Words by: Nicco Sobremonte
The University of Asia and the Pacific recently marked the 20th year of its Civitas Asia National Student Conference Series (CivAsia). Held on April 6 to 8, CivAsia 2017 focused on the theme, “Tagged,” which is inspired by the idea that the youth of today, also called the millennials, are tagged in order to incite real change in society. A record of 200 delegates comprising of junior and senior high school as well as college students from Metro Manila, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Bacolod, and Davao, participated in the three-day event, the highest so far in the conference’s 20 years of existence.
The Hallmark of 20 Fruitful Years
The Latin term civitas refers to “a body of people constituting a politically organized community.” This is precisely what the founders of Civitas Asia envisioned to form since its launch in 1997: a community of youth leaders from all over the country and the Asia-Pacific Region engaging in reasoned conversation on the pressing issues of society and participating in the exercise of nation-building.
The main goals of the conference are to help bridge the Asia-Pacific community, to assert the role of the academe in development, and to sustain and nurture the future leaders of the Asia-Pacific community. As such, the conference features two major parts: a series of talks and panel discussions with leading experts, and a set of breakout sessions among the delegates with the objective of arriving at common principles of action and resolutions that assert the significance of youth involvement in building the future.
The first day of the three-day conference started out with its project head, Abbas Villalon, 5th year MA Humanities student, delivering the opening remarks that stresses two major points that he challenges his fellow youth leaders to do: to always see the bigger picture by looking at both sides of the story first before voicing out an opinion on issues in society, and to help the government in its challenge of real change, without the community being consumed by crab mentality and by instead practicing bayanihan.
The opening remarks was then followed by the Youth Chat, a collaborative discussion about decoding the Filipino millennials, their characteristics, and their potential to make a change in their respective communities. The speakers for this part include Mr. James Lactao, UA&P’s guidance counselor; Atty. Karen Jimeno, a proud UA&P alumna who now works as undersecretary for the Department of Public Works and Highways; and international award-winning film director Pepe Diokno. Through their individual ten-minute talks, they shared their journey and experiences as successful young experts in their respective fields. After which, a panel discussion was moderated by Villalon and fellow UA&P student leader Agatha Bongosia wherein the delegates were given the chance to ask queries to the speakers.
In the afternoon, two separate talks were given, focusing on specific aspects that today’s youth are engaged in. Basketball coach and sports analyst Charles Tiu spearheaded the first talk on the subject of how millennials can acquire values and virtues by doing physical activities and becoming involved in sports. It was then followed by the motivational talk delivered by Prof. Richard Heydarian, ABS-CBN’s resident political analyst and one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines in 2016, on how millennials can be effective youth activists and stand up to their own advocacies in the age of populism.
After the talks, the breakout sessions for the first day commenced. The delegates have been divided into seventeen different groups and were tasked to craft an advocacy campaign that reflects the conference theme this year. Each group had only two days to finish the campaign. To make things more fun, the organizers made this part a competition wherein top three groups will be chosen and will each receive prizes. Moreover, the winning campaign will be featured in the official Facebook page of CivAsia.
Youth and Society
The second day of the conference started out with the talk given by Ms. Agnes Dizon-Cuaso, a former events model and currently a financial advisor in Sun Life Financial, the co-presenter for the event, on how millennials can avoid making financial mistakes and be inspired to invest early to secure their future. Afterwards, the first breakout session for the second day occurred, the time when the groups got occupied with either shooting or editing their ad campaigns.
In the afternoon, two other talks came about. The first one focused on how millennials can use the media in connecting with other people with the same advocacies. ABS-CBN’s digital strategist and social entrepreneur Mr. Jigo Reloj led the said talk. The second talk was then conducted by CNN Philippines’ Senior Anchor and Correspondent Ms. Pinky Webb, where she delved on the issue of responsible citizenship and journalism, touching on how the youth can be responsible journalists in their own way by being objective, fair, and square in commenting on the society’s pressing issues.
The last breakout session was done after the talks, with the delegates making their finishing touches to their advocacy campaigns. After which, the much-awaited socials night was held, beginning with a dinner at the Multi-Purpose Court. The delegates were asked to go back to the Li Seng Giap Auditorium where the program continued through a message from Dr. Cecilia Resurreccion, the director of the University’s Center for Student Affairs, and a keynote speech on “Youth and Nation-Building” by Pasig City Councilor Vico Sotto, who emphasized the role of the youth in successful governance. JCI Ortigas, the event’s in-cooperation-with sponsor, through its Regional Vice President Mr. RJ Paguyo, also gave a fifteen-minute talk on the youth’s opportunity to make an impact in society by being active advocates.
Initially, all of the campaigns were scheduled to be shown and judged during the socials night, but due to time constraints, Villalon announced that the presentation and awarding of the advocacy campaigns will be done on the final day of the conference.
Youth in Action
The final day of the conference focused on how the youth can help in building a better community. Lorenzo Paterno, Habitat for Humanity Philippines’ Youth Engagement Officer, gave a talk on the topic and facilitated an action plan-making workshop afterwards. Again, the delegates were divided into groups. Together, they were able to share insights on how the youth can help in fulfilling the goals in various sectors of society and reflect on their past experiences which made them realize that through their small actions, they too can help make a positive change in society.
After the workshop proper, the conference culminated with the showing of all the advocacy campaigns crafted by the seventeen groups after two days of preparations, where the three best campaigns will be determined. Villalon was joined by CivAsia 2017’s Research head Lorraine Doong and CivAsia 2016’s Marketing head Joey Mundo as the panel of judges. After a thorough deliberation, the judges announced the winning groups:
- Champion– Group 12- debunking millennial stereotypes (Marius Reonico of UA&P, Dustin Flores of Rizal High School, Bernard Carlengga of Rizal High School, Gill Tantoco of ADMU, and Ethan Tantuco of Xavier School) (watch their campaign at https://youtu.be/5xCM93JnZgk)
- 1st Runner-up– Group 17- youth engagement (Ines Alegre and Maya Araneta of UA&P; Julianna Reyes and Taye Cureg of PAREF Woodrose; Kaye Sotingco of Jubilee Christian Academy; Mark Lopez of UP Diliman; Paula Guay and My-Led Misalang Jr. of Rizal High School; and Cassandra Guese of Manila Central University)
- 2nd Runner-up– Group 3- mental health awareness (Miguel Bundoc, Angelo Victorino, and Pauline Fonseca of UA&P; Norman Pollentes of St. John’s Institute-Bacolod; Hans Sy of DLSU-Manila; Kathleen Araneta, Diane Agoncillo, and Ryan Bandola of Rizal High School)
- Special Citation– Group 15- preservation of Filipino arts and culture (Mark Jacinto of DLSU-Manila; Terenz Gambe and Raya Aala of UA&P; Kristine Cruz, Ivan Nasam, Edcel Santiago, and Angelo Sta. Ana of Rizal High School) – (this advocacy campaign already has a page on Facebook, please support the advocacy at https://www.facebook.com/preservethearts/)
This year, not only did the turnout of delegates tremendously increase, but the theme’s quality also leveled up by becoming more relatable to the audience as they were able to bring home lessons and realizations about themselves from the three days of discourse among their peers and with the invited guest speakers who are respected experts in their fields. For this, the delegates of CivAsia 2017 gave the conference an “excellent” overall rating. This conference may be young in age, but its legacy will surely live on in the many years to come.