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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The ‘Pabibo’ Challenge
BY FRANCIS RYAN PABIANIA

People have to be “pabibo” and not have to wait for authorities or experts “to make real affective change.”

This was the challenge posed by Silliman University alumnus Val Amiel Vestil to Young people of Negros Oriental during the forum sponsored by the American Corner at the Silliman Library and the United States Embassy held at Luce Auditorium in Dumaguete City on Aug. 19.

Also featured in the forum were three other Sillimanians – lawyer Myrish Cadapan – Antonio, a Harvard Hero awardee, StarLife writer Ian Casocot, a five-time Palanca awardee, and Academic Fellowship grantee Shamah Bulangis, a Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative alumna.

By pabibo, Vestil meant, considering people’s pain and privilege in these days ad age, “making relevant noise and causing proactive disruption.”

People don’t just scream out senseless things in a rally, he said, but “they are fighting for equality, fighting for social justice and fighting to get back the inherent human dignity that was stripped away from them.”

He noted that gone are the days when we have to wait for policy-makers, academic institutions, lawyers, engineers, scientists and experts to make real affective change. “We just have to awaken that inner pabibo in us, he said.

Vestil, founder of Association of the Young Environmental Journalists, said that the term has evolved from its seemingly derogatory meaning, a slang of someone who wants to show off, who wants to be famous but actually infamous, acting like a star, a know it all.

He asked participants if they remember their ‘pabibo’ classmates in high school. “Na nasa harap parati, teacher’s pet, raise nang hand every 5 minutes kahit hindi tinatawag. Oo yung mga pabibo nating friends,” he added.

“In this day and age, considering our pains and considering our privilege, we need to start becoming pabibo,” he added.

Vestil defined ‘pabibo’ as making relevant noise and causing proactive disruption.

“When people rally, they don’t just scream out senseless things. They are actually fighting for equality, fighting for social justice and fighting to get back the inherent human dignity that was stripped away from them,” he said.

Vestil, who discussed Environmental Sustainability and Disaster Preparedness, said he is becoming a ‘pabibo’, which entails “the need to disrupt the systems that keep us from progressing.” We need to disrupt the order of things that we know isn’t right. Our Filipino resilience has taught us to smile it away, accept things as they are, and try to move forward with life,” he further said.

Vestil recalled how his friends – Toby, Mac and Anna – led the clean-up of Maningning Creek after years of being a polluted river, served orphanage children with food from the public market and trained young people about marine conservation, respectively.

“They are young people who feel the pain of the community they are a part of and acknowledge the privilege that they have been afforded with,” Vestil proudly said while introducing his ‘pabibo’ friends.

The pro-environment advocate said the conversation on climate crisis is no longer a debate on who is right or wrong, but a “debate on human survival.”

Remembering what he called his heartbreak eight years ago and his fight for the environment, he said, “We don’t stop at being broken hearted. We try to heal.”

We don’t need to wait for another storm or another typhoon or another disaster to hit us. We don’t need to wait for another heartbreak to come our way. What we can do now is to transform our heartbreak into social good.

Kasi may magandang dahilan kung bakit tayo nasaktan,” he added.

***

Antonio, Bulangis and Casocot talked on Democracy, Transparent Governance, Rule of Law and Human Rights; Youth Activism and Empowerment; and Pop Culture and the Arts: Soft Power Diplomacy, respectively.

Casocot, in his account, underscored that culture and the arts can be significant movers in “rendering the world a better place,” through “soft power diplomacy.” He talked on his experience as Philippine representative to International Writing Program in Iowa City in 2010.

“You will barely hear me use that term though. I am not a political scientist. I am a writer, and what I am going to tell you is a story of being a writer among other writers, and how we learned to get along and understand each other because , we found ourselves inherently bound by the same interest: the written word,” he said.

He introduced soft diplomacy at “its best”: as an attempt to engage directly with the public in round-about ways, according to him that goal isn’t really about accomplishing a ‘particular substantive task’ as much as it is to try and alter the fundamental basis under which a “diplomatic relationship exists between people of different countries.”

“We understand each other because we see each other’s cultures close hand…Soft diplomacy is effective. If you want a country to understand you best, bring in their artists,” he said.

Antonio said that transparency in government requires public authorities to keep citizens in equal position with decision makers and to provide citizens with information, at the same time as the rest of the administration.

She said that “best practices on citizen engagement”; includes [citizen might] Get Out To Vote initiatives, Include in school curriculum, leadership development trainings for aspiring public servants, leadership opportunities in schools, opportunities for co-curricular activities that promote engagement in communities, internships in government offices and public hearings.

“Democratic institutions are bolstered by governments that exercise transparency and accountability to its citizens, from whom their mandate rests,” she said, as she added: there can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.

Bulangis shared the stories of Joshua Wong, Greta Thunberg and Isabel Sieh, whom she described as people who have fought “with power and purpose.”

Quoting Toni Morrison, she said power can be a tool to empower others.

“Take care of the world, take care of yourself,” she said.

***

The event was attended by almost 1,000 high school and college students from different schools in Negros Oriental and Dumaguete City,

Also attending were SU Library staff and faculty.

University Librarian Dr. Myra Villanueva said the event was held through the partnerships of the U. S. Embassy and SU through its network of University-based American Corners in key locations throughout the Philippines.

Dr. Villanueva said the AC US Embassy Talks served as a platform of the U.S. Embassy to invite the youth of Negros Oriental to become a member of YSEALI and other US Government Scholarships.

“This event is an attestation that a 21st century library is not only a learning hub but also a space of opportunity. The American Corner Dumaguete located in the SU Library provides an opportunity to the students not only of SU but also of other schools throughout Negros Oriental,” Dr. Villanueva said.

She added that students may also have the opportunity to be trained and avail of the programs of the U.S. Embassy like the Foreign National Student Intern Program, Philippine-American Educational Foundation, YSEALI, and Education USA.*

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