The 2023 CEAP National JEEPGY Conference, held on April 19-20, 2023 at Saint Louis University (Main Branch) in Baguio City underscored the key role of synodality in addressing climate emergencies. The Conference, which was attended by over 200 representatives from CEAP member-schools across the Philippines, focused on the role of Catholic schools in addressing the climate emergency.
The Conference kicked off with a Eucharistic Celebration presided over by CEAP Programs Committee Chairperson and Vice President, Fr. Mauricio T. Ulep, CMF. In his homily, Fr. Ulep reminded us of our role as part of God’s creation and our responsibility to care for it. This was followed by the opening remarks of Sr. Ma. Marissa R. Viri, RVM, President of the CEAP. She emphasized the mission Catholic schools in providing transformative education examining issues in the light of faith and responding to them according to the teachings and example of Christ.
Moving forward, Mr. Jose Allan I. Arellano, the CEAP Executive Director, gave an overview of how the Conference is a concrete response to Pope Francis’ call to address the climate crisis. According to Mr. Arellano, the conference will explore the role of synodality in addressing the climate crisis and highlight key examples of successful synodal efforts in climate action to create a sustainable future for all.
During the keynote session, panelists discussed the disturbing state of the climate emergency in the Philippines. Ms. Maria Victoria D. Bautista of Zero Waste Baguio, Inc., presented on how the climate crisis has affected the lives of the people in the Cordillera Region. Mr. Michael G. Umaming of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples discussed how the marginalized sectors like the Indigenous Peoples suffer more during a climate crisis. Dr. Donna Paz T. Reyes of Miriam College presented how to address the climate crisis using the whole school approach. The session was moderated by Ms. Melinda Lamorena of the Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute.
In the afternoon of the first day, participants went on a fieldtrip to two ecological sanctuaries: Mount Costa – also known as The Green Living Room, with 24 themed gardens; and Mirador Heritage and Eco-Spirituality Park, located near the Lourdes Grotto – a great place to marvel at God’s creation in silence and prayer. The participants also had the chance to tour inside the Saint Louis University’s Sewage Treatment Plant, which helps to remove contaminants from sewage to prevent water pollution. This is one major project of the SLU as a Laudato Si school.
The second day of the Conference started with Sr. Marvelous L. Misolas, MM tackling the Philippines’ participation in Pope Francis’ 7-year Laudato Si’ towards integral ecology. It was noted that great information dissemination is needed about this program as very few CEAP schools have signified to participate in this campaign. This was followed by concurrent sessions on how the different pillar programs of the JEEPGY engage in advocacies relating to Ecological Integrity. The following were resource persons for the sessions: a) Justice and Peace – Dr. Loreta N. Castro, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Justice and Peace; b) Engaged Citizenship and Youth Empowerment – Ms. Mary Criselle B. Mejillano, Networking and Programs Coordinator of Environmental Science for Social Change; c) Poverty Reduction – Ms. Teresita G. Barcoma of the Balayan Social Development Center; and d) Gender Equality – Cheng DA. Pagulayan, Oxfam International and Director of the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY).
The afternoon session was designed for participants to share their inspiring initiatives relating to any of the JEEPGY pillar. Dr. Joselito C. Gutierrez started the Coffee Conversations with his sharing on the various JEEPGY modules he designed after the JEEPGY Manual was released in 2018. Mrs. Charmaine P. Mendoza shared on how SLU responds to Laudato Si’ through the extension programs. The second part of the afternoon program, other participants had the opportunity to share their initiatives on specific pillar programs. Atty. Romeo T. Cabarde, Jr., Director of the Ateneo de Davao University Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center, shared their initiative on “Mobilizing the FEW to Move the Many: Defending Food Security, Eco-Tourism, and Watershed” Mr. Paul John V. Gabay, Secretary of CEAP Region 3, shared their CEAP Region 3 Youth Camp, a student-centered collaborative initiative. Ms. Ann V. Marquez of CEAP Region 10 shared their integration of organic agriculture for sustainable livelihood with poverty alleviation strategies. Sr. Maureen L. Cariaga, OSB, President of St. Peter’s College of Ormoc, shared their initiatives on women empowerment and gender equality and participation on the 18-day campaign to end violence against women. Dr. Jocelyn L. Alimondo shared their life- transforming and Christ’s disciple-forming educational communities of the Diocese of Baguio Schools. After the presentations, the floor was opened to those who wanted to share their JEEPGY-related initiatives in their own schools.
The Conference was capped off by a Eucharistic Celebration presided by the President of SLU, Fr. Gilbert B. Sales, CICM. This was followed by Closing Dinner highlighted by a cultural presentation prepared by SLU. This was a beautiful and fitting conclusion for the two days of learning and journeying together in synodality for the advocates of Ecological Integrity.