Faculty, staff. and students of the McCormack Graduate School’s Programs in Conflict Resolution mourn the loss not only of an admired and accomplished alumna for her many achievements made in her Philippine homeland. Belle Abaya was a prominent mediator serving as a spokesperson for President Fidel Ramos, and most recently, as his presidential advisor on the peace process. The sixty-year old mother, teacher, and national hero lost her battle with cancer last month.
Abaya joined the UMass Boston program after completing an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public policy. After her training here, she then went on to pursue a PhD in conflict resolution at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Belle Abaya had a varied career. She founded the Conflict Resolution Group (CoRe), a foundation dedicated to promoting the use of dialogue to help settle disputes. She served under the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos as his presidential spokesperson, authored a weekly column for the Philippines Inquirer, hosted a daily national radio talk and television news show, and later traveled the world interviewing successful Filipinos across all walks of life for her feature TV show “World Class.”
In 2009, she was appointed as secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. During her tenure and with strong beliefs that Filipinos can and will achieve peace, she successfully reopened negotiations on multiple previously deadlocked fronts with the Communist Party, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front.
In recognition of her work, Ms. Abaya was awarded the Presidential Order of Lakandula, rank of Bayani or “National Hero”. In the words of her son, “She will be always remembered as an inspiration to thousands of new mediators in the Philippines, benefiting millions and many generations to come”. He says that he will always remember his mother as “a strong warrior” noting that she fought her battle with cancer the way she has lived her life, “with courage, integrity, sincerity, and open arms to whatever was to come."
Department Chair Eben Weitzman remembers her fondly. “Belle was a rare and amazing woman, and as much as we were honored that someone as accomplished as she chose to come and study with us, we were even more proud of the work she went on to do after she left us, advancing peace and constructive conflict resolution in the world in remarkable ways."
Because she lived her life teaching others the importance of open communication, her alma mater plans a celebration of life later in the semester. She will be remembered on campus and across the globe as the “Mother of Peace and Mediation” in the Philippines.
Belle Abaya left three children Victor, Margaux, and Anton; and her husband Tony.