Guina’ang is a small and humble mountain village in the Northern Philippines.  It takes 12 hours to get there from Manila and another two by rough road from Bontoc.  I’ve been working with Guina’ang for the last two years after getting lost hiking and being helped out by the kind staff.   Sarah Queblatin and I planted the intention of making a collaborative mandala with the school around this time.  With the help of three very adventurous and dynamic Couchsurfers– Dominika, Piotir and David all of the ingredients came together and this last week, a beautiful collaboration unfolded.

It’s a challenge to do art in far flung and humble communities that have no art supplies.  Megan, another Couchsurfer who has visited, came up with an ingenious idea to cut old cloths into diamonds.  We invited all the Guina’ang students to bring their old clothes to school the next day, and explained to them, that what they would make would be sent to the BCI Orphanage in Cambodia where Megan and Josefu have been working with 32 kids of the same age.

Using Megan’s diamond pattern, our CourchSurfer team worked with each grade from 1 to 6.  We guided the students in cutting the clothes and then in arranging the diamonds.  Manuela, the principal, observed that it was a great example for the teachers of “experiential teaching”, and the teachers observed how it was a great exercise for the students in collaboration, harmony, geometry, and spatial coordination.  I observed that it was a lot of fun and very rewarding and insightful!

For me this was a beautiful lesson in human nature. At the end of the day, the grade 5’s were chosen to take all the diamonds cut by all the classes to make a grand class mandala.  Alas, I didn’t quite trust the students enough to let them all work together to make one big mandala. I tried to impose a structure of six groups that would alternate adding to the mandala.  But with some students not occupied, this quickly descended into chaos!

I stopped everything and was about to end the art session.  But, ‘what the heck’ I thought– it can’t hurt to just give them a chance to finish the mandala with zero structure. So, I let them go.  To all our amazement, the chaos transformed into organic harmony. The kids who had been the craziest, took charge, girls worked with boys, everyone did their part, and they completed the mandala in 10 minutes. Without any guidance, they cleaned up around the mandala, and went back to their chairs!

There is a pretty profound lesson here!  Check out the photos below or see the full facebook gallery to see the collaboration unfold.


You too can contribute used clothing to the orphanage!  Here’s all the details of the project:



The synchronous coming together of many people’s goodwill and creativity made this happen!  Sarah and Russell came up with the intention with the help of the 1Mandala team (Vero, Dan, Helen, Jarrett, John and more helped craft and confirm the ideas).  Josefu and Megan sparked the idea of combining cloth, diamonds and mandalas to bless the Cambodians kids with mandalic sewing life-skills.  The dynamic energy and enthusiasm of David, Dominika and Piotr helped make it happen on the ground in Guina’ang– working out the logistics and guiding the students.  Thanks to the school staff, Manuela the principal and  Mrs. Carmen who enabled and oversaw the entire endeavour.  And of course, the 300 students who put all their generosity, enthusiasm and creativity in to making the diamonds were the heart of the collaboration.  We did it!