Hanna Fernando-Pacua (PHILIPPINES) temporarily leaves her comfort zone to travel, serve, and perform around the world in five months. She hopes to share with you this very meaningful experience.

Up with People provides students with an extraordinary semester of traveling the world. As a student your perspectives on the world will never be the same. UWP is for that certain student who's looking for an intense, hands-on, involved global educational experience. The program addresses the very real need for young adults and leaders who have global perspectives, intercultural understanding, knowledge of worldwide social issues, leadership skills and a dedication to community service. For more information, visit www.upwithpeople.org.

HANNA's SATTELITE SITE and GALLERY (+ photos, videos, calendar) http://www.bananaspinuwp.multiply.com/

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

When the World Visited the Philippine Military Academy

Sorry for the repetitive versions of explaining what UWP is. This was submitted somewhere for publication so there was a need to explain... I tried editing it out but there were snippets of information that I'd like included! I also inserted some personal insights.

Last December 6-9, 2007, colorful dots appeared among the sea of dress grays during noon and evening mess at the Philippine Military Academy as 70 students representing 19 countries across 5 continents dined and participated in various activities with the Cadets. I have always found life in the PMA very intriguing and it was such an honor getting a glimpse of it even for just a short while.

Based in Denver, Colorado in the USA, Up with People is an extraordinary global education and leadership training program which takes young people from different cultures and backgrounds on a life-changing journey around the world. Along the road, we experience different cultures and different ways of life as we undergo extensive training in servant-leadership, global issues, cultural diversity, and the performing arts. Starting with a month-long orientation period in Denver, last July 2007 - we continued on to tour around the United States (Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon and Nevada) and Europe (Italy, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium) before reaching Manila last November 13th. In each city or country we visited, we partnered with local organizations and did volunteer work, learned about local culture through living with host families and regional learning, and performed an inspiring musical variety show. Making it a point to visit one developing country in each semester, this was the first time that the program visited the Philippines since the 1960’s which made the Manila and Baguio City stops very meaningful for the program and for the participants

While in Manila, Cast B 2007 (as our batch is called) had a very busy schedule taking in the Philippine history and culture. Our corporate sponsor Zesto Corporation, in association with RC Cola – with full support from the Department of Tourism and the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation made sure that the group had an enriching experience. The Manila leg of our tour was culminated by two major shows full of international songs and dances last December 1 and 2 at the Meralco Theater.

Aside from tours around Manila and the Show, the Cast also spent most of our time volunteering for several Philippine non-profit groups such as Gawad Kalinga, Habitat for Humanity, Virlanie Foundation, Kaibigan Ermita Outreach Foundation Inc., Philippine Association for Citizens with Developmental and Learning Disabilities Inc., Ortigas Foundation Inc., Assumption School, KYTHE Foundation, ERDA Tech Foundation, Makabata School Foundation Inc., and the Rotary Clubs in Valenzuela.

Being the only Filipina in the Cast (and possibly the first Filipino to travel with the Up with People program) made me very proud of the good things happening in our country through these organizations. Yes, the UWP visit was in perfect timing with the bombing at Glorietta 2, the bombing at the Congress and the Manila Peninsula stand-off – but all these were overshadowed by the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino. Some of my co-delegates also said that it is in our country that they felt the sense of community the most. That’s the Pinoy concept, “Bayanihan” at work, I guess!

It was again an unexpected warm welcome for us at the Philippine Military Academy (even if most of them thought that we were students from U.P!) . Here we enjoyed a great (and very wet) soccer game and very interesting indoor activities at the Longayban Hall. It was surprising to enjoy a very child-like game of “Bear, Fish and Mosquito” with the future officers of the AFP! And we were very impressed with the opinions that you shared with us during the game “Take a Stand.”

While playing "Take a Stand" Something that made an impact on me was when we asked "Are you ready to go to war for your country?" My natural reaction was to assume that all cadets will stand on the "Yes" side. I was surprised when a lone cadet stood on the "No" side. Of course his fellow cadets jeered him on for an explanation, to which he shyly answered = that he was here to defend his country but that he strongly believes that problems cannot be solved by war. His response made me think of a General in Mindanao that I met a few years back -- he told me that soldiers are peacemakers and not warlords. War is not the only solution (with this I pray for lasting peace in the country!) In that same game, I also remember saying "No" to "Do you think your country should be lax about immigrants from another country". My take on this is we Filipinos and the Philippines must concentrate on building our own identities and getting our acts together before inviting everyone to live here. I feel like most Pinoys feel inferior to foreigners and in the process actually become foreign in our own country.

Lunches and dinners were made more interesting as we experienced your everyday way of eating and were treated to a special cultural presentation and a Cadet Uniform Fashion show. Oh, and we would also never forget the proper alignment of utensils, the “third viand”, the symbols for sauces and the “bone plate” and the occasional “social graces” notes that reminded us all on how to eat a banana!

The whole cast also enjoyed the synchronized twists and turns of the PMA Saturday parade and the refreshing Silent Drill performance at the Burnham Park for the Baguio City Centennial Celebration Kickoff. And to make our PMA immersion more complete, we teamed up with some cadets and did the obstacle course. A few hours and a number of sore muscles later (but happy! I fell on my butt HARD while doing one of the obstacles and it was PAINFUL... I was wondering if my spine was still aligned even after 2 days) , Home Team # 2 won the relay with a time of 5 minutes and 4 seconds to brag about.

Saying goodbye to PMA on the very last day was like saying goodbye to a host family!

Up with People’s Cast B would like to thank the Cadet Corps Armed Forces of the Philippines, Lt. Candelaria, Col. Perfecto and Gen. Maligalig for welcoming us so warmly and sharing with us four days of your very busy lives. We certainly learned a lot and we greatly appreciate it! What better way to end our 6-month tour but with an interaction with other promising young leaders that was so different from us?

The laid-back and flexible lifestyle of the UWP program was such a contrast against the rigid training environment of the Academy. And that is what Up with People is all about – looking beyond the differences to spread the message of peace and understanding. Because deep inside each person – be it a UWP student or a PMA cadet, is the goal of making the world a better place to live in.

Being a leader requires a lot of guts and commitment. I guess this is the similarity between Up with People and the PMA.

Spending time in the PMA and doing what they did (sort of) was a very cool experience for me. I saw (sort of, maybe not even near the vicinity of pero pwede na din..) what my husband and a lot of my friends went through everyday while in the Academy. As I skipped one obstacle after another in the O-course (I admit that I can be a scared girly-girl most of the time!) my friend Alex (a first class cadet at the PMA) told me that I had to do it so I'd know what they go through. I told him that they do not need to make me go through the course to gain my respect - they have already gained my respect a long, long time ago :-)

By the way, my Home Team #7, Semiah Jr. finished 3rd place in the obstacle course. 5 minutes and 13 seconds.

and here's another treat for you ...

1 comment:

hanna fernando-pacua said...

Urgh -- There's a problem with the video uploading -- out of focus and top part lang ang kita. Well, teaser na lang yan...