum of its parts. But without these little things together, no greater whole would have been found. That is the power of little things that I found in Liwanag.

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