Loreta Navarro-Castro – Philippines

Linked with The Center for Peace Education, and with The Miriam College.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Loreta Navarro-Castro (born 1948) is one of the pioneers of peace education research in the Philippines and founded the Center for Peace Education, based at Miriam College in Manila. Aside from being coordinator of the PEN, Loreta is the secretary of the Philippine Council for Peace and Global Education, a member of the Executive Committee of Pax Christi International and the International Advisory Committee of the Global Campaign for Peace Education based in New York City. She is also an active member of several Asian and international associations involved with peace studies and research.

She says: “We may not see the results in our lifetime, but we must go on believing that someday that critical mass will be reached and more meaningful change will happen”.

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Sorry, I can not find any photo of Loreta Navarro-Castro, Philippines (see also my comment ‘Brave women without photos‘).

She works for the Center for Peace Education CPE (named on pilipina peacenet.com), and for the Miriam College.

She says also: “Some of our students have not seen a tribal minority, or a Muslim. Through the twinning project, they exchange letters with the Muslim students at Rajah Muda and realize that they have so much in common with one another! When you put a face to a name, it will really break down the barriers”.

And she says: “You have to gather data as a basis for your actions. Research means getting the right information, gathering it, analyzing it and communicating it to others. You also have to be connected with those other groups doing this, so that you will not be educating in a vacuum. This is what makes peace education an important field of work”.


As president of the college from 1987 to 1997, she took the lead in introducing peace-focused courses into the school curriculum and declared the school a Zone of Peace. Since 1997, the CPE has engaged with kindred institutions and has touched the lives of thousands of teachers and young people through its training programs in conflict resolution, peer-mediation and the promotion of a culture of peace.

She was born in Malabon, Metro Manila on 29 March 1948. She was deeply influenced by her mother, who exemplified a life of selflessness and simplicity. Her father, an avid reader in spite of his inadequate education, taught her the values of self-reliance and resourcefulness. From her parents, she learned the importance of being intellectually competent and goal-oriented but compassionate to others.

Loreta earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Education, with a major in history, at Maryknoll College, Quezon City in 1968, graduating with distinction. For her first job, she was a high school teacher at St. James Academy in her hometown, after which she joined the college faculty of Maryknoll.

In the early 1970s, before the dark days of Martial Law in the Philippines, Loreta would join other young people in protest rallies and marches against the regime of then President Ferdinand Marcos in Manila’s tension-filled streets. She remembers a slogan that the rallyists chanted? “Marcos, Hitler, Diktador (Dictator), Tuta (Puppet)!? sometimes punctuated with curse words. She recalls how she would join the marches, her heart full of purpose and hope, to show her solidarity with the protesters and their issues, but could not bring herself to mouth the chants.

“In my mind, I asked myself: ‘is this the message we want to give? Will this kind of language change Marcos’ heart and get us the results we want?’ I did not know then that I wanted to become a peace person, but I knew I did not want to use negative, dehumanizing language to achieve our goal,” she says.

Years later, Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing, then the president of Maryknoll College, sent her to the United States to attend a conference organized by the Global Education Associates, on peace, economic equity, social justice and ecological balance.

The ideas resonated with Loreta, and she came home with the seed of a new perspective and an interest in peace education.

But things did not happen overnight. Loreta admits that it took a few years before she was able to call herself a peace educator. It took time to water the seed, nurture it and let it grow. She read, discussed, attended seminars and reflected.

By reading, she met the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and others whom she considers her peace heroes for living and spreading the message of peace and holistic nonviolence. Their ideas, and her own Christian faith tradition, whose central figure Jesus Christ is an enduring message of peace, nonviolence, justice and love, inspired her to pursue her calling as a peace advocate.

For her doctoral dissertation at the University of the Philippines, she researched on “Students’ Concepts of Peace and Attitudes Toward Peace Issues: Implications for Peace Education in the Social Studies Curriculum.” This pioneering research, which won her an Outstanding Research Award in 1990, continues to be an important reference in the field.

Shortly after the People Power Revolution of 1986 that toppled the Marcos regime, Loreta was appointed Officer in Charge and then president of Maryknoll College (which became Miriam College in 1989) – only the third lay person to run the Catholic institution. By then, she had served the school in various capacities, as head of the International Studies Department, Associate Dean, Academic Dean, College Dean, Grade School Principal and Vice-President for Academic Affairs.

Although the school started infusing peace and global perspectives into certain subjects as early as in the 1980s, it was during Loreta’s term that the peace-focused courses were mainstreamed into the curriculum.

During her inaugural speech, she described her mission to promote a new mode of consciousness, which is human, holistic and ecological. Having this, she said, what follows is a life that is lived simply and without waste, a life that respects human rights, especially those of the poor and marginalized, a life that is in harmony with nature.

In 1988, a three-unit college-level course on peace studies was included in the International Studies curriculum. One year later, a Peace Corps Group (now called CPE associates), composed of administration and faculty volunteers was convened. In 1991, the school declared itself a Zone of Peace, pledging to promote caring relationships, cooperation, nonviolent conflict resolution, a simple lifestyle and activities of peace and social concern.

In 1993, the Grade 7 students of the school used a peace-oriented social studies curriculum and text. The textbook “Tungo sa Isang Mapayapang Mundo (Towards a Peaceful World)”, authored by Loreta herself, became a benchmark for other schools that wish to push peace education. Sessions on nonviolent conflict resolution were also introduced to college freshmen and later extended to the high school students.

Miriam College is a pioneer in the whole-school approach to embracing peace education. Its peace orientation is not confined to the academic program, but also humanizes the co-curricular and outreach activities of the school community.

In August 2004, the CPE sought a partnership with Balay, an organization that provides integrated rehabilitation in conflict areas, to enable kindred groups within Miriam College and its alumnae to work with the Rajah Muda High School, a public school attended by Muslim students in a conflict area in Pikit, North Cotabato, Mindanao.

Loreta hopes that through the project, both schools will eventually become “schools for peace.” Such projects are the Center’s contribution to the “people-to-people peace process” which should go hand in hand with the peace negotiations on-going between the government and armed insurgent groups.

The CPE continues to share its experience and engage with other peace-oriented groups and institutions: In 1999, it initiated the Peace Education Network (PEN) whose membership has grown to over 20 organizations and institutions nationwide. The CPE and PEN have initiated workshops and conferences for educators and young people, notably, the Asia-Pacific Youth Conference on Culture and Peace (August 2000), the National Youth Leaders’ Conference on the Culture of Peace (November 2003), and the Ethical and Spiritual Foundations of Peace workshop series.

The PEN has made persistent appeals to the Government to declare a unilateral ceasefire with armed groups and to aid evacuees in conflict areas. The PEN joined the Mindanao Solidarity Network in calling for a ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and urging both parties to return to the peace table.

Outside the Philippines, Loreta has given talks and read papers on peace education and peace studies in the United States, Canada, Lebanon, Indonesia, Korea, Japan, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, Austria and Spain. She believes that when one is a peace educator, one should also be a peace activist and, if possible, a peace researcher.

She believes that peace education is not just content, but also a process where the oft repeated quote from the field of communications, “the medium is the message”, best applies. This is perhaps what distinguishes the CPE, and Loreta herself, from others in the same field. “If we’re teaching about fairness, we cannot be unfair. Working for peace has personal demands on us.

We have to live it in our lives so people will see us as credible agents. Otherwise the peace message will fail,” she says.

Loreta explains: “From the very beginning, we thought that before we could convince others to embrace the peace education thrust, we would have to try it out for ourselves (at Miriam College). We had to develop programs so that when they ask us how (we) do (things), we can speak from experience. Our first goal is really strengthening it within, second is sharing it with others.”

On the home front, Loreta is invariably described by her peers and co-workers as an altruistic, compassionate woman, slow to anger, and exemplifying a simple lifestyle. Her students appreciate her teaching method which is dialogical, participatory and democratic.

She acknowledges that her husband, lawyer Augusto Castro Jr., whom she married in 1973, has helped to empower her as a peace-builder through his unconditional support.

Among the roles she has taken on, it is that of peace educator that has met no stumbling blocks. She has the full support of her school, the approval of her students and the cooperation of other organizations. Perhaps the only cause of her fleeting frustration is when she takes on her role as peace activist. “As peace activists we always try to call for a peaceful settlement of the armed conflict. But every time we get a little optimistic about the prospects of peace in Mindanao, they’re at it again, fighting, for various reasons,” she laments. “Can you imagine the suffering of the thousands of people who have to flee their homes in the villages to live in evacuation centers because they do not want to get caught in the crossfire? No food, no sanitation, and a lot of fear. My heart really goes out to them,” she adds.

But Loreta remains a wellspring of hope. “When you’re a peace advocate, it’s important that you never lose hope. You have to keep trying, despite the odds, and believing,” she stresses. She believes in a peaceful future where “war is de-legitimized as a means of conflict resolution”. At the same time, she hopes to see a world with more economic equity and less poverty, because “poverty is a root cause of armed conflict.” She also envisions national and global governance that is responsible and accountable, thus eliminating the various other forms of oppression, including corruption, and allowing social justice to reign.

In such a humanized world, the basic needs of people for education, health care, and shelter are secure and their higher needs can be fulfilled. “Some people would say that the eventual abolition of war is impossible, but that’s only because we had been conditioned to believe that war is part of life. But remember that once upon a time, we had the institution of slavery and people thought that was a part of life, too. It just took enough people to say it’s wrong and slavery became de-legitimized,” she points out.

The challenge to the peace educator is in sitting out the long-term, she says. “We know that we may not be able to see the result that we want to see in our lifetime. That’s why some people marginalize peace education; it’s not as exciting as peace activism. My only wish is that as we touch these young generations now, they will not forget it but bring it into their adulthood; and that someday, as we go on working for peace and nonviolence in the schools and communities, that critical mass will be reached and more meaningful change can happen,” she says.

Loreta is known by many titles – peace advocate, peace activist, peace educator, peacemaker – but she prefers to be called a peace-builder. And if builders could make high rises out of stones, then the stones of the young generation of peacemakers have been laid.

This can be seen in the excerpt from the preschoolers’ version of the Miriam College’s Declaration of Peace, which describes the legacy of Loreta Navarro-Castro to her school, to the field of peace education and to the world:

CSC PEACE ZONE DECLARATION (October 1991):

  • Miriam Child Study Center is a Zone of Peace.
  • We believe that God called us to be Peacemakers.
  • We also believe that God called us to love one another and all the things that He made.
  • Because God told us to love one another, we promise to show this love here in our school with Jesus and Mary as our examples.
  • We shall love and care for one another instead of hurting, pushing, shouting, saying bad words and fighting.
  • We shall control our anger, so that we don’t hurt anyone.
  • We shall talk to our friends about our misunderstandings and we shall say “sorry” and shake hands after our quarrels.

(1000PeaceWomen).

According to Dr Loreta Navarro Castro, director of the CPE, the project aims to “bridge the gap and prejudices that currently exist between many Muslims and Christians” through a “people-to-people process”. (full text).

In January 2005, one thousand women from more than one hundred fifty countries were nominated for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Twenty-seven Filipino women were among the nominees, seven more than the number initially allocated to the Philippines. Of the Filipino nominees, nine are UP alumnae. (full text).

Sorry, no more information in english available.

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