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Building Peace through Sports: the Mindanao Peace Games

by | Dec 29, 2021

hands reaching out to signify finding peace through sports

Mindanao in southern Philippines is known for its brilliant waves, rare wildlife, abundant fields, and a religious and ethnic conflict that has endured for centuries. There have been many attempts at lasting peace in its history but this is the story of the first time that sports took a major role, not just in bringing people to play, but to convene them with the intention of creating better and stronger communities

In 2014, the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals was transforming into the Sustainable Development Goals, which will move its ideals of eradicating extreme poverty and promoting socio-economic growth to the future. Coach Noli Ayo and three other Mindanao-based sports directors sat down together to discuss how to realize these goals in their own way. 

That it involved sports was a given. All four believed in the power of sports to transform and strengthen communities because of their lived experiences. Organizing basketball competitions for solidarity has been done for decades. But Coach Noli insisted on a new twist. The games should be about women.

The reasoning was simple. In Philippine society, women were most involved in the raising of children. If peace was to be passed forward to a new generation then peace should be instilled in their mothers. The suggestion was accepted.

The Mindanao Peace Games (MPG) became an annual all women event that held its first competition in October of 2014. But while sports held a critical role, it was just one part of a wider whole. The key messages of MPG included Peace and Community Building among the different ethnicities of Mindanao as well as Transformational Leadership. To promote these ideals, it held other annual gatherings that are just as important as the games.

  1. Discover Leadership Program – a five day program for coaches and sports leaders to experience ‘out of the box’ methodology and gain new insights into mentoring and coaching.
  2. Coaches’ Forum – a venue for coaches in different areas and schools around Mindanao to organize and share ideas.
  3. MPG Leaders’ Summit – held in Singapore, it’s meant to expand perspectives by letting sports leaders experience global sports standards.
  4. Leadership Summit for Athletes – a 3-day program which focuses on workshops that identify key areas where athletes can contribute to their schools or communities at home.
  5. Coaches Convention – a melting pot for all the coaches to gather together in one place and build connections and trade experiences.
  6. Annual Fun & Games – the MPG organizes mentoring sessions, culture building activities, and the event favorite, Popcorn and Movie Night, where athletes and coaches share a lovely evening inside a movie theater.

These efforts spread all over Mindanao. More schools and institutions became members at a steady pace.

However, the pandemic derailed these annual plans. Fortunately, the convenors salvaged as much as they could. They turned to online video conferencing tools to connect sports leaders, coaches, and student athletes together and continued as best as they could.

Despite the setback, the message of MPG continued to spread — even beyond the confines of Mindanao. Palawan State University, a school outside Mindanao in western Philippines became the first non-Mindanao school to join the MPG last 2020.

And it is a movement. The ideas of sports, peace, community building, leadership development, and women empowerment should not be geographically limited. Everyone should desire peace in Mindanao and in every place. As this spreads, it can only grow in power and influence to shape a new generation.

Coach Noli continues to have great dreams for the MPG. As co-founder of Adrenaline Solutions, he wants to use the global agency’s network to connect more people — sports leaders, coaches, and athletes — from around the world and share with them the inspiring story of a Mindanao and its people that explored ways to work together in creating stronger and better communities through sports.

To know more about Coach Noli Ayo and the Mindanao Peace Games, click this link.

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