Twenty-eight (28) Filipino scholars of the US-funded Kennedy- Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program arrived Sunday (June 22) from the United States (U.S.) after completing one academic year in high school in the said country.
The 28 students are among the 393 Filipino YES alumni scholars who have been sent to the U.S. since 2004 to be immersed in American culture and learn about their society and values, and to acquire leadership skills through exposure to extra-curricular activities in school and in their host community.
At the same time, the scholars are also given the opportunity to educate Americans about the Philippines, Filipino culture, and Muslim tradition and practices.
This is in line with the YES Program’s objectives of intercultural exchange to create better and mutual awareness and understanding of the American and Muslim community that would eventually lead to a harmonious co-existence between the two cultures.
The program provides for a scholarship to high school students from areas with significant Muslim population— Mindanao, in the case of the Philippines.
The exchange students live with host families from the host city and state, and engage in American education and way of living for a year.
In his speech yesterday (June 23) during the welcome ceremonies to the scholars, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said the program is a venue where the exchange students could broaden their ability to see how other countries work, and experience firsthand American culture and lifestyle.
While the Ambassador admitted that times are different now with the innovations in technology, people remain the same—in hopes, goals, and aspirations.
The intercultural exchange program, he said, “could open more opportunities for peace and economic development, through the students.”
He also said, “the program will continue to go on, for the program seeks to address misunderstandings about U.S. attitudes, and towards Muslim community through the young people.”
He stressed that the youth around the world should understand that “we are in a multi-ethnic society, and for Filipinos, the program aims to open their minds and develop their understanding in a way that is beneficial to the country, particularly in the poorest and conflict-heavy areas.”
During their sharing, the exchange scholars described their one year in the U.S. as a “learning-packed experience, as they were able to understand American lifestyle—which is quite different from those portrayed in movies.”
Nahida H. Ali, Iligan City-based scholar who went to study in Franklin, Indiana, said that her experience was “a wonderful learning experience for it allowed her to meet American people who are very friendly and tolerant of other cultures.” She said that despite her being a Muslim, clad in Hijab, she never felt like an outcast. Her ways were accepted by her school mates and host family.
General Santos City native Datu Yoseff Pendatun who went to Massachusetts said that given another opportunity, he would like to continue his college education in the U.S. His experience taught him a lot especially in leadership skills and understanding foreign culture. When asked about discrimination, he said that there was never a time when he felt he was discriminated because of his race or for any other reason.
The YES Program was established in 2002 in response to the events of September 11, 2001. The program is funded through the U.S Department of State and is implemented in the Philippines by the AFS Intercultural Programs, Philippines. It offers full scholarship to high school students, including students with physical disabilities, in 39 countries.
Philippine Information Agency (PIA) director general Jose Mari Oquiñena urged government information officers to be catalyst of change towards national development.
“Public information officers should not only be disseminators of information, but also catalysts of change towards national development,” Oquiñena told government information officers who attended the Skills Enhancement Seminar and Climate Change Forum held June 18-20, in Baguio City.
Oqui?ena also reminded the participants not just to inform but also to form and “help empower the nation through leadership, stewardship, and innovation.”
He also added that “information officers must seek the truth and think of the responsibility to their fellowmen; one should stand up not only for himself, but for others, for his community, and for his country as a whole.”
The event gathered public information officers (PIOs) from national government agencies (NGAs)-NCR regional offices, as well as PIOs from Metro Manila’s local government units (LGUs) with the aim of re-strengthening their skills in press release writing, media relations, and crisis communication--- skills necessary to be effective communicators of relevant and timely information to the public.
Information officers from Regions 1, 2, 3, and CAR were also present in the activity.
Updates on the government’s initiatives for climate change adaptation and mitigation were also discussed in line with government agencies’ concerted efforts to address the growing concern on climate change, its ill effects, and possible interventions to weaken the threatening repercussions it could bring.
Invited resource speakers are respected names from the country’s top publications and institutions: Dulce Sanchez of the Philippine Star, Joseph Voltaire Contreras of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Sammy Santos of the Public Relations and Information Bureau of the Philippine Senate.
The speakers re-acquainted the participants with the basics in journalism— sometimes overlooked even by veteran writers. These range from the data gathering task of a writer to writing effective leads, sustaining the readers’ interest without losing conciseness in one’s articles, and being always accessible to media for clarification and updates on one’s stories.
The challenge is how to package one’s information in an effective and useful manner, and how to manage possible miscommunication .
Philippine Star metro editor, Ms. Dulce Sanchez, who gave tips on “How to Get One’s Press Releases Published,” emphasized the importance of being always grammatically impeccable as a simple misuse of preposition could change everything, with risks of ruining one’s credibility.
She also warned against the use of long and highly-ornamented press releases; she advised writers to always be on-topic, and to highlight what is relevant and beneficial to the readers.
Philippine Daily Inquirer metro editor Mr. Joseph Voltaire Contreras, who gave a talk on “Re-strengthening Media Relations” underscored the importance of establishing good relations with media partners, as well as with the journalist’s first-hand sources of information which include government heads and their press relations officers.
He also advised information officers to maximamize the use of modern technology such as websites to maximize the exchange of correct information to their media counterparts.
He also emphasized the importance of providing substantial data to support one’s claims in his or her press releases—“something writers forget to do,” according to him.
Mr. Sammy Santos, director for print media , Public Relations and Information Bureau, Philippine Senate discussed “Media and Crisis Communication” put emphasis on “fast, speedy, and responsive” as necessary qualities in crisis communication. He said that in crisis management, one “should be able to anticipate crises from arising, armed with necessary interventions that are commensurate to the issue being resolved.”
From the government side, Ms. Harriet Tauli represented the Climate Change Commission-- lead agency for climate change monitoring in the country. She tackled the agency’s climate change national action plan that provides for a roadmap in the government’s monitoring of its climate change initiatives which are expected to continue until the year 2028.
The Climate Change Forum is among the many projects of PIA-NCR and DENR-NCR that are slated to be undertaken this year as they embark on a massive climate change advocacy campaign in the National Capital Region.
This year’s advocacy for climate change adaptation and mitigation has the theme “Nagbabago na ang Panahon; Panahon na Para Magbago.”
The activity was also in cooperation with the Association of Information Officers in Metro Manila (AIMM) whose members are information officers from 17 LGUs in Metro Manila regional information officers from national government agencies’ regional offices of NCR.
The AIMM was founded in 1997 by PIA-NCR Regional Director Riza J. Baldoria with the objective of uniting Metro Manila’s LGUs and NGAs towards the dissemination and communication of government, programs, projects, and activities in the region.
The AIMM also serves as the mouthpiece of the public and the government through its feedback-mechanism and query-response activities.