The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) convened eighty-two (82) students and alumni of twenty-two (22) Philippine Schools Overseas (PSO) hailing from ten (10) different countries in the conduct of its 2-day Virtual Youth Leaders in the Diaspora-PSO (YouLeaD-PSO) last 19-20 March 2021.


Countries with participating Philippine Schools Overseas

PSOs are established to address educational needs of children of Filipinos overseas, and eventually facilitate their reintegration into the Philippine educational system upon their return to the Philippines.

Virtual YouLeaD-PSO is the second YouLeaD program conducted online following the pioneer Virtual YouLeaD held on 06 December 2020, which was attended by Filipino youth in the United States of America. The 2-day event ran for more than three hours focusing on discussions about social responsibility, volunteerism, youth leadership, mental health, and adjustment challenges of PSO students. It was co-hosted by Ms. Marianne Dayne Alcaraz and Ms. Rozelle Carrera of the CFO-YouLeaD Secretariat.

Filipino Youth: Inventive and Creative Leaders

The program was officially opened by CFO Secretary Francisco P. Acosta who extended his delight and appreciation to the delegates emphasizing Filipino youth’s remarkable role as inventive and creative leaders of their student communities and organizations overseas. “While this [pandemic] brought serious problems that certainly took heavy toll in the daily lives of the youth, it likewise paved the way for some to go beyond their duties as students and to initiate in taking the lead”, he noted.

CFO Secretary Francisco P. Acosta delivering his welcome remarks to the Virtual YouLeaD-PSO delegates

YouLeaD Secretariat’s Ms. Princess Mayumi Kaye Peralta then gave a brief background of the YouLeaD program to the participants, which envisions a community of young Filipinos overseas who are guided with significant understanding of their identities and relationships with their Filipino families and the nation itself.

Mayumi Peralta of YouLeaD Secretariat giving a brief introduction of the YouLeaD Program

Traditionally, YouLeaD is implemented through a week-long immersion program in the Philippines. However, due to the restrictions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CFO implemented the program virtually.

Youth Leadership and Social Responsibility Amidst Crises (DAY 1)

Delegates from various PSOs were introduced to each other through an engaging icebreaker activity, which let them convey their feelings and views as they join the YouLeaD and express it by using a hashtag.

Virtual YouLeaD-PSO Delegates actively participating in the mood barometer and hashtag generator activity

Environment advocate and socio-entrepeneur Mr. Rafael “Kuya Raf” Dionisio, co-founder of Making-a-Difference (MAD) Travel, led the participants to a virtual tour of the natural and cultural gifts reserved and secured for Filipino youth to explore and develop. A youth leader himself, he shared the importance of ‘walking the talk’ in digital age specially during the pandemic: “In a world of social media, everybody gets to say something but not everybody gets to do something. The most powerful thing you can do is to really show that you are moving forward.”

Kuya Raf Dionisio sharing his thoughts regarding youth social responsibility

YouLeaD alumnus and graduate of Philippine Schools Greece Anthony Kier Carbonel rendered a song performance during the program break. Pride among Filipinos in host country, Anthony finished third in the X-Factor Greece Final competition held last 18 December 2019.

Anthony Kier Carbonel singing his heartfelt and multi-lingual rendition of a classic Disney song ‘Go the Distance’

Meanwhile, panel discussions for Day 1 were led by YouLeaD and PSOs Alumni Phoebe de Leon, Angelo Siegfrid Padilla, and Maverick Alviar who shared their experiences on how leadership and organizational practices within their respective student organizations had evolved amidst the global health crisis.

 


YouLeaD-PSO alumni sharing their youth leadership practices in the panel discussion

Dir. Marita del Rosario-Apattad, Head of the Project Management Division (PMD) gave the closing remarks and extended her congratulations to the participants culminating day 1 of the YouLeaD-PSO event.

CFO-PMD Director Marita del Rosario-Apattad congratulating YLD-PSO delegates

Youth Mental Health During the Pandemic (DAY 2)

To get the blood flowing and energy boosted for the Day 2 of the virtual YouLeaD-PSO, the event started with an ice breaker entitled “Emoji Quiz” where the participants gained points by guessing the song/movie titles and idioms through emoticons shown on the screen.

YouLeaD Secretariat facilitating the Emoji Quiz activity to break the ice among the delegates

This was followed by the discussion proper of Dr. Marylendra “Doc Neth” Penetrante, a certified life coach, mental health advocate, and founder of the Children and Youth Wellness Technical and Advocacy Center in Albay, who talked about the mental wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared various coping strategies to reduce its potential impact on the mental health of Filipino youths. She ended her discussion by reminding the YouLeaD-PSO delegates that “The greatest wealth is health. Invest on maintaining a holistic mental health and proactively help yourself, because unlike COVID-19, there’s no mask for mental health”.

 

Doc Neth sharing tips to cope with the strains on the youth’s mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak

During the program break, the YouLeaD-PSO participants were serenaded by Ms. Marianne Dayne Alcaraz, one of the YouLead Secretariat, with her beautiful rendition of “Wonderwall”, a song by an English rock band Oasis.

Marianne Alcaraz singing her beautiful rendition of an alternative/indie song Wonderwall

Panel discussions for Day 2 were led by the Batch 2 alumnae of the YouLeaD-PSO 2019 Rexel Doctor, Kyla Gayle Doctor, Trisha Kate Orlanes, and Alexcis Bianca Libang who shared their adjustments and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and inspired the virtual YouLead-PSO delegates by giving them helpful tips and experiences.

YouLeaD-PSO alumnae sharing their stories, adjustments and challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak

In her message, Undersecretary Astravel Pimentel-Naik expressed her sincere appreciation to the event’s resource speakers and congratulated the delegates for their active participation during the conduct of the virtual YouLeaD-PSO’s discussion. She ended her remarks by inspiring the participants with a message, “Kahit ano pang pandemya o pagsubok ang harapin natin bilang isang lipunan o lahi, magtiwala lamang tayo sa ating sarili, sa gobyerno, at sa Panginoon.”

CFO Undersecretary Astravel Pimentel-Naik delivering her message to the Virtual YouLeaD-PSO delegates

Tambayan Session

After the panel discussions for days 1 and 2, students were grouped into eight to have a more intimate and interactive discussions about the topics, and to accomplish the breakout activity designed to help them define problems and come up with solutions that they can do in their schools and communities.

Each group then presented their outputs comprehensively despite the limitations on time and virtual setting, interactively engaging and supporting each other’s presentation.

 

 

YouLead-PSO delegates actively sharing their thoughts in the breakout activities

Reconnect with Motherland and Filipino Roots

The Virtual YouLeaD-PSO was formally closed by Commissioner Paul Pangilinan of the National Youth Commission via recorded message. As one of the platforms to strengthen the ties of the Filipino youth abroad to the motherland and its roots, he commended the program and its importance for the reconnection of the PSO delegates to the Philippines during the pandemic and ended his message by reminding the delegates, “Wherever you go or wherever destiny brings you, never forget the Philippines and your fellow Filipinos.”

 

NYC-Commissioner Paul Pangilinan delivering his closing remarks to the Virtual YouLeaD-PSO delegates

Exemplar Youth Leaders in the Diaspora

Since its inception, YouLeaD has been participated by hundred members of Filipino youth diaspora hailing from the United States of America, various Philippine School Overseas in Europe, as well as in the Middle East.

As we continue to face the challenges of the pandemic, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas lives on its commitment in implementing the YouLeaD program. We are more than hopeful to work with and produce responsible individuals, personal and leadership wise, who in turn will made themselves shepherd and ambassadors of our cultural and national identities in their respective communities abroad.