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Beyond harnessing the power of a collective voice, Brian Poe Llamanzares urges the youth to engage and act in shaping their future.

The image projection of a cityscape represents Brian’s involvement in investigative journalism and Philippine politics. (Photograph of a cityscape from Ian Romie Ona)

Taking on many distinct roles at the same time, it is no wonder why Brian Poe Llamanzares is always on the move. Navigating through multiple high-stakes industries—from climate change and disaster risk management studies, journalism, entrepreneurship in the fashion and F&B landscape, and of course, politics, the wealth of his experiences taught him to balance his time well. “It’s easy to switch hats when I know which one to prioritize,” Brian says, reiterating that priority has always been putting others before himself. His primary business, Time Master watches, was “born out of passion and designed to be able to support social causes.” True to the vision, a portion of the sales helps fund MoveEd’s cause and Habitat for Humanity in its response efforts for COVID-19-affected communities. Brian has mounted an anti-bacterial clothing line as well, Someday, Maybe, with good friend Roxanne Montealegre, that keeps jobs in the industry. “Whether politics or business, as long as the goal is clear, I believe I can still make a difference,” Brian attests.

The success of Time Master led his fellow young entrepreneurs to consult him about business management, bringing Brian to the F&B world through Dulo MNL and craft beer subscription service Barley & Craft. “I share my knowledge from the success and failures of Time Master in exchange for the opportunity to be a part of the growth of a product, service, or business I see potential in,” he explains. The pandemic affected these business ventures, but he trusts the CEOs and his business partners to keep the companies afloat. In the meantime, he “[focuses] on the companies I do have more control over.” Apart from managing his timepiece brand and clothing line, he works on the projects of digital agency STOBZ Media and as the digital marketing director of Alike Inc.

The image projection of clouds embodies Brian’s Master’s degree in Climate Change and Society from Columbia University. (Photograph of clouds from Eberhard Grossgasteiger)

Strength in hard work

While Brian’s roles as an entrepreneur and social advocate are both critical, he emphasizes, “My country will always come first.” As the Chief-of-Staff under the Office of Senator Grace Poe, his schedule remains packed with meetings, administrative work, and dinners with business partners and lawyers. Accomplishing all of his tasks as late as 12 midnight or one in the morning is already routine. Going through this process is strenuous, but Brian doesn’t complain. He enjoys it as he sees the value in and witnesses the fruits of the work he does. “I just want other young leaders to realize that if they want to achieve things, they have to put in the work.”

One might wonder how Brian got accustomed to such a degree of hard work. Back in 2015, when he was still evaluating his career path, his father had encouraged him to work in the private sector before public service. He went to the news media as a reporter for CNN Philippines. He thought, “it would be a good compromise. I could continue to serve the country by fighting for the truth while learning more about corporate life.” The life of a journalist, an investigative one at that, is not easy to traverse. From graveyard shifts to traveling, as well as of a ton of research work and interviews, Brian admits, “It was so hard that I remember wanting to quit.” However, the difficulty of the role was not enough to drive him to leave the post that fast. “I don’t want anyone to ever say I was a quitter,” he firmly said to his father, who had brought it up then. Although Brian is now on a different path, his stint as a journalist helped craft his self-discipline. He learned to grind and hustle—all in pursuit of truth and justice. “Being a journalist holds a special place in my heart…I hope to one day continue my relationship with one of the noblest professions in the world.”

The image projection of an encyclopedia page stands for Brian’s advocacy for education. “[It’s] the whole experience of growing up loved and cared for by the institutions that were designed to mold the leaders of tomorrow,” he says.

The voice of the youth

While the country is battling the impact of the pandemic, a critical and long-time social concern presents itself once again: the state of press freedom. With much time in their hands during quarantine, Filipinos have been more active with citizen journalism through social media. “The spirit of what journalism truly is has been ravaged by fake news, oppressive institutions, and vindictive agendas,” Brian points out. However, he adds, “I do believe that it is in the most trying times that true journalists are born.” To address such a problem, he suggests three ways: the passing of the Freedom of Information bill, nurturing a “more discerning and open-minded public,” and fostering a culture of integrity among all journalists and content creators. While he acknowledges that these can sound idealistic, he believes that “Whether you are a leader, follower, or journalist, we all have a role to play in achieving true press freedom.”

In recent years, it was mostly the youth who took the call to act upon essential issues in the country to the streets. “We are loud, but we must take action,” Brian stresses firmly. While the youth voice can influence public opinion, he expresses concern over the lack of youth vote turnout. “Most young people have never exercised their basic right to vote, and that is, in fact, the surest way to make sure that your advocacies are fought for at the decision-making table,” Brian explains. Thus, he couldn’t emphasize enough the impact of engaging, “It’s time to stop being keyboard warriors and be involved,” adding, “Don’t just repost an article, write one. Don’t just donate to an NGO, join one. Don’t just mourn the state of politics in our country, serve the people.”

The single white streak against the dark tones depicts the spark of change amid challenging times.

Creating change

As a young individual living in these challenging times, getting involved in matters beyond one’s immediate circle may seem terrifying. To an extent, it is, if one will turn to history and recount how oppressive groups and systems have silenced many. However, Brian recalls our national heroes and emphasizes, “Never forget that our country was built through the heroism of young idealists.” He adds, “Being a hero doesn’t have to be about some grand act of martyrdom…Your small acts of kindness and social involvement add up.” It takes recognition of one’s abilities and skills, building the courage and the willingness to pursue the truth and serve those who need help the most.

Brian is only among the many remarkable young individuals who went the extra mile in fostering change. “For all the suffering I witnessed, I also saw victory. For all the ugliness of politics, I’ve seen hope. And for all the failure, I’ve also had many successes,” he shares. Seeing the goodness in everything he encounters and setting more realistic expectations made considerable differences in how he is now. “For the first time in my life, I really feel like I have the ability to make my contribution to society,” he ruminates. He relates this to how helpless he felt back as Sen. Grace Poe’s Campaign Manager in 2016. However, three years of further learning and honing his skills enabled him to redeem himself and help his mother win in 2019.

Although he has played many roles, Brian believes there is still much to achieve. Life can be meaningful when one had “left the world a little bit better than when [they] first came to it.” Creating opportunities for change is no easy task, but it can start with recognizing the problem and being vocal towards pressing concerns. When coupled with decisive, truth-seeking actions, Brian’s goal becomes clearer and possible to reach, “I will dedicate my life to making my country proud.”

The image projection of a tidal wave symbolizes Brian’s studies in disaster management and his work as an intern for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Geo Project. (Photograph of waves from Joshua Fuller)

Photos JAN MAYO
Art Direction MARC PAGDILAO
Grooming THEA DIONISIO
Special thanks to DISCOVERY PRIMEA and YSMAEL SUAREZ

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