Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations 2015

It was just to test my limits and to share my opinion about the topics asked from the site (those were my goals) and I couldn’t believe I passed Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations 2015 because I was content already knowing I passed Phase 1 and what made the chances thinner was the very choppy interview online. Still I became one of the delegates representing Philippines under the Human Rights Panel.

What made so excited was because Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations creates a forum of exchange and facilitates discussion of the most important economic, political, and social issues relevant to the Asia-Pacific region. Since 1991, the annual HPAIR conferences have brought together students from the world’s foremost universities and leaders in the fields of government, business, culture, and academia. Each year, the team organizes two legs for HPAIR: the Harvard Conference in Boston and the Asian conference.

It’s been 21 years since Harvard Project in Asian and International Relations came back to Philippines and it is such a humbling at the same time a challenging experience to be part of history being one of the 20% who are Filipinos. During the length of the event we were exposed in different business plenaries, workshops, panel discussions, case studies and also had a career fair. The speakers were leaders coming from different countries speaking for varied fields. Aside for the human rights, I got to pass other seminars: entrepreneurship, Asean Identity and Diplomacy and Women in the corporate setting.

After the opening program, I made friends with people who are in the Human Rights Panel. They are amazing leaders from different countries and one of them was Alicia Lo despite her disability she was able to come here in the Philippines with her  very supportive mother. Alicia is currently studying in London and she was one of the best people I met in the conference.

Instant friends because of Human Rights! From the left; Alicia Lo from London, Kelly Wong from Hong Kong, Yusun Lee from South Korea, Camila Alvirado from Peru, Therese Dela Pena from UP Diliman-Manila, and me

Human Rights Panel
The highlight of my experience was being in the Human Rights Panel sessions which later on upgraded into a family. The main goal of the Human Rights family was to evolve solutions for Human Rights in Asia. The organizers brought together practitioners from regional governments, businesses, non-profit organizations and civil society groups to discuss challenges to and innovations in combating human rights issues in Asia. Most importantly, the panel connected and fostered the next generation of human rights leaders in Asia and beyond.
Our moderator was Caitlyn Ryan who is a Master of Public Policy candidate at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government with her assistant, Montita Sowapark. It was amazing to meet my other halves- Human rights advocates and discussed pressing issues in Asia-Pacific region and thus, worked with them during our case studies. As a Spark! Fellow, I was able to relay the activities and advocacies of the organization as well – promoting Spark! Ph to the other nationalities.
Here is the summary of my experience:
Day 1 : Modern- Day Slavery: The Many Faces of Human Trafficking
Today, there are more slaves in the world than ever in human history. An estimated 20 to 30 million people are forced to work against their will, often without compensation and in dismal conditions. Human trafficking takes many forms – forced labor, sex trafficking, forced child labor, child soldiers, child sex tourism, involuntary domestic servitude, debt bondage – and survivors of the crime can be found in every country in the world. We will look at the different forms in which human trafficking is manifested in Asian countries, and the innovative efforts being taken to combat this grave human rights violation.

Nieves Confesor – Chair, Panel of Declaration Expert-Advisers to the International Labor Organization
Natalie Jesionka –
Founder, PRIZM Project and Member of Board of Directors, Amnesty International USA
Sam Inocencio, – Field Office Director, International Justice Mission Philippines

I got the chance to asked our panelists questions and also related with my mates under the panel. They were amazing and it felt amazing too to be with them in the same room. The forum started with a brave soul from Dela Salle and I asked after with a lot of questions and that started the fire in the room ; everyone became brave enough to share the cases in their country and how to solve them.

Day 2 : Dangerous Speech
Access to speech expression are highly restricted by many governments in Asia. This panel will look at how innovations in technology, media, and communication have allowed individuals and groups to catalyze dialogue regarding controversial issues and enact socio-political change.
Pinkaew Laungaramsri – Assistant Professor, Chiang Mai University
Sam Gregory – Program Director, WITNESS
T. Kumar – International Advocacy Director, Amnesty International Asia
Ravi Agrawal – New Delhi Bureau Chief, CNN International

Problably very informative and helpful. Even though I was late I got the chance to listen to the panelists who are activists in their fields and also heard the other youth leaders talk about their stories about this freedom of speech each country must have.

Day 3 : Bending Tradition: The fight for LGBTQI Rights
As Asia continues to develop and democratize, traditional values are often coming into conflict with growing LGBTQI and feminist communities. This panel will explore the current obstacles faced by the LGBTQI communities in many Asian societies and the ways in which these communities and allies are finding solidarity, subverting traditional norms of gender and sexuality, and demanding access to equality.
Cristina Cristobal – Proj. Coordinator, Asia-Pacific International Gay and Human Rights Commission
Joanne Leung – Chairperson, Transperson Research Center Hong Kong
Jennifer HsinChieh Lu – Director, Tongzhi Rexian
Popo Fan – Independent Filmmaker and Director, China Queer Film Festival Tour

THE MOST EMOTIONAL PART OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS PANEL! Everyone was touched by their stories and felt the panelist passion in their struggle for their advocacy. What surprised me was after the forum everyone slowly confessed their true identity. Some shared it was the very first time they shared it to someone and that made me feel so honored that hugged  her so tight.

Day 4 : Case Study presentation and Competition
Our team was composed of a practicing Human Rights lawyer from New Zealand, a student of medicine in Pakistan and two activists from Hong Kong. We were tasked to have a solution for Nepal’s Forced Child Labor in the carpet industry and won the second place.

HPAIR International Night

It was included in the e-mail sent to us and I had this crazy idea to promote Cebu in the international conference and my friends who passed HPAIR as well agreed. Only three of us from Cebu got in, namely; RJ Diana and Seane Aljas they are both from University of San Carlos. It was a nice joke at first and then they realized I wasn’t joking at all. Even though it ‘s a crazy idea well it was a crazy idea that will help promote Cebu and ofcourse, let us show the world how proud Cebuanos we three are.

We had a slot even without any audition tapes because of my strong-worded e-mail I sent. It was one way for us to focus more in our other activities because each of has had responsibilities with our organization so we had no time to practice at all. I was so glad the organizing team agreed to my proposal.

That was one crazy idea I am so proud of! That one in a lifetime opportunity turned into reality.

The three of us during our performance. Photo courtesy: Ivan Zamorano
Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations 2015

Imagine if you are not imagining at all!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Imagine All the People.”

The next time you’re in a public place — a coffeehouse, a park, a store — observe the people around you. Pick a person, a couple, or a group, and imagine what their lives might be like.

For two days I have been in the same famous coffeehouse in the city – Coffee Prince. I have observed how similar the people were at the same time very different. There were groups and those who went alone. These people were in the shop either to study or to bond with their gang or maybe just to treat themselves with something delicious. They came to the right place! Some people were noisy and others very silent. This made me wonder- why do these people go in such places when they already know there will be a crowd and then still choose to study in such?

Public places, basing from my experience, give you the right kind of peace in a big crowd. Somehow you feel solitude in the buzz of different people in short, there is seclusion in  a sea of strangers. That’s why they go because people don’t care about other people’s business only their own. If I were to pick the people I will choose us- our study group. This group is composed of my policy paper mates – Rae, Shiela , Ericson and Jennifer. Shout out to them!

(c) Shiela Policarpio’s picture of us makes me wanna smile. 😀

Imagine all the people

Imagine the number of people that comes in and out of Coffee Prince – a lot of them , right? These folks can afford and are lucky to be able to study in a comfortable place with comfort food and air-conditioners. Not only they are blessed with life but also this kind of luxury they have. I chose us – our Policy Paper group.

We are students and we are privileged to be called ‘students’. We are different but we have one common goal that binds us all: to have a good proposal for our policy paper and of course, to pass our major subject. All for the sake of passing, we spent two days in a coffee shop.

Choco waffle for two days! Photo taken by Shiela Policarpio
Wouldn’t be complete without this 😀 Photo taken by Shiela Policarpio

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Imagine if everyone in the Philippines are studying then there would be a greater need for more public spaces. Imagine if everyone’s called  a student and imagine if everyone’s aware that it is a privilege to study? Imagine if this is reality then I won’t have to seat in conscience because I’m eating good food plus I’m studying while others are using street lamps to study or don’t even have the chance to study because they are working or worst case scenario, they are not in school. It would have been a better place if this ain’t an imagination!

October 11 is the International Day of the Girl and this year, the campaign is to use the hashtag #62MillionGirls for #GirlRising. Latest survey, tells us there are still 62 million girls who are not in school worldwide and that is the sad reality. Yes! This is sad but I hope this fact inspires ALL students to even study harder. You don’t need to stop studying to be with them and share the agony or teach them but first, we must nurture our education to find our niche. When we are educated we have greater power to make an impact and help them.If you are making your education worth it then you are one step closer to that goal. Before starting that we must first have that sense of awareness that we are the fortunate ones to be in school and to have that power to change lives in the future.

For the weekend, it wasn’t all serious business and stuff but also tons of laughter. Remember that in the journey of life we must also take a pause to smile, laugh or make others laugh. It makes life worth living for. Our story is the same with other students who are in their finals in this semester. God bless us all and I hope we are all aware of the privilege we have.

To finish this entry, I would like to share the video below which was shared to me by my friend, a future teacher, Catherine Sullano in facebook. It just sums up everything I learned this weekend. Share if you agree! 🙂


I ain’t tryna do what everybody else doing

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Can’t Drive 55.”

Take the third line of the last song you heard, make it your post title, and write for a maximum of 15 minutes. GO!

Am I wrong  By Nico & Vinz

“Am I Wrong”

Am I wrong for thinking out the box from where I stay?
Am I wrong for saying that I choose another way?

I ain’t tryna do what everybody else doing
Just cause everybody doing what they all do
If one thing I know, I’ll fall but I’ll grow
I’m walking down this road of mine, this road that I call home

The very song I accidentally heard the other night and I am thankful for youtube’s autoreplay. Sometimes good things come along our way if we go along the flow. Chill and enjoy where ever the waves take you! When I heard the beat and listened to the lyrics, I couldn’t help but thought that I should have heard this sooner!
As I replayed their video, I then began stalking the singers and all of their songs. Mind you, all their songs are empowering and cool! The beat you can dance to and the music you can totally chill with. Nico and Vinz are truly one of the best! Somehow, they made it to my list of powerful and empowering singers to listen to. Some singers like Sarah Bareilles , Ed Sheeran, Colton Dixon, Kelly Clarkson and Rachel Platten. They make you do things you thought you could never do and create the kind of music that can move people and  can make people move.
It’s not a new song but definitely it’s a catchy one and worth listening to. The message is simple: You just you have to be yourself and there’s nothing wrong with that and you chasing dreams. Play the video above and let’s hear what you have to say before you read mine.
Make sure you already watched the video before proceeding!
 I ain’t tryna do what everybody else doing
Would you agree that the video is the very story of your life? Whatever your situation is right now, I know there was once a time you were criticized, bullied or hurt by someone else. There was once a time you cared about what others thought of you and there was once a time you were scared every time you do something because you thought what others say about you make up who you are. You were scared of who you are turning to be in someone else’s perspective. On the other hand, you were also scared that you cared too much about this and you let this have control over you.
Wake up! Wake up! Ask yourself what have you done wrong? Look at your life, are you happy? Do what you have to do in order to do what you want to do and that doesn’t include listening to other people’s opinion and letting them have a space in your mind without any rent. Darling, it’s good to be selfless but you don’t have to lose yourself trying to be one. Sometimes you have to put yourself first and not them. Don’t try to save everyone because the truth is, you really can not save them only you can do a bit and help them but never really save them because only them have the power to do that. Darling! Everyone’s busy saving their own lives and so you must to. Not only save yourself but learn to love yourself too. When you learn to love yourself you get to love life too. If you love yourself you learn not to depend on anyone. You learn to be happy not because someone makes you happy but also because YOU ARE JUST NATURALLY HAPPY. Then this will make you do things that make you happy and people will automatically go with you in your journey if you are true in yourself. You attract people who are similar to you. So don’t ever be afraid to shine!
Sometimes you have to be on the journey alone but always know you are never really alone. If people don’t believe you or not trust you enough still go and embark with your ideals. Trust yourself enough and that is all you need. Don’t ever be afraid to chase your dreams if people tell you that you are too idealistic then tell them that there’s no such thing as impossible when you believe. Ask them,which is more idealistic, someone who does do something with their dreams or someone who just dreams? Tell them there’s no dream that is so big just an idealistic fool who keeps telling others they are impractical. Prove them wrong and along in that process, sing to them this song.
Am I wrong ?
For thinking that we could be something for real?
Now am I wrong
For trying to reach the things that I can’t see?

But that’s just how I feel,
Trying to reach the things that I can’t see

If you tell me I’m wrong, wrong
I don’t wanna be right, right


Story behind Cebu International Youth Day 2015

Weird how things work out in their own way sometimes. Last May, we had been struggling what topic our organization, the Josenian Junior Diplomats should cover this year. Our choices were World Humanitarian Day or International Youth Day. And I chose the latter.

The next step was to decide what topic and who will be the speakers. I really had no inspiration that time but I think there was a divine intervention that I came up with the concept. I was patient enough to connect the dots. The concept was born because of a book, a friend and a music video.

The book was The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. I finished this last summer as well. It was about globalization and how everyone in the world no matter what status or your race is; you can compete with anyone in the world because we are all standing in the same platform. Then I had my ‘Eureka’ moment, I realized not everyone knows about this and thus, everyone should know about this.

The friend was in the name of Mikkel Wilkinson Yang who I met in my event: ASEAN Integration the last year and crossed paths again last summer. He was the one who recommended the book and helped me out with the problem about ‘what upcoming event’ should I do.

The song was Kelly Clarkson’s People like Us motivated me more. It described what I observed in the city that there are a lot of active youth leaders but the number of those who aren’t are even greater.The song told me that the more we should take care of these leaders.  Here is a sample of the lyrics:

We come into this world unknown
But know that we are not alone
They try and knock us down
But change is coming, it’s our time nowHey… everybody loses it,
Everybody wants to throw it all away sometimes
And hey… yeah I know what you’re going through
Don’t let it get the best of you, you’ll make it out alive
OhPeople like us, we’ve gotta stick together
Keep your head up, nothing lasts forever
Here’s to the damned, to the lost and forgotten
It’s hard to get high when you’re living on the bottomOh whoa oh oh whoa oh
We are all misfits living in a world on fire
Oh whoa oh oh whoa oh
Sing it for the people like us, the people like us

So one night I got all the dots connected. I saw my friends’ activities on facebook ranging from politics and what not. Then I thought of a program that will tackle everything at the same time still relate to each other. I saw my one friend’s post about a social movement called ‘Because I said I would’.

Boom! I just had an idea and that was to have different aspects to be discussed in two parts: Inspiring the Youth and Youth in Action. The first part is about the people who are experienced already about topics and are the reason why we are called the ‘youth’. These are composed of leaders ahead of us meaning they are veterans in their fields in the national level. For the second part, are leaders who are currently struggling their advocacies here in the city.

I thought of starting the second part with the world being flat and the rest will be how to be a millennial in this flat world. I believe all these areas won’t be possible if in the first place we will not say ‘Yes’ to our responsibilities as the Youth of this country.

The World is Flat. We don't know that it is happening. We are equal and we can compete.
1.The World is Flat. We don’t know that it is happening. We are equal and we can compete.
Find your brand and develop it then you'll be indestructible.
2. Find your brand and develop it then you’ll be indestructible.
The new trend is not to be part of the trend but to be against it.
3.The new trend is not to be part of the trend but to be against it.
Because I said I would then I will. Let's make our promises into actions.
4. Because I said I would then I will. Let’s make our promises into actions.
We only hear stories about LGBT but we want to hear it from the LGBT perspective. Is Cebu exclusive enough?
5. We only hear stories about LGBT but we want to hear it from the LGBT perspective. Is Cebu exclusive enough?
Say yes to opportunities but don't forget the responsibilities of this answer.
6. Say yes to opportunities but don’t forget the responsibilities of this answer.

Then after more details for the event, we had an online campaign which starts with our desires for the future and for the world. We always had promised or said that I want a world that is ____ and because I said so I will ___________. So the first ones who answered were the speakers who had really cool answers.

August 2015

The date was set and the speakers’ list was final. For the first part I had speakers coming from different fields; Sir Bill Felisan who is a police officer with an inspiring story, Kuya Darren Gonzales for YouthVote, Kate Alyson Ramil for feminism and Fiona Jade Lim for Social Entrepreneurship.

August 15, 2015 – Marcelo Fernan Press Center, Lahug, Cebu City.

The day has come where from one  crazy idea to this big event. I registered the event in United Nations Youth Development Program in the map of International Youth Day event maps. The crowd was overwhelming!

The audience during the actual event.

The program started around 9 in the morning and with the Navy officer to open the event. The officer was so active with helping the youth and all.

Part 1: Inspiring the Youth

Kate Alyzon Ramil with her talk: 15 things I learned as a feminist. The first one who spoke under Inspiring the Youth.

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“IYD’s talk on feminism reminded me that feminism isn’t about superiority rather it talks about equality and empowering one another. But just because I want to be equal with men doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate men who are chivalrous.” – Jerusha Adamae Tan

“Be a wise voter and not a Bobotante!” -Darren Gonzales, second speaker says during his talk about YouthVote.
The police officer who was a street child for how many years.
Fiona Jade Lim the last speaker for the “Inspiring the Youth” part wherein she talked about a Greener and Livable Cebu.

Part 2: Youth in Action

Selected Cebu youth  leaders were selected to talk about topics concerning the youth. Starting with the World is Flat.

First speaker: Mikkel Wilkinson Yang talking about the World is Flat.
Alem Garcia for Branding 101
Going against the norm by Shari Julla Gonzalez
Danica Blanche Chua Fernandez talks about “Because I said I would movement”

“I learned that promises aren’t merely words. They’re so much more. When you promise something to yourself or to someone else, you’re making a commitment to fulfill that promise. It shouldn’t be taken lightly.” -Juniper Elle Abella

Isaac P. Saguit , UP-Cebu student leader talks about Cebu’s inclusiveness

“Cebu city is one of the first city in the country who passed an anti-discrimination ordinance but we LGBT people must strive hard to fight for our equal rights nationwide.” – Renato Alondres III, AB International Studies 3

Yes Man – Matthew Basabe talks about the “Power of Yes!”

Here are some of my friend’s reflections:

“The youth is so much capable of making things possible. They are equally as competent to those who have experience if they really want to. Desire and compassion can drive success to reality.” -Cherry Bo Fernandez, AB International Studies 2

“Out of all the many talks, I favored his because he talked about saying YES to life. I do admit that I rarely take risks because I think too much of what other people may think about me. I’ve always been playing safe and usually finding the easy way out. I keep declining offers because of my inferiority and fear of failure. During his talk though, he shared a story that showcased a person’s self-esteem regardless of how they look and how one sees themselves. He emphasized on the issue of self-confidence and believing in yourself no matter how different you are from the rest. His story of becoming Mr. Basabe despite his being short and stout made me think “So what if others seem to be higher than me?” because eventually I realized, just like what he said, we all possess something special in us. All we’ve got to do is use it. But we never would know our own capacity if we don’t take risks.. if we don’t grab the opportunity.. if we don’t say yes.

His victory paved the way to more and more opportunities.. Like he said “It was just one YES, yet it opened many doors.”
Also, he shared something about it finding yourself.. He was a “party animal” yet he was also a very generous man.. He locked himself in his room for a month just to figure out who he really was. His two sides contradict each other and he didn’t know who he was already. After a while, he realized “Why couldn’t I be both? That’s what I do. That’s who I am.” So he didn’t stop his life, he carried on with who he is. He wanted parties and so he’s in Spectrum. He wanted to continue his advocacy of helping orphans and so the Spectrum parties’ proceeds go to his foundation. He used innovation. He didn’t change himself. He embraced himself. He balanced his desires and his passion which I find very amazing. It just proves that you don’t need to be categorized into a single label. If that is who you are, don’t change. Be real!” – Phyllis Saromines , Beauty Queen
Story behind Cebu International Youth Day 2015

We are Maleficent!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Wicked Witch.”

Write about evil: how you understand it (or don’t), what you think it means, or a way it’s manifested, either in the world at large or in your life.

For me evil is disregarding the good in a thing or in a person. When you disregard pure hearts then you give them a chance to change hearts, from pure to pure evil.

I believe that there’s a balance between good and evil. There’s always a yin yang relationship here on earth. And it is up to us which side should prevail. But sometimes, it’s one’s situation that can influence this relationship.

One example, is that when someone hurts us then we continue the cycle of hurting others. We forgot that there’s an in-between to continuing this cycle and that is us deciding to say yes or no because we always have that power: the power of balance. Sometimes people are too emotional that they decide basing on what they feel. This is so powerful and somehow too destructible – I believe it’s how evil is formed. From  a strong pure belief transformed into a strong emotion -anger or revenge then that’s when evil resides.

Maleficent’s story is everyone’s story. Remember her story:

“As a beautiful young woman of pure heart, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) has an idyllic life in a forest kingdom. When an invading army threatens the land, Maleficent rises up to become its fiercest protector. However, a terrible betrayal hardens her heart and twists her into a creature bent on revenge. She engages in an epic battle with the invading king’s successor, then curses his newborn daughter, Aurora — realizing only later that the child holds the key to peace in the kingdom.” 

It is up to us if we want to reside evil in our hearts and let it control over our decisions. Dwelling in the past and doing revenge is killing our lives already or perhaps, we are better dead than walking dead here on earth. To live is to appreciate life’s goodness and to bring goodness to others and to the world. To live is to love. That is when you share yourself and when you know how to master the power of balance. Practice well! 😉


As far as I can remember

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Our House.”

What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.

As far as I can remember, I used to run around with no underwear

and that felt fine

As far as I can remember, my house was a mess but I know it’s because of me and that was fine

As far as I can remember, there were times it was so noisy and times so silent and that I know was normal

As far as I can remember, my house was both a library and a noise . It was even a paradise for the house was so green with flowers and ponds everywhere. My house was a kingdom.

My Grandmother is a librarian and sometimes I play my dolls in her library. The school was my neighbor.

I didn’t understand some words before and didn’t even know how to read ‘orange’ but I used to doodle things in books, in walls or even my babysitter’s face.

I was a mad kid shouting around , “I will be known by everyone in the world! I am the greatest artist who will live!”

As far as I can remember, I was the ruler of our house and I ruled!


Everyday random playlist

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Papa Loves Mambo.

Either I wake up because of the loud stereos are on or the music is too metal.

This is how my day starts. It starts with music and the music starts the life of our humble house.

When the music turns on, everybody moves. Looking back, in my hometown it was our house who plays music early in the morning.

There are no favorites because it’s always random everyday. It can be classic or the latest ones. It can be Taylor Swift or The Bee Gees. Trust me, even I who lives in that house get surprised every time.