Author Archives: rondangcalan

Have We Ever Thought About Our Purpose in Life?

The scorching heat was unbearable at around noon a few days ago. I just finished paying my Meralco bill at the Bayad (Pay) Center near Medical City and had to rush back to the office. Thank goodness a taxi was going out of the hospital and was able to get it immediately. As usual, I sat in front.

The driver was an old man probably in his late 50s. I noticed his hands curled around as he drives and could not speak properly. I didn’t feel uncomfortable though with his driving. He drove like most of the normal taxi drivers out there.

As we move through EDSA nearer to Camp Emilio Aguinaldo where I work, there I began to realize that the old man might have some health problems. I suspect he had a mild stroke. The nearer we were to the camp, the more uncomfortable he got. I could sense it with the way he behaved. It might have been perplexing for him not to be able to speak properly when uniformed military personnel would ask where we are going once we enter the camp though gate 6. So I told him to drop me at gate 1 instead and I would just walk towards the office.

Once I got dropped off, I thought to myself that driving a taxi might have mean the world for that old man and his family…..but I had to postpone reflecting as I got back into the office and began dealing with paperworks and calls.

The thought of that old man reappeared yesterday as I was going home from the office, feeling burdened by workloads and petty personal matters. I just realized how his sense of purpose might have made him endure driving a taxi and dealing with sometimes unruly customers despite his poor physical condition.

In retrospect, that encounter with that old man made me think about “a sense of purpose”; about what it is capable of doing to people.

Maybe, just maybe, I thought a sense of purpose is what gets lolo (grandpa) to wake up everyday to drive his taxi around Metro Manila and serve customers needing a ride.

A sense of purpose is also what drives the candy vendor in the mall to wake up in the morning to go to work or a student to come to class at the university. A sense of purpose is what drives entrepreneurs to keep business moving, passionately sustains development workers to fix the most problematic of social systems and gives protagonists of humanity the courage to confront the greatest of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.

Of course, a twisted sense of purpose can create an unsatisfactory life or an unimaginable tragedy to mankind.

Nonetheless, it is apparent that people act because of a sense of purpose, regardless if its good or bad.

It would be fitting to ask then, have we ever thought about our purpose in life?

Have we ever questioned if the sense of purpose that sustains us, that make us get up everyday, leads us to a life worth living?

Have we ever thought if our sense of purpose makes the life of those around us a little bit better?

Have we ever thought…..?

Have we?

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Unforgettable Trip to South Korea part 3

(c) Atty. Jeremy Gatdula of the UA&P School of Law and Governance.

(c) Atty. Jeremy Gatdula of the UA&P School of Law and Governance.

Wildy (my roommate) and I were wandering around Seoul’s vast train station. I’ve only been there twice yesterday and couldn’t figure out if I would be able to know if we were riding the right train to Kintex. Good thing, the signs were written in both Hangul and English. Wildy and I just had to know which side to enter, the several transfers we had to make and made sure that we drop by the correct station. Simple as it seemed, it gave us a lot of headaches in the first few days.

When I arrived at Kintex, delegates were already debating. I wanted to panic but I knew I had to arrive calmly and silently. I sat at the back with Guinea Bissau and another European dude. I didn’t have the chance to talk to them as much. I was immediately immersed into the conference proceedings. There’s already a whole bunch of people in the speaker’s list (the list of people who will be speaking as recognized by the Chair). If I remember it correctly, delegates were giving speeches on proposed solutions to the conflict in Bosnia. I observed first, took notes and tried to group arguments whether they were for diplomatic solutions, military intervention, humanitarian relief or other forms of political dialogue.

Our committee was composed of around 150+ single delegates (countries were represented by pair in other committees). It was a little tricky but exciting. Its called the Historical General Assembly where we went back to 1995 when the Bosnian Crisis was happening. We had to provide recommendations to the Security Council or provide peaceful mechanisms to end the conflict. The challenge was to keep certain facts given the hindsight of what happened and act as if we were at the moment. Precisely on May 1995 when UNPROFOR troops were captured and there was an impending genocide in Srebrenica. It was expected of us, if it not being our moral obligation, to make better decisions than what was made by policy-makers then. We’re doing it in real time and quiet a few moments we got updates on the ground such as Canadian Forces between captured by Serb paramilitary forces. What we were going to do and how it would impact the flow of the proceedings, were basically up to us to decide.

GIVING A SPEECH

We were about an hour into the formal session. Somehow the discussion leaned towards the establishment of schools and provision of peace education. At that time, I found the opportunity to speak up. I got included in the speaker’s list. The first speech that I delivered was nerve-wrecking. I was planning to make a written speech but my hand was shaking that I couldn’t even write. Since computer was not permitted during formal session, I couldn’t type. When my name was called, I stood and got into the podium with whatever I had.

The first few sentences were the most difficult to start with. I saw the whole committee in its full glory and felt as if all eyes were piercing through me. Well in the middle of the speech, I just stopped caring about it as I wanted to end my ordeal. The point I wanted to raise was that the talk on education, infrastructure and health were long term goals. While they were necessary, the first thing we had to do was to make sure that conflicting parties would sit in the negotiating table, put down their arms and determine ways to create peace in Bosnia. It was only when there’s peace that public institutions can be built and strengthened to serve the people.

DIFFICULTY WITH LOBBYING

When I came back into my seat, notes started coming in. People were asking to form coalitions or to have lunch together and begin drafting a resolution paper. I didn’t realized then how fast moving WorldMUN was like. It was because the sessions were dominated by moderated caucuses that new ideas are being brought forth every time. There was also not much time for lobbying and resolution writing during sessions as we’re always on a moderated caucus.

I was used to the system in the Philippine MUNs where we had long unmoderated caucuses that allow me to help write resolutions and roam around the conference venue to lobby. Here, the only way I could lobby was either to pass notes (and not listen to speeches which I found important even if I didn’t agree with some people) or do it during lunch breaks. Evenings were impossible since I went to socials and I was staying in Myeongdong, which was an hour and a half away from Kintex.

The bigger challenge here was how to convince people. Eloquent lip service would lead to nowhere. A lot of delegates demanded substance. Many were brave enough to be on their own because they didn’t agree with the points raised by most delegates in the committee. The mix of delegates were simply amazing. A lot of delegates in my committee were either doing their masters or in their latter years as undergraduate students or taking Juris Doctor program (there were PhD students in other committees). We had students from Sciences Po, Korea University, University of Cape Town, Sydney, Adelaide, Kyoto, Waseda, Georgetown, Yale and NUS to name a few. The veterans and very successful delegations in past conferences were the Universidad Simon Bolivar and Universidad Catolica Andres Bello (Venezuela), American Military Academy at Westpoint, American University of Beirut, London School of Economics and MUN Society Belgium (included some notable universities like the Free University of Brussels and Catholic University of Leuven). Apart from learning during conference proper, it was the friendship and network that you build with these people that would last beyond the conference itself.

FORMING ALLIANCES

The morning of the second day already had a lot of action. The bigger action was happening unnoticed because they were done through note passing. People were already forming alliances and had plans to reconcile their ideas during lunch. I was hesitant to give people a yes in joining their working group. I was still testing the waters and see which working group could accommodate my national interest and where I could contribute most productively.

The Chair then called for a short unmoderated caucus. Delegates grouped in circles inside and outside the room. I was going back and forth between those circles and listening to people sharing their ideas.

Some delegates were very smart that they were already consolidating ideas from other delegates. It only took a laptop or a notebook and patient listening to collate all the ideas of the group. These people acted as moderators in the discussion, listening more and clarifying arguments than making their own. That didn’t mean that they don’t have arguments and positions. It’s just that they let people to speak out and, later on, add their ideas in the resolution. They acted as gatekeepers who determined which ideas could make through the resolution and which would not. In that way, they were solidifying their leadership step by step. Brilliant strategy!

There I was on the side observing the groups. Obviously, groups could be very big that there were people who couldn’t speak and felt left out. Those were the people I liked to be with. In local conferences, that was how I formed alliances. Having observed around, I could look for people who had similar national interests with me and whose personalities matched with mine. In that way I was able to have few and select people to work with. It is easier to produce a resolution when all people are doing the job. They are committed and passionate to defend the resolution because they contributed in writing it. In big working groups, not everyone have the opportunity to do so. Essentially, alliances in small working groups can be stronger and more stable than bigger ones. Resolutions can be refined later or half of it could be scrapped, but the important thing is to have a resolution done immediately to allow more time to furnish it.

Another problem with haphazardly selecting allies is that differences fundamentally resting on national interests would surface sooner or later (unless one is inclined not to follow his or her national interest). Conflict of personality would strangle resolution writing as the group would be more engage on unnecessary arguments than constructive, meaningful and efficient conciliation of national (and, yes, individual) interests.

I wouldn’t say that I got this strategy head on. I was frustrated the first day because I couldn’t find an ally. I tried forming alliances several times with this or that delegate only to break down immediately. Some delegates were so blunt giving a note to me and saying that they wouldn’t want to work with me anymore because my ideas simply wouldn’t work. Inside my mind I wanted to BS that person but I had to keep my cool because I didn’t go there as a judo player or trash talker or boxer-like-Mayweather. I was there to act like a diplomat. Ergo, I had to be diplomatic.

I honestly found those statements sarcastic. A lot of Filipinos and Asians in general don’t usually put disagreements into the open, like telling people you don’t agree with them in the face. We’re into euphemisms. Many Europeans and Americans are straightforward. WorldMUN taught me to better understand where people’s actions were coming from, either from their culture, experiences or upbringing which could be markedly different from mine. I think every delegate and world leaders, in reality, have to deal with a lot of people different from theirs. Or worst they don’t like. Putin and Obama everyone?

To think of it, dealing with people different from myself or I didn’t like was a little price to pay if children in Bosnia was to feel safe in their homes, a wife relieved knowing her husband has been released from concentration camp, a girl unafraid of being raped by soldiers who wanted to get even on their enemies or a student my age could finally walk free, live free and enjoy life because there’s peace and a prosperous future to look forward to.

At WorldMUN, delegates are being trained to make those sacrifices to better the lives of many people around world. Such an important lesson for everyone to learn in order to make WorldMUN life changing indeed.

————-
Part 4 to follow.

A month ago I was craving for ramen. Instant noodles simply couldn’t satisfy my craving. I was seriously thinking of going out and find a restaurant nearby when I could eat one. Then a restaurant came into mind called “Wang Debak”, which I visited before. My last and only visit there was with a group of friends sometime early this year. We ordered ramen but I couldn’t remember how it tasted like. I didn’t bother about it so much at that time.

Since I couldn’t think of anywhere near to eat and the restaurant was just 10 minutes away from my place, I gave it a go. I called my friend Jayson if he could accompany me and, thankfully, he did.

Wang Debak is located along Escriva Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. The landmarks are NEDA, University of Asia and the Pacific and Millenia Building. Its adjacent to the 7-11 store along Escriva.

The restaurant is a little small. It can probably cater for 30 people at the same time. The interior is a little bit dark, mostly having brown and dirty white shades. I find those colors for a restaurant to be quiet dull and gloomy but not to the point of being uncomfortable to dine at. That’s just my opinion.

The large Oriental style painting on the wall somewhat compensates for it. The painting depicts the mountains somewhere in Korea or Southern China (a popular style in Oriental Art). It gives customers a feel of ancient Korean civilization and adds a sense of authenticity to the restaurant.

The feel of the restaurant, in general, appears as if you’re eating somewhere in South Korea. It’s like most of the traditional restaurants I’ve been to in Seoul.

In terms of service, I found it good. Above average. The servers were friendly and quick to act whenever we needed something. In fact, we’ve been busy talking that the lady owner actually told me through the server to eat my ramen because it’s good to eat it warm. Appreciated that she went that extra mile : )

Spicy Ramen costs for around 150 pesos. Not bad.

Spicy Ramen costs for around 150 pesos. Not bad.

The ramen I ordered was just the ramen that I’m looking for. The noodles were thick and fine. Not too overcooked. The egg was mixed well and slowly with herbs to form a creamy and delicate soup. It’s quiet spicy. I like spicy food. But I find their ramen extra spicy. What I liked more about it was that the taste of the meat was not dominated by herbs or whatever additives they put in the noodles. That’s usually my complaint in the ramen that I tried in other restaurants.

And oh, didn’t I tell you that the side dishes were really good? I mean, really good. Better than the ones I tasted in South Korea. There was kimchi, and lettuce leaves with vinegar. What I liked most were the baby potatoes dipped into some sort of sweet soy sauce. It was delicate as the taste of baby potatoes mixed so well with the sweet soy sauce.

Hay, why its so hard to explain a food that is really good?

Take note, the side dishes are REFILLABLE!

I highly recommend people to dine at Wang Debak. Other dishes that I tried and people might be interested are their bulgogi and kim bob.

You can check the prices and menus on Zomato: https://www.zomato.com/manila/wang-debak-ortigas-pasig-city

Until next time.

Unforgettable Trip to South Korea Part 2

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The months of preparations for WorldMUN 2015 all boiled down to 5 days of conference proper. In my opinion, it was just 4 days because the 1st day was basically orientation and opening ceremony. You could barely see some action except in the dance floor during the opening ceremony and the socials in the evening.

Nonetheless, the 1st day was a chance to get to know other delegates and know what the atmosphere was like.

When I got back to Kintex after getting my wallet in a café near Daewah Station, I saw very few delegates in the lobby. I was actually quiet scared because I didn’t know what to do.

Thankfully, the volunteers were very helpful. It was not just because they were proficient in English that made communication easier, but it was because they were all smiling, always warm and cheerful. I never felt intimidated asking them every time as they always made me feel at ease. Cheers to them!

So the volunteer pointed me out to some room upstairs and I gladly went. When I entered, I saw the Chairs in front of the room already answering questions from delegates. I sat at the back since I was late. I chose to sit at the center aisle to have a 180 degree view of the delegates.

Some of the delegates took the questioning very seriously. There was a group of Germans who asked questions in a very eloquent and smart manner. And they were very keen and enthusiastic to know more about the Rules of Procedures (ROP).

I was trying to take notes while looking around and got a feel of the atmosphere. I was thinking that it would be very competitive, but a lot of delegates looked relaxed. It was hard to determine if it was a strategy to play an underdog. I mean, not to ask so many questions so as not to appear dominant. Appearing cordial would help in getting allies later on. Or many delegates were simply too tired because some of them had just arrived in Seoul. On the other hand, I couldn’t figure out exactly if those who were very keen on asking questions were really interested in knowing the ROP or they simply wanted to get the attention of the Chairs as early as possible.

I didn’t want to misinterpret people’s behavior, thinking that they were strategizing all the time. Common sense and elementary morals tell that its wrong to misrepresent people or misjudge them. But its also important to discern and scratch beyond the surface to understand reality.

I was torn between those thoughts. I realized that it’s part of what you’ll learn in MUN. This world is simply not working in view of pure realism. Even people of authority do something out of altruism. Or else most part of the world would be in perpetual chaos, which is not. Altruism does exists. But this world is neither perfect. There are times when all of us, not just some of us, will take the opportunity to satisfy our self-interests.

A lot of delegates in MUNs are torn between competing and enjoying the company of others; I included.

When I was at the back sitting during the orientation, I had some few seconds in my mind that left me blanked and confused. During those times, it helped that I went back and remember my purpose coming to Seoul.

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Nic, our Secretary-General and head delegate, asked us to write the goals we had for WorldMUN back in early December. I wrote:

1. Learn about diplomacy, international relations and other things as much as I could. I want to be surprised of what I can learn.

2. Make as much friends. Build stronger relationships with my UA&P MUN family and meet new friends from around the world.

3. Travel to Seoul!

The third goal, I achieved already the moment I landed in Korea. I had to work on the 1st and 2nd goals then.

Looking at the goals I wrote last December helped me clear the confusion I had in mind. I was in Seoul to learn not to compete. There is a fundamental difference between learning and competing. Learning is about doing all I can to know about diplomacy, international relations and about…life. It includes facts, theories, strategies and making sure I have fun. Competing is all about getting ahead of others, often to the detriment of learning.

I was also there to make friends. And the good thing is that friendship and learning can to go together. You choose your friends because you share something in common. You don’t compete with one another. You help each other to grow together. And what a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people who wanted to make a difference in the world than WorldMUN 2015.

All those philosophizing had to stop because the orientation was over. I was looking in front of the room to see familiar faces as delegates did their own thing after the orientation ended. I saw several UA&P delegates (I believe) Shay, Courtney, Anica and others I could not remember. I wanted to go out with them and meet other members of the delegation to go to the venue of the opening ceremony.

Suddenly, I saw Patrick who was from Canada and represented Cyprus in our committee. We knew each other through Facebook. I approached him and talked a little about what had been discussed. Then I was introduced to Daniela and Sebastian from Germany. Sebastian was also in HGA, he represented Morocco I believe.

Then there was Toska who came from Canada but originally was from the Philippines. When we learned that we were both Filipinos, people wouldn’t know how happy we were. She spoke to me in fluent Tagalog. It was so heartwarming to see how she and her family retained the language despite being in Canada for so long. Saying you are a Filipino I thought was one thing. But when you speak the language, you put it into your heart and make a real connection with your own people. It was more than just to communicate.

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OPENING CEREMONY

I think I enjoyed talking so much that the whole delegation was looking for me as we were running late for the bus. Thankfully, I was found like a lost sheep in Kintex. I thank them for their patience.

I couldn’t even remember if we ate lunch or not. All I remember was that we boarded the train and a lot of us were tired for some reason. I wasn’t even thinking of eating. The venue of the conference was several station away.

In the train we met Thai delegates. I didn’t realize that I would be meeting Ni. She and I are both part of the ASEAN Youth Leaders Association (AYLA) International Board. We usually meet for board meetings on Google Hangouts but I hadn’t seen her in person. When we met, it was as if we were friends who just met a week or a month ago. She was very friendly and she shared some insights on what to expect in a crisis committee such as the one I was into. I also met several other Thai delegates such as Phupa and Note, both were very friendly.

We arrived at the venue and it was quiet big. I couldn’t imagine how several floors (literally like a lot) in an auditorium would be like. It was not the biggest auditorium I’ve been to, but it was enough to impress me.

The highlight of the opening ceremony was the formal opening of WorldMUN 2015. Looking at Brian and the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies’ (HUFS) Secretariat, made me realize how much work they put into the conference. It was not a perfect conference. Honestly, at the time, I thought it would have been better if the opening ceremony was held somewhere near Kintex. Travelling between venues was an added stress for the delegates and to organizers themselves. And they ran out of bus which drew an ire from some delegates and faculty advisers. But other than those, I didn’t have any complaints.

I loved, by the way, the performances during the opening ceremony. When the group of guys performed hiphop, I though that was flawless. Then there was a traditional Korean dance performance which surprised me when one of the members belted out “Let it Go” from Frozen. Other delegates rose to their feet when the girls played Dancing Queen and another song in Español. I myself could not help but stood up and got into the beat.

GLOBAL VILLAGE

A few UA&P delegates decided to go to the Global Village, the social event for Monday night. Others couldn’t because they were working on their papers for finals. Those had to be sent immediately to their professors back in the Philippines.

It was I, Wildy and Patty who decided to go together and eat with Atty. Jemy Gatdula, one of our faculty advisers. We drank beer in the nearby Lotte Mall while munching some steak. It was fun to share our career plans to Atty. Jemy and hear his stories about his time in Cambridge as a student.

He had to leave early because he had to go somewhere with his wife. The three of us left for MVL Hotel where the bus would take us to HUFS where the socials would be held. We stayed in the beautiful lobby of the hotel, listening to the singer belting out very nice acoustic songs (I believe she’s a Filipina) while waiting for the bus.

The bus came and we went inside. We saw the delegates from the American University of Beirut inside. They were really friendly and spoke really good English huh. Then the Venezuelan delegation from Universidad Simon Bolivar (I believe) followed. There we met the very bubbly Maria Angelica. She sat next to me and she was so animated, moving back and forth the bus. She was teaching people Spanish, singing and saying random stuff.

She called us her Filipino friends (I, Patty and Wildy), “Mis Panas”. That’s the cooler way to call your friends in Español she said. Then it was someone’s birthday. I didn’t know if its true. The Germans, I believe, started singing happy birthday in Deutsch. The Venezuelans sang in Español while the Lebanese sang in Arabic. So embarrassing, we didn’t know how to sing it in Filipino. Only when I came back to the Philippines that I remembered that we had our own version entitled “Maligayang Bati”, which could be literally translated as Happy Greetings in English. Have to sing happy birthday in the native language more often then.

Now while on the bus,  many of the delegates got a little silent. But Maria and I talked a lot about Chavéz, Maduro, Venezuela’s economy, cosmetic surgery, violence, Venezuelan food, Filipino food and she taught me Español. I was surprised how much Filipino and Español had in common.

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THE NIGHT I GOT DRUNK

When we arrived at the venue, it was chaotic. People fill the Obama Hall of HUFS and there were much drinking, singing and jubilation around the place. Imaging having 118 nationalities there. It was like a mini world inside the Obama Hall. You’d hear people speak in Spanish, Deutsch, French, English, Korean, Putonghua (Mandarin), Bahasa, Filipino, Portuguese, Norwegian, Arabic and what not.

Despite our differences, we had one goal in common: have fun!

I just deposited our coats and bags, so I was just wearing my thermals. I was party ready! Patty, Wildy and I decided to start drinking. I believe the first one I tried was a liquor from Venezuela. The thing was, people didn’t want you to drink on your own. They held my neck and counted until I gulped that alcohol down. Good grief! Then I went to the Colombian booth where the same thing happened. Just lost count of how many booths I went to and how many kinds liquor I drank. I also tasted vegemite (tasted awful for me but just tried it) from the Australians and some sandwiches, chocolates, etc. from some countries I forgot specifically,

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I was somewhat drunk already. But I was conscious of what I was doing, thankfully. Didn’t notice the Philippine booth but I saw Toska and the Canadians, and we took pictures. Then I saw the other Filipino delegates from Benilde and UST at last. They were wearing the national costume, which was good. I danced a lot, shook the hands of a lot of people. Some people I forgot already. But it was really fun that I just let myself got lost in the moment.

I drank a lot and had so much fun that when we got back to Myeongdong, where our hotel was located, I vomited. Of course, I had to be polite and looked for some pile of garbage to vomit and not just anywhere. Embarrassing….but fun!

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Back to the socials though. I thought people would use it to lobby, but I saw few did. I didn’t notice a lot maybe. But it could also be due to the fact that people was there to have fun.

Socials in some ways draw people to WorldMUN but they’ll get so much more because serious discussions during the day are also part of the package. It works in both ways: for fun and learning. The key there from my experience was not to let socials and fun be the sole purpose of why you went there. It was important to remember that the conference was the primary reason you came to WorldMUN. When you maximize learning and maximize fun, then that’s how to make the most out of WorldMUN.

I hope everyone would learn a lot and have fun next year in Roma for WorldMUN 2016! Cheers.

———

P.S. I’ll write about the Conference Proceedings and Closing Ceremonies in the coming posts.

Part 3 to follow

Unforgettable Trip to South Korea Part 1

Wow! Just can’t imagine how long it has been since my last blog post. It feels so strange to write a blog again and seems like I have to re-learn how to post! So much has happened and it’s tricky to determine one event that made the most impact in my life since my last post. There are a number of them and I guess I’ll have several posts on that.

Perhaps one of the highlights of my life recently was the Harvard World Model United Nations (WorldMUN) that I’ve attended last March in Seoul. Model United Nations is a simulation of the proceedings in the United Nations and, sometimes, conferences include other notable international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union (EU) and even the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China. Simulations allow students to get a glimpse of the policy-making process and engage in debates, coalition building, research, resolution writing and many more.

WorldMUN claims to be the olympics of MUN. While I could not compare it to other international MUNs because it was the only one I have attended (I have attended a few local MUNs), I should say that it was the most intense MUN I’ve been to. Imagine having 2,400 undergraduate and graduate students from 118 countries participating in the conference. Each student brings with them their worldview, shaped by their own culture, education and experiences in life. That enriches the debates and the proceedings of the conference. It is just amazing to debate on pressing issues with some of world’s top students.

This year, the conference lasted for 5 days from March 16 to 20, 2015. There were more than 20 committees. I was assigned as a single delegate at the Historical General Assembly where the topic touched on the Bosnian Crisis.

 

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ROAD TO HARVARD WORLDMUN 2015

Probably many would think of the difficulty that went into the 5 days of the conference, but that was just a tip of the iceberg. There were so many things that went before the conference proper. The weekly trainings, the research, the struggle of juggling between MUN and demanding academic and org responsibilities, raising money for the trip and basically planning the whole thing; those needed a lot of effort, patience and determination.

It was so funny how I got into WorldMUN and MUN in general. I saw a link on Facebook around November, I think, and I tagged the Secretary General of the university’s MUN, Nic Espinoza, and another brilliant MUN dude, Jian Manjares. 

Nic and Jian got so excited that the comments section of the post seemed to have burst with their enthusiasm. I didn’t get the MUN fever then, but after talking to Nic and the people who were doing MUNs in the university later on, I realized how fun and fulfilling it could be.

The road to WorldMUN introduced me to local conferences as well. The first one I’ve attended was BenildeMUN 2014, the oldest MUN in the country, hosted by (as the name suggests) the De La Salle College of St. Benilde. I didn’t know what to expect and I had to observe and look at how people worked. From then I took off and became more comfortable doing the next 2 local conferences that I would be attending: Ateneo MUN and De La Salle MUN.

When it came to preparation, I had to thank Nic for his commitment. There were times when the whole delegation would not take trainings seriously. One saturday Nic could not attend training because he had class. So what we did, to his disappointment, was sneaked in and just watch a movie about Kim Jong Un (whatever that was!). Despite being jackasses sometimes, Nic perservered and made sure we could get the best training we could have, given our limitations (in time, knowledge, etc.). So much respect for the guy.

The other members of the delegation were no less than inspiring. We had a bunch of delegates from first to fifth year in the university. I was impressed how the younger members of the delegation took the role of playing diplomats seriously, discussing international issues passionately and critically. We’re each other’s biggest supporter and staunchest critic at the right time. Being a latecomer in the MUN team, I had to ask questions, strategies and rules of procedures from younger batchmen and women. In universities, senior students often act superior to younger students. But in our delegation, we’re like friends. Our relationships were not anchored on hierarchies. I’m also thankful to Dr. de Leon for giving me a few insights to help me in my research.

WORLDMUN 2015 APPROACHING

The day we’ve been waiting for and, I’m quiet scared of, came at last. It was 8:30 p.m. and I was standing in front of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) HQ and couldn’t get a taxi!

I was freaking out because like in previous foreign trips (I only had two by the way before Seoul), I knew that one was expected to come 3 hours earlier before departure time. The departure time in my case is 12 am. Since I couldn’t get a taxi in DepEd, I took all my baggages and went to Escriva Drive which was on the other end of the village where I lived. No one will know how much uncomfortable it was to me. I’ve already worn my thermals to prepare for the cold because I didn’t want to change clothes in the plane. Imagine me walking from one end of the village to another, carrying all my baggage and wearing 1 layer of winter clothes in sweltering tropical heat! That was insane.

When I got a taxi, I was sweating like crazy. I wanted to remove my shirt but thank goodness the taxi was airconditioned so I didn’t have to. The thing was, the sweat dried up and further put stress to my already sickly body. Days before leaving for Seoul, I was doing my fieldwork for thesis and had an exam. Well, I was a little sickly for the rest of the trip in Korea because of all that. Fail!

I arrived at the airport around 9:30 pm, not well into the 3 hour time I thought needed for an international flight. After checking in, I met Mandy and we went to Starbucks at the airport where Alec was staying. Wildy came in later. Nic followed. These people would be my laughing buddies for the rest of the trip.

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JUST LANDED IN KPOP LAND

We arrived in South Korea early in the morning and it was -2 C. I was freezing. That was my first time in a cold country. But that didn’t bother me so much because South Korea was beautiful. I seemed to have forgotten that I was cringing due to the cold.

 

 

Their infrastructure, their roads in particular was wide, no traffic, and the bridges and all construction works extended as long as the eyes could see. “This was what development was like”, I thought to myself.

The moment we arrived at the inn, we just changed clothes and went out for sight seeing. Some delegates attended a Catholic mass. Unfortunately, I found it hard to find an English Christian service around the area even after asking the concierge at the inn and looking online. So I decided to go with Mandy and Alec. We went to Myeongdong and took breakfast somewhere in the narrow back alleys we’ve explored. Alec ordered bibimbap, Mandy some yellow soup or porridge (I guess) and I got noodles. Finally we were able to taste Korean cuisine in Korea. 

Afterwards, we went around Myeongdong, in the shopping areas. It was fascinating because high end shops had their own individual buildings and small stalls occupied the middle of the streets a la cleaner version of Divisoria x Greenbelt in the Philippines.

Honestly though, I prefer to shop in the Philippines where our malls are like EVERYTHING. Foreigners who’ve been to the Philippines would know. The high end or low end stuff will depend on which mall you go into. And for me its more easier to navigate around our malls because all the smaller shops are there. In South Korea, the malls I’ve been too were practically the department stores we have here. Just one component of our malls.

This is my opinion though. Maybe other people prefer the way it is done in South Korea or the country has more than what I’ve explored.

SOME REALIZATION AND FIRST DAY OF CONFERENCE

When I was in South Korea, I had some inner urge to speak Tagalog rather than English. Growing up I used to speak only in Tagalog. But when I went to college, I still spoke in Tagalog frequently but English basically was the first language that I was using. Honestly, I have to admit, that unfortunately, English is viewed in the Philippines (like in many countries) as more sophisticated, it’s thought to be cool and signifies higher social status and education.

In South Korea, I felt pride in speaking a language I can call my own. People there spoke Korean and, to some extent, English. 

Later in the conference, people spoke a whole lot more languages. Some I didn’t even know to have existed! The first day, there were multitudes of people in Kintex. People of all colors and languages. Undergraduate and Graduate students from 118 countries. Imagine that! I met people from Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany, Britain, Italy, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, India, Taiwan, France, Belgium, Spain, United States, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom and Mexico. That was just during the first day. During the orientation!

In that situation, I felt pride in speaking a language that only I and the people from my country understood. It differentiated me and the Filipinos from other people in the conference. The feeling of having your own identity and unique characteristic seemed to have electrified me deep into my bones. Although with UA&P delegates I still spoke in Tag-lish (Tagalog x English) most of the time, I’ve never felt as proud of my language and as proud of being a Filipino than when I was in South Korea.

Funnily, I had to leave for a moment during the orientation because I forgot my wallet in the café near Daehwa train station (thank God I got it back).

In that short amount of time though, I had some time to reflect. I sensed an irony. Despite being proud of my country, language and culture, I was surprised how shocked I was by the multitude of people and felt intimidated talking to other delegates, especially to Americans and Europeans. I didn’t think they were imposing their superiority as what colonizers did to Filipinos in the past. It was my own conception of inferiority (and I believe its true for many, not all,  delegates from developing countries) that made me feel no good compared to them.

As I continued walking towards the café, I further held on that thought. Looking back though, there was a lingering thought inside me thinking that hierarchy is not an ever present reality, its a choice. Sometimes it is us who impose it on ourselves. 

There was also something in my mind that I learned from long ago, that diversity is a strength rather than a weakness. That all individuals are endowed by God with potentials. That not one of us are the same. That all of us are created different. And that difference is designed to complement than to spark conflict with one another. That no one is too big or too small because of his race, religion, culture and language. What defines us is the amount of determination we have, the way we treat other people, and the passsion we have in whatever we do.

WorldMUN is a wonderful opportunity for many of us to overcome that fear of being different. WorldMUN is where people are given the chance to understand the beauty that lies in the diversity of people around the world. WorldMUN is where young people can channel their desires of making a difference in the world and put them into action.

I got my wallet back and walked toward Kintex. I haven’t fully grasped the reasons to overcome my fears, but I got part of the answer that would guide me in the next four days of the conference.

———-

Part 2 to follow.

It’s my 20th birthday!

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What a year it has been! My 19th year in this world was definitely worth to be remembered. I had an even more supportive family, had overseas trips in October, had a fantastic first taste of job during internship at PMS, and finally got into fifth year for Masters!

The past year wasn’t really all perfect though! I had lots of misadventures and got a good deal of stress in school. 4th year is like the most stressful year, especially for Political Economy students. We had to read through many books and journals, do research papers and essays I can’t even count, and write two thesis proposals for Research Methods (Quantitative and Qualitative). I have finished most with flying colours except for some that needed to be finished up to my internship in the summer due to lack of data, revision of mind-blowing-theoretical-framework and the like. I suffered from a lot of things that I should not have to if not for my procrastination. I could have enjoyed my summer better! : (

I used ‘better’ to describe my summer experience because it wasn’t bad. Not at all. I spent most of my time working at the Presidential Management Staff in Malacanang. Boy, it was my first taste of real work and PMS did not disappoint. I had to write briefing notes for the President or for the PMS secretary like any employee does. I and some interns got a minuscule role in planning for this year’s SONA. And we’ve had a sing and dance presentation! Even more fantastic was the fact that I have met new friends.

So at the end of it all, I’m glad that I enjoyed what I enjoyed, and went through what I went through. I have came out stronger and more mature, I am certain about that.

And if there was one Person who saw me through everything it was God. He was there in my successes and failures. Im also thankful to my parents and my siblings for always being there and giving all the imaginable support I could have. My friends and the people whom I met this year allowed me learn a lot, and experience a lot.

For my 20th year, I would like to experience more in life. I can’t wait to spend more time with my family, have more adventures and misadventures with my brothers, and share more fun moments with friends.

I am also very excited to see where my thesis would take me. It’s on Disaster Risk Management by the way. Something really relevant for this country, but not without its complexities. I just had a consultation with my thesis adviser the other day, and boy, there are just a lot of things to do. But challenge accepted because I don’t want to be delayed. I’ll work hard to get my thesis done in a year!

But it is not just the thesis of course, I look forward to meeting new friends and seeing new places. And in God’s will I’ll graduate next year, just before my 21st birthday. Afterwards, I hope to find a good job and see what I can do for this country and for my family!

 

P.S. Pardon for the cranky writing, I am in a hurry! Haha

Hey it’s my birthday!

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So it’s my 19th birthday. Yahoo! I couldn’t believe that times have gone so fast! It seems to me that my childhood days were only just yesterday. But it’s not. I came past adolescence, have graduated from high school and now on my way to finish my MA, hopefully, in two years time. And it was the things that happened all throughout those years that kept me busy to reflect on life. What have I achieved? What did I miss? Where did I fail? And have I learned from my mistakes?

These questions are just plain boring and corny, even sentimental, during other days of the year. But it is during my birthday that those questions gain significance.It is because one’s birthday is supposed to be a moment of reflection.

For me, I have a lot to celebrate. I have loving parents, wonderful siblings, a bunch of equally wonderful uncles and aunts, funny and helpful cousins, ‘fantastic’ high school friends, my ‘awesome’ poleco blockmates, my UAP CAS mates and even strangers like my landlords and landladies who have shown goodness to me throughout the years. I thank God for good health and equally good education. Also for direction and never failing love. Whew, please permit me to be a ‘corn’ in capital letters since its my birthday! And its my blog!

But as much as I want to be thankful for all my blessings from God, I also want to focus on things that I have to improve. Of course I’m human and not perfect like everyone else. And there is something about imperfection that is interesting to think about, especially during birthdays. I remember Martha Stewart’s words on gardening. She said that it is the garden’s imperfection that allows the gardener to move and cultivate. It is because there are things to be worked on that movement and action are stimulated. The same with our character. It is because we are imperfect that makes us move and do good to change whatever there is in our thinking and actions to correct.

As for myself, there are five that I can think of. First is to control my temper. That kills me a lot especially when times are bad. I, most often than not, blow my top during tense situations. I also love to argue for the sake of arguing! (Isn’t that funny….and stupid?) I wish I have more patience and less enthusiasm for argument. But I hope I can work on that in God’s grace.

Second is honesty and integrity. I must admit that I’m a kind of know-it-all person, and that attitude is a flash point between me and many people, most particularly THOSE who have that same trait as mine! I also tend to paint an image of myself as being perfect and clean without acknowledging the fact that I TOO have mistakes to deal with before poking on others’ noses.

Third is laziness. I remember in Dante’s novel, Inferno and Purgatorio, that SLOTH can be the root of many evils. That includes tardiness and lack of respect or genuine concern for others’ time. And you don’t accomplish anything in your life with that which is more bad. And that is ringing a bell on me because I have several papers to write but I’m BLOGGING. Never mind!

Fourth is over-thinking. I am always pulling the HAMLET out of me when papers come or during exams. I always aim for the best, and because of that I could not even accomplish a single good.

Fifth is prodigality. I tend to spend money like there’s no tomorrow (this is a Filipino saying which I just translated because I think it also makes sense in English). That is why I should pull out the economics part of my Political Economy education to make me the ‘economic man’ I should be. I am not a SELF-MAXIMIZING individual (but thankfully because of that I am not one of those ungodly rationalist scumbags). So I guess I could now write in my paper for PET that Hume and the positivists are wrong to assume that all men are rational, as they defined it! I for one is not–again, thankfully I am not! Haha.

But let’s see if I can improve, in God’s grace, at least three of these come my 20th birthday.

Enough of this. I have to end blogging because I have school works to do. Better to write papers now than to cram (AGAIN?). I must say that I am thankful to those who sent their messages on Facebook and twitter, and those who found time to call and, even, greet me personally. That really made my day.

I am looking forward for my 20th and, even, 80th birthday (that’s how ADVANCED I am) in God’s grace.