OUTLIVE2021: Reimagining a Future Worth Living
What is a future worth living? Given our current economic situation, political climate, and health crisis, it feels like there is no end to this conundrum. Every news outlet only reflects negativity and problems all around the world such as the conflict in Israel-Palestine, the rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths in India, and the human rights abuses prevalent worldwide. Yet despite the fact that COVID-19 forced us to maintain distance from one another due to social mobility restrictions and lockdowns, it ironically forced us to be closer together more than ever, fighting for reforms and inspiring collective action to solve the crisis we are facing today. While it may be definitely hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, EXCEL2022 sheds light on a different perspective of how we can view ourselves as part of something grander and how our actions, whether big or small, can truly impact our community, society, and the world in many ways that will reverberate throughout multiple generations. That is legacy. Dreaming for a better world, rising up to the challenge, and implementing actions for the betterment of others.
For the past 3 weeks, OUTLIVE 2021 has invited influential leaders within the fields of industry, non-governmental organization (NGO), and governance to inspire the youth to dream, take action, and leave a lasting legacy within their respective fields. The first installment started with sustainability in the industry field which invited the founder of Anpilo Agri farm, Elmer Relente to speak about the importance of sustainability as we reimagine how we conduct an enterprise in the 21st century. Mr. Relente proudly shared his journey towards establishing his farm with his wife, Mrs. Ellen Relente. The couple began being interested in the opportunities found in farming after they experienced working with farmers through an NGO. Throughout the webinar, he emphasized the crucial role of engaging in farming, especially for the youth, given that the current average age of farmers is 57 to 60 years old. He encouraged the audience to partake in supporting the agriculture field not only to save farming in and of itself, but also to continue the cultivation of a legacy in the industry field. Additionally, the webinar was paneled by Ms. Danica Ngo, President of Junior Entrepreneurs Marketing Association and Mr. Tristan Tano, Executive Board Member of the Student Care initiative, and moderated by Ms. Jian Tan, former President of Archers for UNICEF. The select student leaders shared their personal insights on the importance of undertaking steps towards a more sustainable future for all. That is, they shared that all individuals have the capacity to initiate change in terms of creating a brighter tomorrow for all industries despite the idea that doing the right thing may not always be tantamount to doing the easy thing. Essentially, the entire webinar revolved around the gravity of taking sustainable actions as early as now to eventually arrive at a developed and long-lasting world for the generations to come.
The second installment focused on legacy-building from the lens of an NGO officer which invited the Project Head of Project Pulo, Ms. Daniela Pedrosa, to speak about her organization, Tayo PH, which is run by a community of friends who continuously cultivate creative solutions and sustainable strategies by taking a global perspective rooted in local culture and tradition. It is mainly centered on localizing climate change solutions and humanizing climate change to make people see beyond it being a trend. She emphasizes the importance of being motivated by creating tangible solutions in solving problems in the country. She adds that bringing about change actually helps organizations go a long way because it helps build your brand and vision in such a way that it is organized, sensible, and timely. Meanwhile, the panel discussion featured Ms. Hazel Modesto, Vice President for External Affairs of Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista, and Ms. Alex Concepcion, Executive Vice President of Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon, as the panelists and Ms. Aja Ellett, Habilin Director for TAYO Change Agency, as the moderator. When asked regarding finding their advocacy, they highlighted the importance of being part of the systemic change by considering the injustices in the country and hardships faced by far-flung communities when searching for an advocacy. When asked about the difficulty of handling an organization, they mention the importance of reassessing the situation since it is wise to solve a problem with a clear mind. Moreover, empowering members to handle projects on their own is also equally important so that they can grow and have the chance to also become part of changing the world for the better. This is important because influencing other people through current actions creates a ripple effect and allows for positive change to occur as well.
Finally, the third installment highlighted the role of the youth in nation building and responsible governance with the Former Assemblywoman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Ms. Samira Gutoc, who shared her inspiring experience with the city of Marawi and how she continued to serve not despite the challenges she faced but because of it. She shared ideas of what the youth can do during these trying times, namely: (1) following simple routine World Health Organization (WHO) or Department of Health (DOH) guidelines; (2) educating families, friends and communities; (3) volunteering in community works; (4) donating to reliable charities and organizations; (5) and holding our government officials accountable. The moderated panel discussion featured well-esteemed student leaders Ms. Maegan Ragudo, President of the De La Salle University (DLSU) University Government, and Mr. Calvin Almazan, Deputy Secretary General for International Affairs of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, and moderated by Mr. Brendan Miranda, former Legislative Assembly Representative of EXCEL2022. The discussion started with explaining the importance of democracy, particularly human rights, accountability, and participation, which are important tenets that make democracy what it is. Second, the student leaders shared their experiences in leadership and gave the viewers an opportunity to also lead even if they are not part of any positions in organizations or student councils. Samira also extended by distinguishing the difference between formal and informal leadership roles. Third, the panel discussion shifted on the idea of media being a double-edged sword since it can either influence principles and ideas on a grand scale, but can also polarize and divide the youth because of call out culture and propagation of hate. The discussion resolved it by reimagining how we use the media as a tool to educate and not isolate people. They mentioned that we should always have empathy in the process of discourse because we acknowledge that not everyone is on equal footing since they may not be educated properly or that some ideas are deeply rooted not in logic but in inherent religious or political beliefs. This is important because when we don’t recognize these inherent flaws in social media discourse, it is difficult to influence the perception of voters regarding progressive laws such as divorce or abortion that ultimately hurt the people on the ground. Last, as the 2022 national elections nears, the role of youth is most tested as it will ultimately dictate the leaders we will have and whether or not our future is truly worth living. The discussion highlighted examples of strengthening the COMELEC, enhancing educational institutions, tirelessly persuading apolitical voters, and using social media to educate voters. In short, not only do we need more voters, but it is also equally important to have informed voters.
Whether we are in the field of industry, NGO, or governance, our actions, may it be big or small, will have profound effects on the future we are trying to create. But more importantly, we end by asking what a future worth living should really be? To be honest, that is still a personal question that only you can answer as you venture on your personal journey towards a better society. Though, we can always find comfort in the fact that we were part of the narrative in changing the world for the better and creating a lasting legacy that will outlive us all forever.