Somewhere along the paths of our lives, there will always be crossroads, where we meet strangers who become our friends.
One firm example of this was the once-in-a-lifetime experience where 27 universities, 54 different personalities, thousands of stories to tell came together: the Energy Development Corporation’s (EDC) 2nd Binhi Youth Conference at the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo, Rizal, on Nov. 7-10, 2013.
A few weeks ago, I recall our Students’ Affairs Office informing me about the application. I submitted my application, complete with all my bio-data, bragging rights, essay, shirt size, 1×1 ID photo stapled onto it, and hopes of having gwapo co-delegates.
Days passed, then an e-mail came—we were the official delegates of our respective schools to the conference.
Day 1: To Manila
I woke up early, made sure all my bags were ready, and met the other delegates.
After breakfast, check-in rituals and a few Instagram posts, we were up in the air.
A coaster picked us up at the airport, with a bunch of people we barely knew, but would soon be forging friendships with.
Throughout the 90-minute drive to the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo, the bus was filled with random jokes and rants.
After dinner, Fellowship Night started with distribution of our kits and nametags, a basic orientation about the event and safety tips. Then all of us were distributed into five teams: Mangkono, Tindalo, Malabayabas, Apitong and Kamagong.
After a few games, the group settled down to watch a few inspiring videos.
Day 2: Lecture buster
The second day of the conference was the intellectually enriching portion.
We sat through a whole day of talks, lectures and workshops about the environment and our significance in it.
The first talk was given by Rell Marc Maquiling, an alumnus from BYC Batch 1, who shared his experiences from last year’s conference and how it helped him contribute to his own community.
This was followed by a keynote speech from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) field operations director, Dr. Vicente Tuddao Jr., who magnified the importance of reforestation and working for the success of the National Greening Project
Next were EDC’s Watershed management manager, lawyer Allan Barcelona, and corporate social responsibility manager Reinero Medrano who spoke about EDC’s role in the society and our environment and the Binhi Greening Legacy, respectively.
The second half of the lecture was focused more on climate change and environmental education in the country, where talks were given by top scientist and climate change expert Dr. Rodel Lasco of the Oscar M. Lopez Climate Change Center, WWF project manager Philline Marie Donggay, and senior consultant of the Department of Education Ma. Lourie Victor.
The lectures were then followed by an open forum, where the delegates were given the chance to raise their questions and concerns about the talks presented.
There was also an orientation on the project development competition, a venue for the delegates to apply their learning through pioneering initiatives that would contribute to Binhi’s legacy for a greener environment. The top three winners would receive cash grants for the implementation of their project.
To prepare the delegates for the 10-minute pitches to be made the next day, Dr. Rodolfo de los Reyes gave a lecture and workshop on communication skills.
Day 3 of the conference was a mix of physically enriching activities, brain work and bonding sessions.
The day started early with a tree-planting activity, led by EDC’s foresters, followed by teambuilding exercises.
The teams had to complete a series of tasks, from charades to eating contests and a whole lot more.
After hours of running, screaming and jumping around, the winners were named and everyone had a good lunch.
The project development competition ran for four hours, and all the teams had to come up with a presentation for their project. The top five would have to deliver a final 10-minute pitch to convince the panel.
The top five schools were Isabela State University, University of Southeastern Philippines, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos, University of Sto. Tomas, and the University of the Philippines-Iloilo.
In third place was the University of Southeastern Philippines, with Norvein Calibo and Danica Chan.
My schoolmate John Floyd Abrico and I were thrilled when we were declared first runner-up.
Adjudged winner was Project Roar by Dennis Edward Lagman and Anthony Jacque Sangco of the University of Sto. Tomas.
On top of the generous cash grants for our schools, we also received cash prizes for preparing our entry.
Also awarded a special citation as one of the breakthrough projects was the University of the Philippines-Mindanao, with Omid Siahmard and Irson Thurs Doria.
With all the winners named, the group made the most out of our last night with videoke, horror movie marathons, and staying up late watching the live telecast of the Miss Universe 2013 pageant, enjoying chocolates, chips and each other’s company.
Day 4: Bittersweet farewells
It was the early morning of Nov. 10, 2013—the last day of our conference.
Everyone rose and packed their bags, ate breakfast, and complied with all the check-out requirements before dispersing into the vehicles.
As we exchanged hugs, phone numbers, Twitter names and took selfies, along with it came our bittersweet farewells: to the organizers that made everything possible and took very good care of us, to the speakers who enlightened and moved us with their wonderful presentations, to the hotel staff that made our stay cozy and comfortable, and to the delegates that used to be strangers to us, but were now friends we did not want to part with.
The EDC-Binhi Youth Conference was a melting pot of people from different universities all over the country.
What made the EDC-BYC extraordinary was when our talents met opportunity—the opportunity to spearhead positive environmental change. It made us all feel like we could transform into environmental superheroes and save the world.