Bacolod forum dares youth to ‘think differently’ for disasters

Joshua Josef R. Torres
Bacolod forum dares youth to ‘think differently’ for disasters
Over 100 youth gather in Bacolod to dream about better ways to make their communities more disaster resilient

BACOLOD, Philippines – Years have passed since the one-two punch of Typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol Earthquake last 2013 have struck our lands. Dozens of other calamities have come, and dozens of others are yet to pass. Time as they say, heals all wounds, but despite counting almost a thousand days after Day Zero, it seems that we are still profoundly in the process of recovering from our losses. The wounds that these disasters have inflicted to our people are simply too deep. Some say that nothing could have prepared us from suffering losses as great as these.

 

On June 19-21, 2015, a hundred Filipino youth delegates, as well as a few delegates from other ASEAN countries, gathered at the University of Saint La Salle – Bacolod for the biggest youth gathering for disaster management – BEYOND (Be a Young Hero on Disasters) ASEAN – Philippines.

 

The participants represented a wide array of sectors ranging from Agriculture, Civil Engineering, Information Technology and Computer Science, Environmental Science, Media and the Arts and  Persons with Disabilities (PWDs),

 

Organized by UP-PGH medical student Christian James A. Nazareth and dream enabler Mr. Prim Paypon, and assisted by members of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity and the Rotaract Bacolod – South, the summit aimed to build a community of empowered and disaster resilient ASEAN youths.

 

With help from disaster experts and social entrepreneurs, the participants were challenged to develop their own ideas on community-based disaster mitigation and preparedness.

 

This project is funded and supported by Youth Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and the East-West Center.

HAUNTING REMEMBERANCE. Former Health Secretary Dr. Manuel Dayrit, unveils a mural painted by Balangaw artists depicting the resilience and perseverance of Filipinos when faced with disasters. Photo by Jamie Almora

 

Be Beyond

 

Its tagline, “Be Informed. Be Empowered. Be Beyond.” reflects the three-day stretch of the program.

 

The theme of Day 1 was “Be Informed”. Distinguished speakers led by Former DOH Secretary Dr. Manuel Dayrit and Mayor Herbie Aguas from Sto. Domingo, Albay shared their past experiences and expertise in community mobilization and disaster mitigation, preparedness, and response. Representatives from various institutions such as the Department of Science and Technology – Project NOAH, UNICEF, Center for Disaster Preparedness, Engineers without Borders, and Communitere Philippines, talked about their own contributions to enhance disaster preparedness.

 

Youth-led initiatives such as the Project H2O (Help to Others) of the Mu Sigma Phi, and RAPID (Rescue Assistance Peacekeeping Intelligence Detail, Inc.) demonstrated how everyone, especially the youth, can become young heroes.

 

In recognition of the massive role that the media plays in disaster management, the program also included speakers from ABS-CBN News and Rappler.  The day was capped off by a captivating theater performance from the nationally-acclaimed University of San Agustin – The Little Theater about what residents of Panay Island experienced at the height of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

 

Ideas turn into fruitful reality only when the right tools are used. Day 2, “Be empowered.” was about guiding the participants through the steps of Idea Building. The first step is to recognize a need – as tackled by a YSEALI representative. The second step is to gather as much existing information as possible, and organize the information; Mr. Prim Paypon, the founder of The Dream Project PH, introduced the Curiosity Cube Model, a highly effective model for exactly this step in idea building. The third step was an ideation workshop, dealing with the technical know-hows in idea building. The topics of generating and innovating social ideas, designing a social brand of an idea, strategies in mobilizing the community by offline and online means, and building a sustainable technology prototype, were elaborated upon by representatives from IdeaSpace Foundation, Works of Heart, Rappler, RescuePH, and Sustainable Alternative Lighting Technologies (SALT).

 

Ideas do come easily when the mind is inspired. And inspiration comes easily when reality is experienced first-hand – seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt, and not heard from the four corners of a room. A visit to Barangay Suay in the city of Himamaylan in Negros Occidental was a fitting continuation of the program. Barangay Suay, in particular, housed the Bahay Kubo Learning Center – Suay, a disaster-resilient learning center built by barangay residents. It houses very innovative and sustainable solutions to problems like clean water, healthy meals, light, and learning. The structure, made out of clay and mud, was built with the initiative and guidance of Paypon and Dr. Chris Sorongon of Bacolod. Currently, it serves as a daycare center to 34 children of fishermen families, as well as a multi-purpose hall to the barangay serving other miscellaneous functions.

 

Ideas by themselves are of no use to society. It is only when they are made into real working solutions do they change lives. The third and final day of the program is themed “Be Beyond.” The participants were then asked to pitch in ideas that try to make an effective change back in their respective communities, no matter how simple. Aside from serving as mentors, the speakers served as judges as well, because the top three presenters would garner grants to kick-start the projects they pitched. Among the 22 entries, the top three ideas pitched included participant Jose Ruel Fabia’s “ArkitekTURO”, a program that stimulates the ingenuity of the Filipino engineers to design and publish a portfolio of blueprints of disaster-resilient structures to be built on relocation sites; “Insectarium”, an idea by participant Justine Bennette Millado about a community pest and crop library established with the cooperation of local farmers and young biologists to better control pests and therefore produce better crop yield; and participant Francis Gasgonia’s “Civil Defense: The Strategic Humanitarian Crisis Response Game”, a board game akin to the classic children’s board game Monopoly that incorporates principles on disaster management to the game mechanics.

 

Natural calamities will just continue to breeze through our islands; we are, after all, along the Pacific Ring of Fire, and we cannot do anything about this. But contrary to popular belief, calamities do not equate to disasters. If we help each other mitigate the risks of harm, and prepare ourselves well for these disasters, then the damages that these may bring would definitely be put to a minimum. If we thought of others more and not just of ourselves, more buildings, more farms, more trees, more property, more money, more families, more loved ones, more lives would be left intact. Indeed, together, we can save ourselves.  – Rappler.com

 

Joshua Josef R. Torres was a participant at BEYOND ASEAN – Philippines.

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