Category Archives: Walk and Talk

The World in Words: A Cole Walks Special

Today's Bloggers

Today’s Bloggers

I’m not exactly comfortable talking in front of crowds, which is why I am a blogger. It’s not you, it’s me. Don’t take it personally.

For someone who’s always been on the sidelines, public speaking feels like a firing squad. Your heart beats double time, your mouth goes dry, your throat closes up, fingers shaking, knees wobbling, your mind goes blank. The only thing left to do is to faint, if you’re lucky enough to get out of the room alive. It’s all a bad case of stage fright and let me tell you, the feeling is insane.

When I was a kid, I loved performing–singing, acting, and everything in between. But I guess it is way freakier to speak of your knowledge to an audience who are present to learn from you. Too much pressure, too much expectation, too much sweat and too much courage needed to make it work.

But like I said to the kids at the Blogging Seminar organized by the Youth Development Affairs (YDA) of the Provincial Government of Laguna, where I served as a resource speaker (for the first time ever in my life!), Blogging is Courage. If you have something to say, say it. I, too, should take my own advice. I advocate for digital tools as method and perspective for social transformation and if I want to be heard, I have to speak up. On and offline.

The YDA advocates social media awareness among the youth to encourage them in promoting the province and its culture, heritage and vision for a progressive province. I stood in front of a roomful of various youth organizations talking about one of the things that I just can’t articulate enough what means to me. It’s like trying to explain why you are on Facebook. Or why you belong to a particular organization. Or why you believe in a specific advocacy. You just do.

With Ms Pinky Villasenor, Head of YDA.

With Ms Pinky Villasenor, Head of YDA.

My presentation involved some guidelines in blogging, examples and how to reflect on the stories they (prospective bloggers) want to write about. Believe it or not, I didn’t crash and burn (or at least to me. I haven’t read the evaluation forms yet!). Instead, I enjoyed the session and transformed the experience from a terrifying one to an opportunity in extending my personal advocacy. 

The whole experience was fulfilling and challenging at the same time. Fulfilling because, in some way, I was able to relay my thoughts on how to start expressing their thoughts and feelings through blogs. Hopefully, the participants learned something. Even if it’s just stimulating their interest to venture into writing online or as huge as synthesizing our session and establish their own digital presence. Challenging, on the other hand, because I want to harness this skill. I wanted to discuss blogging in a very dynamic and relatable manner–in a way that the participants will find themselves motivated and inspired. Perhaps, this is the first step–actually putting yourself out there and learn from the experience.

I am already proud of the kids–the mere fact that they took time to attend this seminar already says something about their interest and abilities, and more importantly, their vision for social change.

Youth in Action. For A Progressive Laguna!

Youth in Action. For A Progressive Laguna!

I would like to thank the YDA for organizing this event in fostering the power of digital tools for social change among the youth of Laguna. Not only did you help the kids realize their potential as voices for social transformation, but you have also supported someone like me in championing my advocacy and conquering my fears. 🙂

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Stand.

What I am writing about is far different from my usual train of thought. Perhaps, I just want to express what I feel about the recent case dubbed as ‘India Gang Rape’. A 23-year-old medical school graduate was sexually attacked mercilessly in a bus in Delhi; she died after weeks of struggling for her survival due to multiple major injuries–not to mention mental and emotional trauma–from the hands of the perpetrators.

Whenever I read about her story, it never fails to break my heart; and no, this is not about how media portrays rape cases. It is very devastating to see how a dream—life at that—is taken away from someone very hardworking and determined by just a group of cruel animals that destroyed her and her family without remorse.

However, what upsets me more is that there are people who have the audacity to blame rape victims (in general). As a woman her age with big dreams like she did, I am beyond appalled, disgusted and deeply insulted by the remarks; and to think I am just a concerned citizen. I could not even begin to imagine how these accusations, the stigma, the pity from people who do not know any better are affecting the families they left behind.

People who blame victims have NO idea what victims are going/went through; their judgement is no different from that of the perpetrators. I do not want to hear any justifications that these allegations are caused by a patriarchal society, and that women are inferior to men. Fathers, and good men at that, will never ever wish their wives/sisters/daughters/female relatives to be put in that place; therefore, will not do any harm to women either. Never.

I do pray for her soul and that she rests in peace; justice for the her family–justice for all the victims of sexual violence. And for the perpetrators, you very well know what you deserve. If that does not involve facing charges and getting sentenced–whatever that may be–then I guess you are really sick. Just like those who are defending you at this point.

India gang rape victim’s father: I want the world to know my daughter’s name is Jyoti Singh Pandey | full story

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Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen

Says it all..

Blessed, that is exactly how I describe my internship with UNICEF Laos.

I love to dream. Irritatingly cheesy but I grew up believing that I can do anything as long as I work hard and commit to it. With a little smile from fate and support from my family and friends, someday I will be able to make my dreams–or as I call them plans–happen.

But if there is one thing I learned from planning, that is they do not always work they way we want them to. Something goes awry along the way, no matter how fixated one is in carrying them out. Indeed, lessons are learned the hard way but we are given a choice to wallow or to push forward.

I must admit wallowing was an immediate response to the failure stimulus; however, after falling flat on face several times over, I found out that wallowing is just as equally exhausting as moving on and starting over. After a moment of weakness that comes from every plan gone askew, I pick myself up, ignore the numbing agony of rejection and failure, hold my head up high and…dream again. But dreaming can only do so much and it could be extremely taxing to chase on something that, for lack of a better term, is not meant to be. Sometimes, it is better to let go of old dreams and just face reality as I see it.

So you can just imagine how my heart started beating double-time, alarms ringing in my ears, my head throbbing while reading that one email that changed the course of my professional career. An internship so elusive that filling out application forms is just as futile as looking for a needle in a haystack. But there was it. All the months of hard work, emotional craze, and ripping plans apart felt like a distant memory. Finally, I breathed as I wrote my reply.

Surprise! I’ve always been the Girl-Who-Takes-Pictures, this time they let me say something to the kids. My Lao was put to test!

Second day into my internship, I was sent out for an assignment in the Southern province of Laos. It was my first time exploring the South; as much as I would want to get my blog-mode on, we were on a tight schedule. The Mother of All Deadlines, as I put it. We roughly had a few hours for interview, write the story and send it to the main office. We were running on adrenaline, and perhaps, there was also that element of commitment that we were able to make the deadline. And it yielded desirable results.

After that eventful week, the days went by like a tremendous blur of tasks, alongside my Master’s classes that were just as astoundingly demanding. But what kept me going is the trust given by my supervisors and staff–so overwhelming, it felt surreal. My supervisors specifically instructed me to prioritize my studies, and never compromise it for the sake of my assigned tasks. I was treated as a colleague, and my opinions mattered. My service was not considered as just an ‘intern’s output’ but rather held with respect and appreciation, and with that, I am deeply honored.

And today, my 16 weeks of service comes to a close. It feels like a surge of emotions, actually. Relief because battling wits in class and helping with documents at work did knock me down, but also separation anxiety because I may never have this kind of experience again. Worried because I have to start regrouping and planning my next steps. Proud because I made it. Immensely grateful, bordering on feeling unworthy, of all these blessings.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to UNICEF Laos for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime and for teaching me in more ways than I have expected. To my supervisors who were patient and kind in guiding me, and for being very supportive; to my colleagues who were accommodating, attentive to my questions and always ready to help out when I am feeling lost or confused. To everyone I have worked with, to all the staff–thank you. You have no idea how much I appreciate your warm welcoming smiles.

During the basii ceremony for the new staff in August (it was held two days after my birthday actually), I said that my months with UNICEF Laos will be my best yet. Turns out I was wrong. It is the best because nothing will ever compare.

I do not have to articulate everything the organization has done in serving the vulnerable and marginalized for decades–millions of people reached and lives changed–you are a blessing to the society.

You are a blessing to dreamers like me.

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