The first ever Forward Pilipinas conference was held at Samsung Hall in SM Aura last Saturday, (September 1, 2018). Key thought leaders of the Philippines gathered under one roof to deliver 20 minute speeches aiming to “spark a conversation amongst today’s Filipino youth and to highlight audacious ideas that will revolutionize the future.” Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, agriculture technology expert Nico Bolzico, and Rappler founder Maria Ressa, were amongst the event’s special guests.
An Inspiring Saturday
Although Saturdays are often considered a day of rest, students and other millennials packed Samsung Hall for the conference. It was a showing sign that many young people were eager for a better Philippines, and that attending Forward Pilipinas was the right step towards that direction. A bleacher stand was set up inside the hall, and it was quickly filled with curious minds looking to learn something new. Lifestyle Asia was also in attendance as a media partner.
The theme of this first Forward Pilipinas conference was “Daring Ideas for Our New World.” The platform was created and organized by millennials, who dare to dream and be the change they want to see in the world. Amongst them was Lifestyle Asia 2018 Game Changer Paula Plaza and her colleague Christopher Louie Ocampo, who are both lawyers at the prestigious Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW). They were also the event’s hosts, providing laughs for the audience through their short spiels and giveaways.
The Youth as Instruments of Change
Regina Guevara, ASEAN Youth Volunteer Head and member of the United Nations Advisory Board, kicked off the conference with her speech detailing how the Filipino youth can be agents for peace. She also discussed how she found her calling after tutoring Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. It was a strong start for Forward Pilipinas. Next up, Urban Greens founder Ralph Becker fascinated the crowd with his ideas on indoor farming, stating that his company is working towards it in the next five to ten years. He was followed by Gyeng-Chul Kim, the Public Transport Reformer at the Korea Transport Institute. Kim’s speech was wildly entertaining, and detailed how Seoul’s traffic situation was very similar to Manila’s, until the government decided to make major changes. He mentioned that bus lane positioning was important to the success of reducing traffic, and shared that it is possible to do this in Philippines through everybody’s cooperation, especially the youth.
After a quick fifteen-minute intermission, the conference resumed with Nico Bolzico’s speech. Although often recognized as a social media superstar and funny online personality, Nico is actually the owner of LM10, a company that “invests in agribusiness technology in partnership with local businessmen” to improve the local farming community. He talked about his move to the Philippines and how the company found its feet. His Chief Marketing Officer, Nicco Pizzocheri also made an appearance, presenting how LM10 is working towards advancing the Philippines by growing high value crops.
Stories from Empowered Women
Young mother Marla Darwin inspired many in the audience through her story. Working as a graphic artist for a company, she branched out on her own as co-founder of Grrrl Gang Manila, which she runs “in her own terms”. The audience was impressed that Marla holds a work from home rule with her staff, meeting them only once a week for a quick catchup session. This gives her time to raise her baby daughter, while remaining to be a savvy businesswoman and working artist. Another famous mama, Lechon Diva Dedet de la Fuenta, talked about her climb in the culinary industry. She didn’t only share how her influence in food came by accident, but also made the crowd extremely hungry by showing images of her famous Pepita’s Kitchen spreads.
Maria Ressa, the founder and CEO of online news website Rappler stirred the interest of the crowd with her very informative speech. She presented on “fake news” and how it is formed. Her evidence included charts, profile examples and news clippings. Ultimately, her message was to promote free press. Lastly, former Chief Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno took center stage to talk about corruption and the growth of the Philippines. Her message eventually strayed away from the political, and called on the youth to be empowered in what they choose to do, stressing that we are the future.