Finding Our Generation

I refuse to be part of a lost generation.

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As I write this entry, I am watching the video compilation of photos from the 22nd Asia Pacific Youth Conference (APYC), which I had the great privilege of attending last August 6 -13 in Bandung, Indonesia.

To be honest I wasn’t too excited to come to the conference. As usual, the introvert in me was anxious at the reality that I would be spending eight days in another country at a conference where I knew no one and had no idea what to expect. I was also leaving behind a ton of work, and would have very little to no access to the internet during those days. But attending this was somewhat for work too, which meant, one of my main tasks is really to network and talk to people.

When I arrived at the venue, I remained to be worried at how I would “survive” the coming week. My first challenge was to keep smiling at people and introduce myself to them despite my headache due to exhaustion from travel. The next challenge (which remained throughout the conference) was to remember people’s names and associate those names with the right faces. Thankfully we had name pins throughout.

When the organizers got around to explaining about Initiatives of Change (IofC) and the APYC, everyone (and more so with “first timers” like me), was excited. The conference would be a personal journey of finding ourselves and sparking change in this mad world. Okay then, let’s see, I thought.DSCF1323

True enough, each activity of each day was a moment of inspiration and realization. To a certain extent I found myself thinking how self centered the conference was. Here we are in the midst of conflict, where people are dying each minute, animals are becoming extinct and trees are being cut down, and we’re here in this conference center up in the mountains talking about ourselves.

Obviously we do not need any more people who act as though the world revolves around them. But we do need more people who are self-aware, conscious of their actions and the effects these actions have on their surroundings. We need people who love themselves enough to exude and share that love, peace, happiness they have within themselves to others.

I met people of 13 different countries. I met a person from Afghanistan who told us of the important role women play in Afghan society. I met people from Nagaland, a state I have never heard of before. I met someone from Kashmir who, due to the continuing conflict in his country, reached the airport by being “smuggled” through an ambulance.

DSCF1457My greatest takeaways from APYC 2016 are the beautiful stories, in a whirlwind of emotions, I have heard and heard of. These are priceless and valuable stories I could not have gotten from books or the internet or the media. And cliché as it may sound, I will keep these stories in my heart and in my mind forever. Many of us might have little to no chance of seeing each other again. We might even forget each other’s names and faces at some point, but the experience itself is something to be kept and remembered.

The song used in the APYC video linked at the beginning, Ingatlah Hari Ini, talks about friendship, and it’s definitely a great fit to encapsulate our sentiments. This entry does not even give justice to the whole experience.

Everything I had been learning and teaching through WYA – the principles of mutual subjectivity, freedom for excellence, thick anthropology – were concretized in this conference through the people I’ve had a chance to talk to and listen to. Attending the APYC has renewed my beliefs in and about the human person – our inherent dignity, the importance of our families, and the need for holistic development.

And for all this, I am truly grateful.

Indeed, we only become part of a “lost generation” if we choose to be.

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Written by Zarina San Jose, Director of Operations at the WYA Asia Pacific office, and Philippine delegate to the Asia Pacific Youth Conference 2016.