Special Feature

Notes From TEDxDiliman 2015

The Urban Roamer was honored to be among the chosen to be invited to this year’s TEDxDiliman which was held last Sunday, October 11 at the Diosdado Macapagal Hall (AKA the auditorium) of the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines Diliman. It was a very enlightening event, having learned a lot from this year’s speakers who have shared their experiences in relation to this year’s them; “Paths Less Traveled.” And I have to say, it is a theme that rings close to my heart at the moment as I am currently in the midst of that journey myself.

But before I go on, some of you may ask what TEDxDiliman is all about. Well, TEDxDiliman is one of the independently organized TED events in the country. Now you might ask what is a TED event then? TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a conference being held in different parts of the world that aims to spread ideas and perhaps inspire to support worthwhile ideas or spearhead such themselves. Thus, the slogan of TED: “Ideas Worth Spreading.”

Being an independent TED event, TEDxDiliman is organized by Canvas, a nonprofit organization founded by Gigo Alampay that aims to “promote children’s literacy, explore national identity, and deepen public appreciation for Philippine art, culture and the environment” with the help of the creative community.

Gigo Alampay of Canvas serving as the host of TEDxDiliman

With that said, on with the highlights of this year’s TEDxDiliman. Eventually, the full videos of each presentation will be uploaded by the organizers in the coming days, which will be added here.

First speaker for the event is Conrad Alampay (who also happens to be a nephew, I think, of the aforementioned Gigo Alampay) who has this company that does 3D scanning of various structures, particularly heritage structures for documentation and preservation. He talked about how technology can help preserve our country’s remaining heritage for present and future generations to appreciate, even after they are gone, something many of us hope will not happen.

Came next was Vin Dancel, Peryodiko’s frontman, singer-songwriter, and brother of former Sugarfree front Ebe Dancel, talked about his musical journey. A unique one to say the least since he did this while pursuing law studies. He talked about reconciling and balancing his passion for music with his law profession, albeit an alternative law practice at that.

Mike Swift came next and did a freestyle throughout his talk. He’s a rapper and a Philippine hoops junkie at heart who is behind the Instagram account Pinoy Hoops. He talked about his love for Pinoy basketball and how this passion got him close to the people of the Tenement in Taguig and became an advocate of sorts for the folks there. And this advocacy helped him persuade NBA stars like Lebron James and Paul George to visit and play basketball in the court there.

Endocrinologist Dr. Iris Isip Tan came next to talk about her experience as a doctor with an online presence. Because of being seen then as a terror, she became known as “Dok Bru” (short for bruha or witch) or witch, a monicker she came to embrace when put up her blog and Facebook page called “Endocrine Witch.” She narrated the hassles she experienced as she tried to navigate being an online figure while trying to practice and uphold her medical profession as much as she can, as well as the satisfaction she gets in being able to somehow help those who reach out to her online, as well as the invaluable contribution of the online community she helped build.

Comic book writer, artist, and animator Arnold Arre went up after the break to talk about his fascination with Philippine folklore and the Philippine story in general and how this has helped shape his career in comics and, eventually, animation. He talked about the many stories of the country waiting to be told, encouraging others to help write these stories. After all, who could be able to tell these stories better than us?

Next was an accomplished chef, Waya Araos-Wijangco, who went up to share her experience of teaching and giving opportunities to children with special needs. Through her school, the Open Hand School for Applied Arts, she helped provide training and learning for people with special needs so they would be of help to society through vocational education. And given the very limited opportunities provided to these people, she also opened the Gourmet Gypsy Cafe to help them and show the way to other enterprises that special people can be productive members of society and that opportunities should not be deprived of them, especially if they are capable enough.

Vin Dancel came up again for a special number, accompanied by Nicholas Lazaro, while encouraging attendees to broaden their musical experience beyond what mainstream media is offering.

Then came a talk and a spoken word performance by Juan Miguel Severo, an artist and spoken word poet. In particular, he talked about the idea of “imagining the audience naked” which he came to realize is about the people opening themselves up, taking off the “clothes” or those that hid their innermost feelings and thoughts, giving him courage as a performer to open up as well.

After the break, a Burmese (now Myanmar) activist named Soe Myint came on stage. And his was perhaps one of the most interesting of the talks that day. Almost 25 years ago, he was one of the student activists protesting the excesses of military rule in the country at the time. And with little to no international attention given to their plight, he and a companion did a “peaceful hijacking” of a plane from Bangkok that was supposed to land in Rangoon (now Yangon) and asked the plane to be diverted instead to Calcutta. The catch was, they had no weapons and they had not taken an airplane before. So the experience was somewhat interesting, to say the least. But it was his love for country that prevailed and the support he had gotten for his country was overwhelming in return.

Following him was another interesting talk courtesy of Raymond Narag, a Fulbright scholar, assistant professor in Southern Illinois University, and…a former inmate at a Quezon City Jail for more than 6 years, wrongfully accused and imprisoned for being one of the alleged assailants of Dennis Venturina in a frat war in the UP Diliman campus. Throughout his stay in prison, he became productive by helping prisoners there write letters to their loved ones, becoming a mediator of sorts between the jail officials and his fellow inmates, and helped inmates get information about the status of their cases. The Supreme Court eventually acquitted him of the crime and now he works to help improve the criminal justice system in the country.

Famed writer and historian Ambeth Ocampo came up next, this time not to talk about his story but history of others, our heroes to be specific. He talked about the need for making heroes more human so we can relate to them more and be able to understand history better. And a better understanding of history will help us avoid the mistakes of the past that keeps on repeating itself. As Ambeth said, “history does not repeat itself. but rather, we ourselves repeat history.”

The last speaker for this year’s TEDxDiliman was Sen. Loren Legarda, who was invited to share her experience in organizing the country’s participation in the Venice Biennale, the oldest and most prestigious international exhibition of contemporary art. It was the first time after 50 years that the Philippines participated in the event, marking a successful return of sorts in such a prestigious event as the Venice Biennale despite the limited resources she encountered along the way.

To cap off the day filled with inspiring talks, the UP Concert Chorus, fresh from a grand prize victory at the 6th International Krakow Choir Festival in Poland, gave the closing performance.

It was an honor to be part of such a fun and inspiring experience. Now I know why TED talks around the world are such popular events. And TEDxDiliman is no different. I hope to be part of next year’s TEDxDiliman to hear more inspiring stories and ideas.

Or perhaps the Urban Roamer being a TED speaker in the future? That is far from my mind at the moment and I have no inspiring story to share yet. But who knows, right?

But for now, my big thanks to the organizers of TEDxDiliman for inviting me to this special event and congratulations as well for yet another TEDxDiliman. Here’s hoping for more ideas worth spreading in the years to come.

P.S. I just hope they could provide better internet signal at venue ‘coz the signal inside was crap on my end that I could get to live blog.

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