Join us in our 65th Anniversary

Meet the NextGen Leaders

Apr 20, 2024
10 min read

*YOUTH QUAKE With the recent celebration of Youth Day, this week’s issue of the Philippine Panorama brings to light the potential and the issues of the youth today (Illustration by Diitka Laya Kashyap, cover design by Jules Vivas)*

by Kerry Tinga

### Youth leaders of Asia find mentorship and guidance from Ramon Magsaysay Award laureates

Marketing and political segmentation make the youth out as distinct creatures to observe, analyze, and report on. But how can you capture the current? The ongoing movement of an ocean that is as deep as the history that has brought the world about?

With all our strength and spirit, and our faults and foibles, too, we, the youth, are the previous generations’ living legacies. The result of the world created around us, and the explicit and implicit lessons passed on. But in us, as the current, is optimism for what the future holds and the opportunity to shift and shape that future for the better.

“I’ve always believed that the youth hold so much power and potential to incite positive changes in society,” says Yzabel Pinera, the president of the Council of Organizations at Ateneo de Manila University. “As someone who gets to work with so many student leaders, I can see just how much of a driving force their passions for their advocacies and causes truly are.”

Pinera recently joined 32 other youth leaders of Asia as part of the inaugural NextGen Leadership Program of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF), organized through its Transformative Leadership Institute (RMTLI). This cohort represents a group that is constantly redefining what it means to be a youth leader.

“Youth leadership is about claiming the space meant for us to prioritize the wellbeing of our generation and the generations to come. It’s a commitment to the life we all want for everyone—a just and humane society,” says Madeleine Avila of the De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde Central Student Government. “NextGen has created a platform for the youth to ignite the change we want to see in the world.”

Along with several other Filipinos, Pinera and Avila’s fellow NextGen leaders came from Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and India. There were student leaders, young entrepreneurs, educators, and other fresh voices of their generation.

“The NextGen program reminded us that youth leadership is about progressive learning and development,” says CJ Feria, a Teach for the Philippines (TFP) alumnus fellow. “As an education advocate working toward excellent, relevant, and inclusive education for all Filipino children, I could affirm that the youth are truly the hope of the future.”

For over half a century, the RMAF has been celebrating the greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia. This year, they brought together several Magsaysay laureates to provide mentorship to youth leaders of Asia. Through NextGen, generations collided but did not crash. They exchanged perspectives and ideas, while also giving guidance and advice.

“Our Magsaysay laureates have, for decades, shown us what ‘greatness of spirit’ is all about,” explains Susan Afan, president of the RMAF. “Our NextGen leaders, meanwhile, have reminded us it is their dreams, their enthusiasm, and their genuine desire toward positive change that give us hope for a better future.”

“With hope,” Afan adds, “the synergy created between them will ignite action toward strengthening and replicating proven solutions on various social issues.”

Magsaysay laureates who acted as mentors included Mechai Viravaidya of Thailand. Youk Chhang of Cambodia, Saur Marlina Manurung of Indonesia, SonamWangchuck of India, Kim Jong-ki of South Korea, Mahabir Pun of Nepal, Chung To of China, Yoshiaki Ishizawa of Japan, and Conchita Caprio-Morales, Antonio Oposa Jr., and Ryan Cayabyab of the Philippines. Over two weeks and 11 online Zoom sessions, the Magsaysay mentors shared their personal stories while also encouraging the youth leaders to go out and start making stories of their own.

During a session on individual social responsibility, esteemed Thai activist Viravaidya Mechai shared his frustrations as he posed the question: “Why can’t we have a national development plan developed by the youth? The future belongs to them. They know what needs to be done.”

> ‘It is their dreams, their enthusiasm, and their genuine desire toward positive change that give us hope for a better future.’

Jirapa Tibmoon is a product of Mechai’s innovative Mechai Pettanna (Bamboo) School in Buriram. Beyond the typical educational requirements, community service and social responsibility are an integral part of their teaching and an inseparable part of the students’ lives.

“I have learned about social business and the problems in my country, especially in my community,” says Tibmoon. “Through NextGen, I met people from different countries and could learn about their problems and solutions. That’s what makes it a really great project.”


*MARK OF A TRUE LEADER The Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual recognition established to perpetuate the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay’s example of integrity in governance, courageous service, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society*

As Magsaysay laureate and NextGen mentor, Ryan Cayabyab shared with the young leaders: “The rhythm of the music of another culture is so different from the rhythm of the music of another culture. And that’s what makes the world so interesting and vast.”

Even across the Philippines, our youth come with backgrounds as diverse and as colorful as our many islands. Each young leader has their own unique set of challenges. And they all face them with their own individual style of leadership. But we are all part of the current of youth change that dares to believe in a better world.

“We’re at a point in history where youth leadership matters more than ever. The energy and optimism that characterize us might just be what the world needs right now,” says Ahmed Hataman, a college student who hosts the podcast Project Weave, sharing the stories of the Moro people. “The NextGen program has helped me understand the variety of approaches we can take in trying to make a difference. I feel like I can really be free to find my own way to create an impact—one that I intend to make as a Moro, for my people.”

Dale Perez, of the Bogobo-Klata tribe of Mindanao, adds, “Indigenous youth leadership, to me, means encouraging the indigenous youth to be proud of their cultural identity, to share their lives and potentials, and gifts to others, and live out the cultural values and wisdom of their forefathers.”

As the overall coordinator at the ILAWAN-Pamulaan Center for Indigenous Peoples Education, Perez has found the NextGen program helpful in renewing her commitment to leadership and service to the indigenous people. “I have found family and friends in the program who will accompany me on this leadership journey.”

For these youth leaders, it is just the beginning. After all the in-depth discussions and experiences with Magsaysay laureates, there still lies a blue ocean ahead. And as Mark Jacinto, the curator for the Online SDG Youth Action Forum, aptly shares, the NextGen experience creates both opportunities as well as challenges.

“It is an opportunity because we can connect with distinguished awardees and build networks with fellow youths,” he says. “I believe it is also a challenge as we need to integrate and localize our lessons to our organizations and beneficiaries and mobilize them to exhibit the greatness of spirit in our own ways as well.”

But if there is anybody who can rise to that challenge, to meet the struggles of our society head-on, it is the youth.

“Our NextGen leaders are our response to the needs of the somewhat traditional world we are in for a more modern response,” says Masaki Mitsuhashi, an innovation professional and NextGen program manager. “With the current cohort that we have, we are confident that we have ignited the spirits of youth leaders of Asia to be the leaders of tomorrow and of today.”

*Kerry Tinga is a participant in the NextGen Leadership Program, organized by RMTLI.*

This article was originally published by Manila Bulletin. Read the article at: