Friday, May 31, 2013

From ICS to India: Looking back on my short Indian adventure

Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting Youth Forum India

NOTE: I'm writing this to promote the International Citizen Service programme to interested youth volunteers out there. I used to be a youth volunteer for the programme from the months of April to July of last year. It's a combination of my previous blog entries and fresh insights. I had the best time volunteering, and this is a way for me to give back, in the form of writing, to VSO and everyone who's involved in the creation and implementation of ICS around the world. If it wasn't for ICS, I wouldn't have had the chance to go to India to my first ADB meeting. One door opens another. This blog is also featured in the Asian Development Bank's Facebook page.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Taj Mahal, an architectural masterpiece

Travel Taj Mahal Photography India Agra

After participating and working on the Asian Youth Forum and the Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting, my fellow ICS return volunteer, Melissa, and I had the chance to go visit India's main attraction and most identifiable architectural masterpiece, the Taj Mahal. Along with Miss Norie and Miss Arlene of VSO, we left New Delhi very early in the morning to a a four-and-a-half hour drive to the city of Agra, where the glorious Taj Mahal is located.

It was another four-and-a-half drive for us back to New Delhi after seeing this world wonder. But you know what? The long trip to see the Taj Mahal is totally worth it. The fact that it was built out of love makes it more amazing. How can one love another so much that he built this castle-like tomb in her honor? Truly, love can make people do incredible things. We are all lucky enough that to this very day we still see this structure standing strong against time and weather. It's a testament that things can last a long time, and that love might be worth it after all.

Taj Mahal Photography View Map

Taj Mahal India Asia Photography Architecture Wonders History Design Tomb Style

Seeing the Taj Mahal with my very own eyes felt like I've opened a door to more possibilities of seeing more places in the future. There I was standing in front of a structure I've only read in books and seen in travel guides. No more 'perhaps', but more like 'indeed' - indeed things are possible, indeed we can go to the places we want, and indeed we are blessed and we can be blessed even more.

Filipino Asian Guy Man India Taj Mahal View India Agra Traveling Alone Travel Photography Design World Landmarks

Monday, May 13, 2013

Youth action in the 46th ADB Annual Meeting in New Delhi

Asian Development Bank Youth Asia

I myself would have never thought that one day I'll be attending a big event such as the ADB Annual Meeting. Who would have thought that this year I'll be one of the chosen youth representatives to fly to New Delhi, India to participate right? Even that didn't enter my mind. Working in ADB is a dream for most geography graduates, and to be able to attend their biggest event of the year, I can feel nothing more but pure gratefulness. 

The experience in the meeting itself was very new not only for me, but for most of the youth. It was held in the India Expo Centre and Mart in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh. For the first time, we’ve got to see a glimpse of how it’s like inside a big global institution such as the Asian Development Bank which is considered one of the leading financiers in various projects around the Asia-Pacific region.

Asian Development Bank Delhi 2013 India Youth Design

Despite most of the attendees of the meeting being big people from the government, development, private and public sectors – the youth have still made their presence felt throughout the four-day event. We participated as much as we can by going to the various sessions, asking important questions to the leaders, documenting the experience we’re having, learning from the various leaders and practitioners in both the public and private sectors and so much more. 

The energy brought about by our presence was felt throughout the meeting, as well as outside the meeting through social media channels. Some of us were not only mere participants, but also had responsibilities. A number volunteered to man the booths, organize certain sessions, do documentation work, and promote the sessions involving the youth. I myself led the documentations management team of youth participants where we wrote about the sessions, and recorded the important happenings in the meeting - especially in the sessions concerning the youth.

Channel NEwsAsia Youth Interview ADB Asian Development Bank Delhi

Everyone was encouraged to participate as much as they can, and attend the sessions which interests them. I myself attended the sessions on the Solutions Market, Business Solutions to Development Problems and Development Solutions to Business Problems and the youth debate among others. Most of us also went around to see the booths on display to know more about the works of NGOs and private institutions who are in the event. I was also able to engage in conversations with a number of professionals who did not hesitate to give career tips and advice to a young guy like me. 

The exposure I had opened my mind to more possibilities of the things I could achieve in the future, as well as inspired me to do more for the benefit of society. It has also increased my awareness that aside from being citizens of our home countries, we should also be global citizens. I consider the experiences and encouragements shared by the professionals, both in and out the sessions, as priceless moments I would look back to in a positive light.

There's so much to say about the entire experience of being in the meeting, wearing formal business attire every single day and learning from the best set of people. I just took everything in as they came, and fully 'lived in the present' during the ADB Annual Meeting. No thoughts of the past, and no thoughts of the future - just plain, raw present time. I consider this one of the best experiences of my life as part of my youth, and I'm hoping to have more experiences like this in the coming future.

ADB Annual Meeting

Friday, May 10, 2013

Asian Youth are Undivided: The Asian Youth Forum Experience

Plan India Asian Development Bank Asian Youth Forum New Delhi VSO Bahaginan Nepal India Bohol International Citizen Service ICS

Coming from the Philippines where there is a great divide between the rich and poor, I’ve always been interested in how to make people’s lives better, how the underprivileged can access the basic needs that will help improve their lives, and the ways different sectors can participate in enabling solutions and implementing important policies. That’s why I couldn't stop smiling that day when I was informed that I’ll be participating and presenting in Plan India and Asian Development Bank’s Asian Youth Forum in New Delhi. An opportunity to learn more has come. 

The Asian Youth Forum gathered around 120 delegates from over fifteen different countries to the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Fully titled, Asian Youth Forum: ‘Empowering Young Partners for Development’, the two-day event assembled a pool of young individuals from the continent to collaborate and discuss important issues the world is facing today. And why not? A massive sixty-percent (60%) of the world’s population today are those under 25 years old –us, the youth. We will be the future professionals, the workforce and most importantly, the change makers.

Everyone was full of excitement and energy - from the organizers of ADB and Plan India to the participants themselves. As early as the first day, people were starting to make friends, and have been listening intently to the guest speakers. Not only were we lending our ears to the speakers, we were also very participatory. A healthy number of the youth voiced out their comments and insights on various issues such as gender, media, environment, employment and entrepreneurship. The language barrier between the participants did not hinder the sharing of ideas. Those who understood both English and Hindi did not have second thoughts in volunteering to translate for the other participants who only understood one of the two languages. 

It is in the forum where I had the chance to present and share my advocacy in the international stage for the first time. Together with the other youth representatives from VSO, we presented in a part of the Water and Sanitation session. We discussed about the projects we did in our home countries, and initiated healthy group dialogues on how some of the challenges in the two sectors can be solved. We were also able to learn about the problems some parts of India are facing when it comes to water security. Mel and I fast became friends with the other return volunteers of VSO in Nepal and India. In such a short span of time we've had together, we became close with them and had our share of little adventures in India. I've also made friends with other youth participants. 

In the youth forum, I’ve realized that my country is not alone in its trials. It’s quite different reading about something and knowing it, compared to talking to someone who has come from a certain place and telling you the situation themselves. The challenges of my home country is also experienced by other developing countries in the region. For instance, Manila being a ‘primate city’ is not exclusive to the Philippines. Countries such as Nepal experience the same phenomenon as well with Kathmandu siphoning most of the country’s natural resources and human capital. We may have come from different cultural backgrounds, and various environmental set-ups, but as youth from developing nations, we all long to find solutions for our country’s problems – though different at first look, but quite similar on the second. We not only learned new knowledge from the forum, but also from each other’s experiences. 

For my first international event, I feel incredibly blessed to have been part of the Asian Youth Forum. If given the chance to do it again next year, or possibly help organize the next Asian Youth Forum, I’d say ‘yes’ in an instant. To Kazakhstan next year anyone? 

Asian Youth Forum Asia Young People Exchange Programme Program India Nepal Philippines Vietnam Korea Cambodia Middle East

Incredible India indeed

Travel India Tourist New Delhi India Gate Happy Asian Asia Smile Hotel Hostel

I have just came back home in my hometown yesterday evening from a truly incredible ten-day stay in the amazing country of India. I must say, I had a whale of a time there. I have met a lot of talented, skilled and passionate people in such a short amount of time. It's unbelievable how itshappened so fast, yet felt so long.

I went to India to represent VSO, an international development organization that's close to my heart, and I am deeply honored to represent them in the conferences we attended: Plan India and Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Asian Youth Forum and this year's ADB Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors.

I was also able to have some various side-adventures in between the conferences, and never in my dreams would I have thought that I could be able to step foot in such a great country and meet such wonderful people. 

I have a number of articles to write now that I'm back in the Philippines, but I'm just very grateful for having the chance to be somewhere unfamiliar, and have done something productive. India is a massive country, so ten days is surely not enough to explore. I'd recommend over a month's stay in the country to be able to really go around in the various important destinations.

I've obviously learned a lot from the journey, but listing them down one by one would be giving myself away to easily. And they're just too many to mention. I'd like to share one of the most important lessons though: truly if you are ready to receive blessings, they will come to you. The right opportunities will come in the right time, and be sure to have the right attitude when they are presented to you.

India, you are amazing and hopefully I could come back. Where the next adventure would be? I don't know, but I'm sure I won't let an opportunity to travel and meet new people pass me by. Thank you Boss of the Universe for giving me the chance to grab this one - with both of my hands to be specific.