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.

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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.

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The three of us during our performance. Photo courtesy: Ivan Zamorano
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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!

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(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.

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Choco waffle for two days! Photo taken by Shiela Policarpio
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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.

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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! 🙂

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Beyond the shell

When I was 17 and first year of college, I visited a speech club together with my co-officers to observe. I brought my book so I can read it if I get bored. At first, I thought they will argue about stuff and what happened was the very opposite. They were so good and inspiring speakers. That was when I decided I should join this club because I belong here. But I was still seventeen and members should be eighteen and above. I got busy that year and forgot about Toastmasters. So I didn’t pay much attention to the fact I can’t join the club yet. Earlier this summer, I came back and was prepared to be a member. Just this August, I had the time to give my first speech.

This is my story and my first speech in Queencity Toastmasters’ Club and the title is, Beyond the Shell.

Photo courtesy: Joy Pastorfide- Roman
Photo courtesy: Joy Pastorfide- Roman

Beyond the Shell

Please look beyond the shell!

“Good morning everyone! I’m Mona-“

“Are you Japanese?”

“Are you Chinese?”

“Are you Black Chinese?”

“Uhmm, Again Good morning I’m Monabelle C. Timosa”

“I am from Mindanao-“

“So you are a moslem?”

“Do you have guns?”

“Are you a war freak?”

Come on people! Let me finish! I shouted inside my head that time. The first introduction I had during my first day of class in Cebu. People were so participative. Everyone was butting in. But I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Because honestly, they were ruining my goal to make the best first impression because newbies always want to have that especially when you are from afar and first impression always lasts. My heart was aching that that’s what happened. Aside for the first impression destroyed also because of the three things I realized then.

First, others will always STEREOTYPE people coming from Mindanao.

Second, it will be a hard semester to prove my worth.

Third, again go back to my first point: others will always STEREOTYPE people coming from Mindanao because stereotyping is rampant here in Cebu. That was my first observation – no offense. Though it was hard to adjust at first, I learned to love Cebu and its people in the long run.

Instead of creating an impression, Cebu created an impression on me. I finished my self-introduction that time and somehow, it reflected my life.People had always judged me. The way I stutter when I talk in public, the way I look and my height. I always tend to be different from everyone and even in the family I already was. Those are some of the facts I can’t escape. So Instead, I must use my experiences and flaws. No one can have a perfect life like Taylor Swift. There will always be lapses in everyone’s stories. “Nobody is perfect” the famous quote says and even Taylor had a lot of flings before finding Calvin Harris.

Then going back to my self-introduction:

“Am I Japanese? No but a lot of people mistook me as one and even the Japanese.

Am I Chinese? Yes, I kinda have a bit of Chinese blood from my father’s side but that won’t be enough to make me chinese

Am I Black Chinese? Ofcourse not. Come on people”

Not everyone in Mindanao are moslems! not everyone can afford to have guns! And not everyone’s a war-freak there. I am not gonna bite you or anything. Have you hunt down after this but let me tell you something : you should never ever jump into conclusions unless stated or experienced.”

That was one of the days I’ll surely treasure because it’s funny and very worth-it to tell to my future grandchildren. I am Monabelle Cabrales Timosa – the only chinky-eyed tan person in a family of Spanish descent. Where  being beautiful and handsome are requirements to be part of the clan. My lola is half Spanish and my Lolo is just handsome. Just imagine Imelda Marcos and Fernando Poe Junior having children. Then look at me- welcome to my life!

I have always asked if I am really part of the family because it’s like they don’t notice me at all. I was raised by my grandparents because my Mom had me immediately after graduating college. She looked for greener pasture and now had another family. I was a mistake she said before and those were the words I would never forget. I never had a father figure and there were times I look for one. Whenever someone mentions the word, “father” it stings me and try to imagine mine but it would always be a question mark for I never had any picture of him or any idea if he’s tall or not. (It’s a very complicate family) I grew up and realized that if I don’t have a father then I will be a father to myself. Besides, I get ten times love from my grandparents.

It’s okay to have a very complicated life just don’t complicate it more by whining , “my life sucks or my lovelife is boring!” but instead accept that there will be bad days and good days and that it’s not a bad life. Be happy but don’t force yourself to be one. If you are sad then be sad because you can be sad, too. You all have the right to be. Nobody’s perfect! Accept the things you can not change, move on and live your life.

With that side of my story, I learned just to forget that it’s a sad one but rather it’s inspiring because there are bigger problems like the displacement of Syrian refugees. So what I did, I created a bigger world for myself to look for opportunities towards finding my identity.

And here are the three things I learned so far:

  1. Looks can deceive- it’s true but your life doesn’t have to depend on it. You should be MORE than you look and it’s always a great thing to surprise people. Surprise them with your attitude, hobbies, goals, advocacies or whatever that will naturally reveal as you establish your relationship with a person. Don’t brag because it makes you lesser.
  2. Accept it. Own it. Use it as an advantage
  1. Why do we always judge from the outside? Or why do we judge in the first place? Does it have to be that way because we are rational beings? Can’t we just accept the fact that there will always be people who are better or lesser than you. Isn’t that the beauty of life: living in diversity?

PLEASE JUST TRY TO LOOK BEYOND THE SHELL!

I only finished my speech two hours before performing it and I was so glad that I didn’t stutter or anything at all. I was even scared that my evaluator that time was Miss Des, she is the current president of the club and my idol as well. She is ingenious and very inspiring that I got so flattered when she said that my speech was beyond the mundane. I can’t wait for my second speech.

Here is my new family:

Photo courtesy: Joy Pastorfide- Roman
Photo courtesy: Joy Pastorfide- Roman
Beyond the shell

What is the make-up for?

                          What’s the matter with you?! You don’t need to worry about how I look and dress! Don’t worry that you’ll be with just a plain girl. Just be with me and dare not to pity me. This is just me and that is how I want it to be.

I am short and have small eyes. I am tan-skinned and I love to wear shirts and jeans. I don’t put make-up everyday just during rare occasions that is considered rare. Haha! Combing once after every shower is just right for my every day!

“Why do you not care so much for you face? If you just wear make-up every day you would look extra amazing!” These are the common phrases my friends dared to say to me and in return I would say: “Well, Why do you care so much for your face? What is the make-up for?”

WHY DO YOU CARE SO MUCH?

Why do you have to wear make-up?

And why I don’t?

I really don’t care if my friends are vain or not and I am not. And I don’t judge them, I love them but they don’t have to put it on for me. They don’t have to go against how I want because in the first place I did not go against theirs. We are all opinionated when it comes to how everyone (just like I and my friends) see beauty. And this is how it goes for me. It’s just they don’t have to worry for me. It is because I don’t see a reason rational enough why I would wear make-up everyday. Why I don’t care so much?

I don’t care so much because what is it for? So I will get the boy’s attention and maybe find a relationship? So everyone would find me beautiful? So I can walk confidently? So I can have gorgeous friends as well? So no one will insult me and go against my ways? So I could become what a real woman should be?

I don’t need to get attention from the boys. Well, I don’t do that because I consider it cheating for what will happen if your make-up fades? Then what? I don’t go for someone who’d be stunned by the looks but be stunned by the grace and attitude plus the wit and wisdom. Maybe, you can call it unrealistic but it is the real thing for me. What you feel is what you’ll see after. What you might see at first may lose its flavor in the end. Being real will bring you to a real man and lead you into a real relationship.

I don’t need anyone to tell me I am beautiful. I don’t like to please everyone because of how I look but instead of who I am. I often tend to see that now people see first what is in the outside then the inside. This is how the society did with its standards today. And such standards make us unreal because everyday if we have to wear make-up to become beautifully vain and brag to the world that you are beautiful then it makes you not at all. To be beautiful is to feel beautiful. To be beautiful is to know one’s stand in every situation and in every decisions. To be beautiful is to know how to carry oneself. To be beautiful is to be faithful. To be beautiful is to be kind. To be beautiful is to be courageous. To beautiful is to love unselfishly.

You don’t have to put something to make you feel confident but though for others it sometimes works… Well, I tell you that you don’t have any problem with that because things like this goes mind over matter. I think you are confident and then you will feel confident. But why in the first place you want to be confident? Ask this to yourself and say ‘why do I have to?’ Then prove it! You are always amazing because everyone has unique features and what is more are the talents blessed to you! Be happy with that and feel confident because you always are and you just don’t know.

I don’t need friends who love how I look I need friends who want to be with me because we are real friends. Friendship does not go along with the looks. If your friends are, then they are not considered friends at all. Friends are whom you laugh with, play with, talk with, eat with , party with, work with, understand with, travel with and more. And is there something that goes along with the looks? None at all. Friends are friends. They do tease but they don’t have you because you look very beautiful it is because they like the REAL YOU in the first place.

I don’t care if many insults how I look or just comments about anything that concerns it because I don’t care about them too. Why insult you in the first place? It just mean that those people looks at you and observes you keenly. And congratulations it just means you are famous that they would talk about you! Don’t worry about them they are your avid fans if you don’t have them then you won’t know who your real friends are. You won’t know that people notices you and be proud with that because the more people dislikes you the more people will like you, as well for not hating them back. If you are confident which you are then no one will go against your ways!

Does every girl have to look pretty to become a beautiful woman? I don’t have to be and you don’t. I have seen a lot of beautiful women who does not wear make-up at all and that is what I aim for. Beautiful women carrying her child, loving her husband, and takes care of them. Beautiful women working hard for her family just to feed them. Beautiful women feeding unsheltered children. Beautiful women helping anyone who needs their help in the supermarket. Beautiful women who smiles a lot and makes everyone at home. Beautiful women who teaches, who debates amazingly, who humbles herself, who prays, who gives and who loves strongly. Beautiful women are strong and that is what a woman for me, and what we both should be.

Things that don’t define you will not help at all. Cherish yourself by loving yourself and admiring yourself first because if you love yourself then you will learn to love others. It always start with you! Stick to things that make you happy and be as a beautiful woman a girl should be! YOU ARE SO AMAZING! So smile already because now that the beautiful woman finished reading this; have to get up, to face the world and make a mark that other girls won’t forget and will follow. See you there beautiful!

What is the make-up for?

Homework : Working out the Christian in me

The photo I stole when I bought some munchkins from the foreigner.
Aug.29,2013
                  I was so fed up with everything and what made it worse? Me and my best friend
misunderstanding because of a prior happening. I had no other choice but to walk out for air and so I did. Well, I  think my menstruation gave a little factor for this madness of mine.I was exploding but they didn’t know all I wanted was a company.
              Weird though because God was so generous to give me one. It seem that everything happens for  a reason. Out of nowhere a friend appeared beside me and in the long run, she helped me let the steam out. Funny how the conversation led her to talk about her darkest funniest intriguing secrets which was so fun. She was God-sent. Thanks to her everything turned back to normal in a matter of minutes.
             As we decided to part ways already , my ReEd ( Religious Education ) assignment made me pause & think for a while. The assignment went like this:
                Make a list of what you do everyday that will depict the context of the 3 dimensions of faith: to what you are believing, the  things you are doing  to realize your  beliefs (obedience), & entrusting/worshiping. 
                 And it may sound simple but to tell you it was as hard as chasing a leopard in the wild but the assignment made me assess myself towards the real question: what did I do today?
I felt empty and unworthy. Then I  thought deeply again- ‘what did  I do for God today?’.
I remembered suddenly what our Religious teacher said, “…. having faith is not only between God and you but also your relationship with other people. That is why we have to do the sign of the cross; to always remind us that faith is: vertical (our relationship with God) and horizontal(relationship with your brethren).”  That led me to another question:
‘what did I  do for other people today ?’
                I did nothing at all which made me guilty. For all the things he’d done for me and for all the blessings I received, I let a bad day be a bad day. When I swiped my ID and got outside the university I saw the Swiss munchkin seller whom  I adored a lot for his  determination and perseverance.His story never failed to touch my heart.  According to my close friend, Adamae:
       The Swiss guy was once a very very rich man who came to the Philippines to marry a Filipina and they were happy. Until one day, his wife suddenly disappeared! Away with his riches and everything he has left. Now, having no means of access to a suitable job he had no choice left but to do anything he can to save money and fly back to his native land. This led him to sell munchkins because he had just a very very few money left in order to survive the day.
               It may take a long time to earn that ticket with only a small profit everyday but still he was earning, right? And that is  a good thing. This story touched my heart and told my bestfriend about it three days ago. I took an oath to buy at least ten munchkins everyday but as usual humans tend to forget their words thus; we talk too much and act less.I forgot my oath. And standing in front of him made me guilty as flashbacks happened  at the very same time. What made it crazier that time was without any second thoughts I decided to buy a bunch of his munchkins.
Unfortunately, when I searched for money I  had only 7 pesos left that would be enough for me to go home.  I was confused. ‘What to do?!’  I  kept thinking. Yet the urge to buy lingered to me that time and the people around me were quite confused too.I  kept thinking and thinking then my feet led me back again inside the campus and walked straight towards the ATM machine. Wishing that there is money available.
And indeed, there was ! Crazy how things work out their own ways. I withdrew it and  hurried outside to buy munchkins.
” Hello Miss! . Three munchkins for 5 peysows?”(slang ) asked the Swiss vendor.

 “I’ll buy 50 pesos” I said in reply. What I said made him  smile! Well,  I  felt happy too. I was mesmerized by the spark of joy his eyes gave. I made my brethren happy that made that moment infinite and this is the kind of happiness that can’t be bought. As he was happily counting the munchkins, I stole a picture of him because that’s what I  always do when I’m inspired of someone and admired their hope.

                After I  received my munchkins, people were looking at me out of curiosity; what would  I  do with a lot of munchkins? and that’s my problem as well  because   I can’t eat all of them. Problem solved when a street tot wanted to have one and I gave him two pieces. And  I  felt happy because the solution is to share it with others.
                As I walked further, a vendor asked me what  I  would like to buy then in response I  just stared at her which was so awkward and I smiled. I asked her without  prior thinking, “Ate do you want to try?”  -ate smiled and said “For free?” . I nodded so I gave her. She smiled and it was like she haven’t smiled for a century. I felt great I made someone happy!

She took out her cellophane and I gave her a portion then she invited her fellow vendors and I helped them get their share too. I was even happier.
In the end,  we ended up sharing everything; to the kids who were starving and to other people who were around. It was ethereal. Their smiles were viral and all their sunken faces due to their harsh realities they were in disappeared.
Thus, today was a long day and I guess I did something  for my brethren, to God and also to myself. I found once again my core that is to help other people.This day made me remember a saying , A gift is not a gift until it is given back.

Mission accomplished – I did something! How about you have you done something good today? What is your story?

Homework : Working out the Christian in me