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

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


Perfect Day: the day to seek for a more perfect one

Who does not want a perfect day? A perfect day is the most awaited day that I guess everyone had always longed for. One would want to do everything to have it  or die earning for that day to make it the perfect day in their existence here on earth. The heavens know how many people in different places are now thinking of planning for this perfect day at this very moment. Imagining the feel, sensing the atmosphere and playing in their minds how they would want it to be. Just repeatedly. Well, how do you want yours to be? What would be a perfect day to you?

A perfect day for a few may be simple and for others, to make it simple will never be considered as an option because for them a perfect day is something different and rare that you just don’t do always.We have different tastes of how to do it and different kinds of lists of the ‘MUSTS’ for a perfect day. Some may want to spend it under the blazing hot sun in the shoreline with their love or with their shadow or their friends. Some may want to spend it by back-packing to travel the world, cause chaos in the street for the sake of having a ‘YOLO” themed perfect day, isolate themselves from the noise by reading in a faraway paradise, following their idols on a tour or just let it pass because that would mean perfect for them. This perfect day maybe I would be doing one of those things but that’s still uncertain as of the moment because I have not yet decided when it would happen because for the fact that making a perfect day means having the perfect plan, the perfect food, the perfect venue or the perfect idea itself. That would cost you a lot, both with your time and money for we always had believed that perfect days should be what a ‘PERFECT DAY’ should and it boils down to be a planned perfect day. It always have been to be a perfect one according to our imaginations that had been rooted in our hearts and mind for a long time now or according to our bucket list that was made a long long time ago. Well, that does not work for me.

You don’t have to overthink and plan so hard about it because for me the greatest moments in life are those which are unplanned. Try to recall the greatest moments that you consider the happiest and think about another set of  moments you want to happen ahead that you think will totally beat those moments that happened already . Did you imagine it well? It’s hard, right?  You can’t be sure though that what you wish to happen will give you that perfect genuine laughter or satisfaction or beat the feel you had that moment you consider to be the greatest as of the moment. My point is, everyday is another adventure and maybe you want to plan out perfect things but remember our fantasy won’t always meet to what reality we are in. So better get rid of the idea of  “YOLO” or you only live once because that is terribly wrong you do not live only once for you live every single day. Instead believe of “YODO” or you only die once and that would make sense so much better and having this mantra will not make you imagine for a perfect day but let you have a lot of perfect days in life. I continue to live every single day as a day that should be perfect. Meaning, I don’t plan of one perfect day but what I do is to make every day – a day that should be fun, productive and worth remembering for. I would always want everyday to be adventurous and something more of what is expected; to be a good child or God or fellow brethren to the community and one way or another. Everyday I let my imagination run wild of all the possible things that should be done. With this thinking, I can always have a lot of options when I think of the glory days and for me, a perfect day will be considered as it is, only if I had experienced it already and realized before I sleep that it was already the perfect day.

A perfect day is like a blessing in disguise. Sometimes you only know what you were doing until its done. A perfect day would be mysterious as hell that you wouldn’t even know that it was one until you utter ‘It was indeed a perfect day’. A perfect day would be the day that you won’t even remember as perfect until you are in your deathbed after you experience a whole lot of ones and reflect the life you had. A perfect day for individuals will always be different but for me as of the moment my perfect day would be the day that I utter that it was and then plan for another one because we are never content until we die. So my perfect day is the day that I will seek for a more perfect one.Strive for more and do more— that way you’ll experience more!

Have a perfect day!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Sparkling or Still.”