Saturday, December 18, 2010

National Youth Congress On Good Citizenship - Day 2
(December 17, 2010 - Yesterday)

Okay, yell at me.  I was tardy for yesterday's session.  The whole thing was scheduled to begin at 8:30AM, but at that time I just finished singing the last line of Being Alive after turning the shower flow off.  You can't blame me completely, though.  I had a late night dinner meeting the other night and I came home pretty late.  Oh, well... That's life for me... At least for now, I guess.

Kristine decided to tag along today to represent TULAY Cooperation Circle.  Plus, she made a commitment to Sr. Sandra that she'd show up.  Her last academic exam finished at 8:30AM, so she was all set by 9:00AM.  It was at that sharp hour that we arranged ourselves to meet at the office, but I didn't conform.  Sad.  I left the house at 9:45; passed by the office to pick my lady cousin up; stopped over at Adrienne's  to pick her up, too; and headed straight for the retreat house.

When we got there, I was disappointed--again!  I thought John had already finished his talk.  It turned out he didn't show up at all.  He sent a proxy to deliver an excruciatingly long palaver of a presentation.  My goodness!  Over a quarter of the people in attendance were literally asleep.  And it wasn't their fault.  I totally hold each one of them free of any blame.  I mean, who, in his/her right mind, would give a group of young people a two-hour-long Powerpoint Show of bureaucratic natter detailing the achievements of a certain section of the local government unit?  I have nothing against bureaucracy and pride and foreign investment, but come on!  That was a bit too much.  No, that was way too much, actually!  Didn't Day One's incident drill a hole into the organizers' heads?  I understand that in order to get the seed, one must learn to climb the tree and consume the fruit, but that principle got a bit too abused.  She just went on and on and on and on saying, "we did this; we did that; we're doing this; we're doing that; this is nice; that is nice; it's all nice; we're so nice!"  Plus, to top it off SHE DIDN'T HAVE ANY PICTURES!  Hello!  Pictures are always necessary!  Goodness gracious!  She wasn't soporific; she wasn't even bad at what she was doing.  It was what she was doing that was bad for our mood.

Engr. Liveta's hypnotic chant the other day should have made the behind-the-scenes people realize what a gargantuan mistake it was not to have oriented the speakers of time limitations and *ahem* the need for actual useful content.

Thankfully enough, she finished.  Not the same sarcastic applause was awarded to her, though.  Most of the kids were to weak to put on that kind of theatrical performance.

Next up was a guy named Rex.  I never really heard of him before, but he happens to be an exemplary young citizen and a very good youth leader.  One could define him in an activist context as a mover seeking a difference of true sustainable development.  He and his organization were honored as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations of 2010 by none other than President Noynoy himself.  He founded PYAP (Pag-asa Youth Association of the Philippines) as an avenue for out-of-school youths to be able to utilize their home-grown talents and skills to benefit the society instead of resorting to drugs and what not and becoming part of the statistics of social menaces.  I especially liked how he started the partnership culture among the members of his organization and the people they work with.  Instead of calling them beneficiaries, they're referred to as partners.  It does make people feel better about themselves, doesn't it?  The way I see it, his activities empower the under-privileged by making them aware that they are capable of making big differences, too, and that they need not be casted away from the scene of general society.  In more ways than that, his organization is something that many such NGOs should emulate.

Rex shared many success stories--both personal and organizational--but there was one in particular that I liked very much.  He shared of how he enacted an engineer friend's idea of creating a concealed dike-like drainage system using buried hollow blocks to slurp away the nasty Cebu floods.  It's something I'm particularly interested in learning how to do.  They employed the hands of a couple of tambay boys to help them excavate a sizable width of land down to the level where sand could be felt.  After which, they...  Wait, why am I talking about this in detail?  Now, I'm the one making a palaver.  To cut it short:  After digging, they installed hollow blocks in a certain sloping position so the water would seep into the sand through the holes, and then they returned the soil.  Of course, they didn't cover the holes, too.  Duh!  That would have killed the purpose.

It was not that they gave a facade of a plain need for manpower to complete the activity; the whole thing was something that the tambay boys, who would have otherwise been spending more moments as ne'er-do-wells, felt they were part of.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a sense of pride for doing something good.  Such activities encourage people to do more good if laid down the right way.

So, yeah.  I don't even know if I got that whole process right.  That's just my recollection.  If you want to learn, go ask him yourself.

After that, we had lunch, and then we had June.  June is a guy from Bayawan City.  He's 19-years-old and and has already achieved a considerable heap of accolades.  They're a lot and they're all very impressive!  I'm sure of that because I found myself oohing and wowing.  I just simply couldn't recall the specific names of the awards, though, so go ahead and sue me.  I'm certain they're well-deserved.  He probably worked his a** off early on and got very little sleep in ratio to the number of years he's been serving his city.  Why do I infer so?  Well, consider this:  He didn't look like he was 19 anymore.  That's just my opinion so don't diss me for it!  I'm sure many of you will have something to say about my being outspoken, but a man is entitled to his own opinion.

For the record, June was excellent.  His talk had a tinge of bureaucratic weehoo in it, too, but he knew how to keep us all alive.  He had such an imposing presence that one couldn't help but cooperate.  For about an hour and a half, he gave us a fruitful, action-filled, justifiably proud presentation about the growth of Bayawan as a city.  Every once in a while, he would ask us all to stand up and yell and clap and do crazy stuff.  We gladly did.  We allowed ourselves to loosen and there was nothing wrong with it!  We all didn't mind.  Adding to his innately humorous way of presenting himself, he would often blurt out Bisaya terms code-switched with Tagalog which he was obviously struggling to be able to speak straight.  That gave us more reason to stay awake.  Not that we would have chosen otherwise, though.

The best of the lot, in my opinion, was Sr. Sandra.  Good old Sister Sandra!  She's still, to me, the best, most liberal, most rational, most utterly cool religious sister in the world.

She kicked her time off with an unconventional environmental awareness exercise by sending us out in the open lawn and letting us scour the space directly in front of us for the different life forms we could identify.  After that, we did interpersonal examination where she made us stare a partner in the eyes so we could both look deeper into each other's souls.  She moved on to making us hold hands to feel the spiritual connection.  A number of us couldn't help but shed a few tears upon empathizing with the emotional burdens they discovered their partners were carrying.

As a conclusion to the lawn activity, we all did a Japanese martial art-inspired wordless environmental movement prayer.  Of course, most of us enjoyed it.  It's something Kristine and I are quite familiar with since Sister made us do this during November's Regional Meeting--not to mention the Beyond Differences concert where everyone in the audience did it.  It's just sad to note that a number of people didn't take it very seriously.  I don't know if they had any issues with the bone structure of their spines or if they were just plainly uninterested.  I suspect the latter, though.

What followed was Sister's talk.  She kicked off by relating to us how she came to make the decisions she made as a beautiful and sought-after young woman--of how she left her boyfriends in favor of the religious life in a structured convent.  She then proceeded to a structural dissection of how youth movements are initiated and how they are sustained.  From her, I learned the importance of making each one a key person instead of maintaining just a single entity who delivers the orders and methodologies of how they are to be carried out.  It's from that lecture that I learned specifically the value of inculcating in each member the idea that each one is as much a leader as he/she is a grass root.  It's interesting how she employed the story of Genesis to convey her messages and share her ideas.

I was really impressed with the way Sister very firmly but subtly introduced the principles of the United Religions Initiative in a context that some would regard as secular and irreligious.  The best way to do it, indeed, is to live it and show it and be proud of it.  How many nuns and members of religious mission orders would recognize Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Witches and accept the existence of each culturally-influenced faith tradition as a river flowing towards a single ocean?

I love the way she said, "Whether you use the name God, Allah, Yahweh, Elohim, or whatever name, it's the same God we're all referring to, because we all have just one--one God with many names."  The eyes of those who used a term other than conventionally "God" were lit up with brightness.  Their inquisitive expressions quickly turned into smiles of amazement and reassurance that they were accepted and regarded the same way as everyone else by no less than a woman who devotes herself to the service of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sister was just one person and we were over a hundred.  There was no way she could, at a single instance, give us the hug that she wanted to give.  She then added something to the effect of the common URI statement saying that each religion is a different way of communicating to a single Absolute Being.  Also, one could never forget, "I am your sister; you are my brothers; you are my sisters."  That was enough for all of us. It was a hug in the form of loving words.  It's really not something you hear everyday.  Indeed, it was the perfect fundamental foundation to her statement of youth empowerment--that each one be made to feel that he/she is brother/sister to every other.

Enough said, Sr. Sandra was awesome!

Following Sister was Adrienne's departure.  Yes, she had to leave early to attend a Christmas party of some other organization.  The funny thing was she messaged me less than half-an-hour later expressing how her yearning grew for her new found...  For her new found...  Geez, I don't even know what term to use.  Well, I'll just say she was yearning for her new found Doodle-Hoozle.  [LOL]

Kristine and I stayed and ate dinner there.  So-so food, as usual.  Then a cultural presentation by BISU (Bohol Island State University) was arranged for us as a treat.  There was a cool medley of Philippine folk dances where the dancers would leave the scene after a number and return after the next one dressed in a different outfit.  It was really good.  Then of course, there were modern and ballroom dance forms which I didn't pay much attention to.  Don't ask why.  A man has the right to be busy with normal concerns at 8:00 in the evening.

The part of the show that displeased me quite significantly was the vocal flaunting.  Much of the musicality was stripped off the songs in favor of rising an octave higher to show the audience that they could do it.  Of course, the performers aren't to blame and neither are the audience members.  They are non-musicians (or if they are, they don't know singing in its real sense) raised with the collective social mentality that belting means good singing.  I don't know why that is.  They think living dangerously is something to be praised and encouraged.  Of course, for the likes of Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Regine Velasquez, Jennifer Holliday, Idina Menzel, Eden Espinosa, Joanna Ampil, Lea Salonga and who they be up there, it's quite obvious that they know what they're doing since they've been trained properly.  However, I know, for a fact, that belting, no matter how easily it comes for a non-seasoned singer, is very dangerous.  Two belt-filled numbers in a day is enough, but to raisin the performer into doing more than that is quite murderous--even for a fat grape.

Anyway, enough about that show.  We had one last speaker--Bro. Hermie.  I think he was interesting.  Yes, I believe he was quite fruitful, but I was just too darn drowsy to pay attention.  The lights were killed in favor of the LCD projector.  The slideshow served as a night light with an ever-changing spectrum of colors as more than half of us dozed off to Wonderland.  We were awakened when we were asked to sing Power of Your Love--a faith-neutral praise song.  Why did I say "faith-neutral"?  I said so because it doesn't use the word "Jesus" or "Christ," meaning a few other faiths could sing it, too.  I initially didn't sing properly, but the song got into me somehow and I found myself really singing after a while.

To conclude our day and our congress as a whole, we all sang One Little Candle together, holding a candle each, while making our way to the concrete ground where bonfire fuel wood was piled ready for ignition.  We lit it and began what seemed like a Wiccan birthday blessing--minus the sacred oil and the ornaments and the food offerings and the incense and the spells and what not.  A lot shared words of wisdom, emotion, and encouragement.  We all sang Let There Be Peace on Earth as we each received a certificate.  It was a remembrance for being there--a constant reminder of the cause.

Finally, to conclude the evening, we all joined arms and sang If We Hold On Together as we watched the fire flicker, rise and fall--symbolizing how we'd support each other and our country even as the times go weak.

Okay, I'm done being romantic!  That congress had a lot of HUGE points for improvement, but it was very good, nonetheless.  I had no regrets whatsoever that Bohol Goodwill Volunteers, Inc. provided sponsorship for it.  It was indubitably something that we will forever be proud of being a part of.  It was an amazing way to start a trend for future activities like such.  I'm sure the mistakes will be learned from and next year's congress will be a lot, lot better.

'Till then!