By Johari Macarampat Jr.
A Psychosocial Trauma Healing Session was conducted from August 10-12, 2018 at Dansalan College Cafeteria. The purpose of the colloquium was to give orientation, aid, and recovery means to people who were victims of traumatic incidents, for instance, the Marawi Siege which happened in 2017. A volunteer group from Silliman University facilitated the three-day sessions not only for teachers, but also to students, staff, and community volunteers. The participants did various activities that enabled them to express their emotions, stories, experiences, and insights through drawing, reporting, recapitulating effigy installation, and storytelling.
The session was spearheaded by Dr. Al Fuertes, Dr. Myraluz Waddington, and Mrs. Rebecca Capulong. Dr. Waddington and Ms. John Lumapang assisted the youth-participants that consist of student-volunteers from Grades 4 to10. On the other hand, the adult-participants that comprised of Grade 12 student-volunteers, faculty and staff, and other community members were facilitated by Dr. Al Fuertes, Prof. Rina Hernandez-Hill, Prof. Christopher Burgo and other students of Psychology.
What is Trauma?
“A traumatic reaction is valid regardless of how the event that induced it appears to anyone else”
Trauma can be defined in many ways. It may be an event that leaves us with life-long problems. Others would define it as something experienced or witnessed that involves actual or threatened death, serious injury, or threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others. But trauma can also be an opportunity for us, especially for those who were traumatized–vicariously or not. It may provide constructive and progressive lessons that we can harness in the future. It can also make us a better person from which we can reflect from the past and pick where was left off if one is mindful of it.
Many traumas are inflected to many people such as nature-caused, symbolic-losses, human-made, human-induced, deliberate accidents, cultural and religious, and others. Because of these, symptoms of psychological and biological degeneration in deeply traumatized societies are manifested in the loss of trust, humiliation and helplessness, aggression, domestic violence, kidnappings, youth gangs, and the human destruction of the natural environment. There are also normal reactions to difficult situations that were followed by common responses that include emotional, cognitive, behavioral, physical, spiritual, and societal effects.
To Share or Not To Share.
“Stories are catalyst for conversation and conversations are catalyst for social change.”
I was traumatized before, should I share my story? Definitely. Yes. We tell stories to express our provocations, to communicate others, to feel relieved, to be able to understand the victim, to heal, to find an answer, it can also be a call to action, to impart learning, to meet the needs and rehabilitate, to reconstruct and to know and understand the history.
How about if I don’t want to? Our mind may whisper us something like: I won’t dare to speak a word, I may jeopardize my safety and security, I may also be misunderstood by others, I don’t want to be criticized, I don’t want to bring back the past because I don’t have the courage or my trauma will spark once again. When a person is doubtful about something, they make unclear and indistinct decisions. It is more convenient to share your stories because it has more benefits than the hesitation and faltering side. Telling stories can also help you to recover and heal from your traumatic experience, hence, it can disperse all of your hidden emotions, sentiments, and feelings. Telling a story is a gift and telling a story can also be a blessing.
“If you think your suffering is private, open up and experience what your brothers and sisters are experiencing.”
The session was conducted for three days from August 10-12, 2018. The school service anticipated students and teachers and gathered at Gaisano Mall and Post Office at around 7:30 am – 8:00 am. The facilitators gave hardcopies of discussions, a kit with a pen and notebook to the volunteers, and had early breakfast and snacks with them. On the first day and the second day, everyone was welcomed by introductions and morning prayers. The facilitators emphasized the ground rules for the session and the volunteers gave their expectations about the activity. Also, the facilitators discoursed the level of violence and trauma, levels of victimization, and different categories of trauma.
On the second day, the facilitators explicated conversations: factual, feeling, and identity conversation. They also discussed the barriers to conversation and communication skills and included the indicators of healing through words or images for the family and community aspects. They gave an assignment for the adult group to bring objects which are healing symbols to compliment trauma metaphors. The last day started with a “Quiet Time” or better known as meditation. In this final session, the participants learned how to address trauma by forgiveness and the process known as DABDA (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance). Then there was a revisitation of resilience and effigy installation. It was closed through reflection, singing of Mandala and Auld Lang Syne, and speaking words of gratitude.
“Our brains are shaped by experience, but they also shape our experiences.”
During my involvement in the trauma healing session, I myself was relieved, relaxed, and meditated. I felt their sincere and profound approach with the students and faculty. You can say that as if they were experts in the ways of their sharing erudition, communication skills, concerted methodologies, and facilitating expertise. We were ever grateful for their generosity and the collaboration of our institution together with Madam President, Dr. Fedelinda B. Tawagon. They have already organized other trauma healing sessions inside and outside the country but mostly at Bukidnon and Cotabato. We have learned many things in relation to trauma, high-stress, forgiveness, meditation, acceptance, and resilience. Hopefully, this session will evolve into an annual activity.
(Right) This is the youth session having a storytelling about a particular object that represents their trauma. Supervised by Dr. Myraluz Waddington and Ms. John Lumapang. Captured by Aslimah Dimalutang.
(Left) Dr. Waddington (center) giving the youth group an inclination about telling a story as a gift and blessing through actions and body language. Captured by Aslimah Dimalutang.
The Journey to Our Peace Garden– students wrote their mechanisms on how to recover from all the pain they’ve gone through and lead it to the Flower Collage from which the students pasted the things they value the most.
Special Thanks to:
Sir Tubio Ms. Munasque School Service Personnel
Sir Orabala Sir Catedral Other community members
Sir Rellita Mrs. Baterna United Christ Church Philippines
Ms. Mayordo Mrs. Andam Youth Advocate Association
Sir Dupa Madam President Tawagon
Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists
Ms. Villamucho Junior High School Participants
Ms. Margaja Senior High School Participants
Mrs. Pagadilan UP-Siliman and Doctoral Psychology Students
Ms. Sedrome and other faculty and staff.