Teach for the Philippines

NextDayBetter's NYC Event: Great Food. Great People. Great Ideas.


When I first walked into the room for NextDayBetter’s NYC event last Saturday, May 3rd, a single word popped into my mind: snazzy. Held inside the Center for Social Innovation, the space invited attendees in with pulsating music, coconut sake cocktails, and a big blue kitchen with a sea of Pilipino food samples. The intimate and casual yet energized vibe of the room said, “Hey there, let’s get together over good eats and drinks and change the world.” 10259824_487996607967843_5724835120809291114_n

The event kicked off with a tableside chat with featured chefs from Bibingka-esk and Masarap Supper Club. The chefs shared not only their culinary concoctions but also their stories of how they began pursuing their love of making Pilipino food professionally and intend to play a role in its evolution.

“I want Bibingka to be the next chocolate chip,” declared Binbingka-esk creator Eileen Formanes.

NextDayBetter Co-Founder Ryan Letada then took the stage and posed to the room:

“What can we do to collaborate and exchange ideas to make the next day better?” He explained that the presenting speakers were asked to share their stories because they were all individuals who took risks and made breakthroughs for themselves and their communities.

Below are short summaries of their inspiring talks:


Geena Rocero, transgender model and founder of Gender Proud, discussed the need for political recognition of transgender identity and the right to choose one’s own gender marker on identification documents. When one’s gender marker doesn’t match how a person feels on the inside or looks on the outside, it turns regular activities like applying for a job, voting, or even opening a bank account into highly stressful and embarrassing situations.

“Imagine constantly divulging the most personal thing about yourself,” she proposed.

Teach for the Philippines Fellow Leah Villanueva spoke about how the dream of making a better Philippines is an attainable one, but it can’t be achieved without improving public education. Currently schools in the Philippines suffer from high dropout rates, overworked teachers, and frequent electricity outages among many other challenges.

“These kids deserve so much more, our country deserves so much more,” Leah noted.


Restaurateur Nicole Ponseca chatted about how Maharlika and Jeepney were the first Pilipino fusion restaurants to truly own Pilipino food without apology, duck fetuses and all. Rather than hiding the less mainstream aspects of Pilipino cuisine, Maharlika held a contest challenging participants to eat as much balut as possible in five minutes.

“If you’re embarrassed about anything, whatever it is, you got to turn it around and make it a sense of pride,” Nicole encouraged.

Although the founder of Rappler couldn’t be there in person, Maria Ressa recorded a video in which she introduced Project Agos, a real-time disaster reporting platform that harnesses mapping, social media, and crowd sourcing so that relief responders “can visually identify areas in need of help or relief and what exactly is needed.”


Matt Grasser and Team LDLN held a tech demo in which they showed how the device and mobile app they designed could be used to create makeshift Wi-Fi networks in the event of an emergency, such as Typhoon Haiyan. Through these low-cost devices, people on the ground would be able to communicate with relief services even if power sources are down.

Airforce veteran Lourdes Tiglao shared her experiences as a member of Team Rubicon, a disaster response organization comprised of American military veterans who want to continue utilizing their skills after returning home. Team Rubicon was deployed in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan hit and acted as first medical response for many victims. Tiglao met several Pilipino veterans who were enthusiastic about the idea of creating a Team Rubicon in the Philippines.

Photo credits: www.facebook.com/NextDayBetter

Agents of Exchange: Announcing the 2014 Kaya Collaborative Fellows

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"Back when I was still studying to become an environmental engineer," says Aldric Ulep, "I took a class on renewable energy that sparked a realization."

Despite the waves of technological progress that have rocked the recent decades, society remained stuck in its own inertia - in the web of politics and economics that prevented requisite action from taking form. This was where Aldric found his voice. There, coiled around questions of justice and community that he explored through the lens of his public policy degree on one hand, and his leadership position in Stanford's Pilipino American Student Union (PASU) on the other.  These separate threads came together in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda: an unexpected signal of the potential in combining his environmental policy research interests with aspirations to empower vulnerable Filipino communities.

On the opposite coast of the US, we meet Gianina Yumul, two years into her History of Art and Architecture concentration at Harvard College. With this, she is hoping to provide accessible education through the arts, and to further the fight against education inequality and its crooked intersections with socioeconomic disparities.

She's spent the past few years pursuing this calling in the US.  A recent winter break service trip in the Philippines has ignited something in her: a pull to explore dimensions of her identity that have always been there but, never as close to the forefront until her visit this past January. As the new Service Director of the Harvard Philippine Forum and a steering committee member of the same trip next year, she's gearing to spread the opportunity she's been given. In the meantime, she has questions to puzzle through herself.

"I'm wary of the savior complex and I worry about the ways in which Filipino-Americans can be integrated into the Filipino community in the sense of social entrepreneurship," she says. And even as Aldric continues to grow more comfortable his Filipino American identity, he too has a ways to go before he can really know the Philippines:

"I'm struggling to claim it as my piece of the human puzzle; I have my own strengths and fights," he adds.

This summer, Aldric will be exploring these questions and more alongside Kalsada, an early stage venture that aims to advance grassroots economic development and environmental sustainability in the Philippines through the supply of quality coffee. And Gianina will be interning with Edukasyon.PH, a social enterprise that aims to connect Filipinos to higher education resources in the Philippines and around the world. Along with several other emerging leaders from the Filipino diaspora, they will be forming the first class of Kaya Collaborative fellows: the beginnings of a coalition of diaspora youth committed to leveraging their transnational positions for development in the homeland.

Kaya Co. fellows will spend ten weeks in the summer immersed in an experience that centers on an internship with a locally-led social venture in Manila. Fellows will also be taken through a series of workshops and discussions around models of change in the Philippine context, and will conduct research to inform new products and platforms that connect the Filipino diaspora to genuine and lasting change in the Philippines.

This experience was made possible in by Ayala Foundation, Inc., Brown University, and a fiscal sponsorship by Ashoka Youth Venture. Keep an eye out as our fellows share their experience this summer – as they grapple with questions of identity, development, and justice, and how to bring their diaspora communities into the fold.

In the meantime, read more of their stories below:

Alfred Dicioco graduated from the University of Southern California in 2012, and has since worked as a reporter for Alhambra Source, Inquirer, and Rappler around the issues that face Filipino Americans. For most of his life prior to college, he lived in Quezon City, where he'll be making his return to work with TIGRA, an organization that aims to redirect remittances towards the development of the Philippine solidarity economy.

AnneMarie Ladlad is a junior at Seattle University studying Humanities and Strategic Communication. She is currently Vice President of Seattle U's United Filipino Club, and this summer, she'll be bringing her skills in public relations and her budding interest in social entrepreneurship to Route +63, a social enterprise that arranges tours to promote economic development around the country.

April Alcantara is a sophomore studying Human Biology on the pre-med track at Stanford University. Among the defining parts of her college experience has been as the co-chair of Kayumanggi, Stanford PASU's dance troupe, where she learned the value of cultural community and explored new dimensions of her Filipina-American identity.  She will be working with Kythe Foundation, an organization founded by the Philippines' first and only Ashoka fellow to provide psychosocial support systems for children with chronic illnesses.

Connie Truong is an aspiring activist completing her freshman year at Wellesley College. After spending most of her high school years facilitating dialogue about race relations in Massachusetts, she is now pursuing a degree in Peace and Justice Studies, a topic that she hopes to explore alongside Hope in a Bottle, a social business that sells bottled water to build schools in the country's underserved communities.

Danielle Peterson is a freshman from Brown University studying Biology and pursuing the pre-med track. She is hoping to tie her interests in medicine to systems-based approaches that attack root causes of instability and vulnerability in the Philippines. Danielle is excited to spend the summer working with Unlad Kabayan to connect migrants to homeland development, and to take the lessons from her experience back to the Filipino Alliance student community this fall.

Erlinda Delacruz is a 2013 graduate of Boston College. In her undergraduate years, she balanced her studies in Sociology and Film with her Chair position in District One of the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue (FIND), an experience that has left an unshakeable mark on her understanding of herself as a leader and a Filipina. She will be working with Move.org Foundation to provide quality education to low-income children in Habitat for Humanity communities.

Julmar Carcedo is a sophomore studying International Relations at Brown University. He simultaneously lived and studied the Filipino diaspora experience at the United World College in Hong Kong, and has continued to advocate for Filipino culture and Philippine development through his involvement with Brown's Filipino Alliance and its Third World Center. He will be interning with PULSE, an organization that's working to promote sustainable economic growth through the development of Manila's creative sector.

Micaela Beltran is a freshman at Georgetown University pursuing a degree in Economics and English. A believer in the power of business acumen and cross-sectoral collaborations to effect social change, she will spend the summer interning with Ashoka Philippines, part of the world's largest network of social entrepreneurs, to create a fuller ecosystem of support and growth for local Filipino change-makers.

Mika Reyes is a freshman at Wesleyan University and her interests span the spectrum of economics, psychology, writing and education. Her first year in college is her first year living away from the Philippines, and she will be finding her new identity as a balikbayan alongside Gifts&Graces, a venture that provides market access to marginalized communities in the Philippines.

Nicole Salvador has spent her three years at Brown University - and the summers in between - exploring different channels of intercultural exchange. This journey has brought her to her current role leading Brown's Portuguese department and the campus chapter of Learning Enterprises, and this summer she will be circling back to her Filipina heritage through an internship with Rags2Riches, a "stylish social statement" that raises livelihoods for women in the Philippines through market access and income generation.

Payton Fugate-Laus will be graduating from Ohio State University in May. She is interested in integrated marketing and design, and has been seeking an outlet to connect these passions to social issues in the Philippines. This summer, she will be working alongside Bantay.PH, an organization that tackles frontline government corruption through information design and human-driven systems of accountability.

Sarah Lynne Peñalosa is a sophomore studying Humanities for Teaching at Seattle University. Her ultimate ambition is to be a social studies teacher, a vocation through which she hopes to educate and empower children around issues of diversity and social justice.  She will be working with Teach for the Philippines, a member of the Teach for All network, which aims to provide inclusive, relevant, and excellent education for all Filipino children.

Get Inspired at NextDayBetter NYC - May 3rd


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On May 3rd, NextDayBetter is kicking off their global speaker series for 2014 in New York City. The series is themed “Defining Breakthroughs: Unlocking Human and Community Potential” and will feature inspiring speakers who will share how to make real, visible change for communities in the Philippines and beyond.

“The global Filipino Diaspora is a hub and inspiration for world-changing ideas that pushes humanity forward,” says CEO and Co-Founder Ryan Letada.

“This global speaker and action series is designed to celebrate and amplify the impact of these ideas."

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Featured change makers include:

This event is not only going to satiate your hunger for change, but will feature great food and drinks as well. Living up to its claim for creative innovation, NextDayBetter will even showcase a Tech Demo in which hackers will present smart technologies focused on disaster response and resiliency rebuilding.

Seats are limited so register now here.

If you can’t make it to NYC and/or are thirsting for more inspiration, don’t you fret because NextDayBetter will also be hitting up Los Angeles, Toronto, San Francisco, and London during the upcoming months. To learn more about NextDayBetter and the speaker series, you can visit their website.


Photo Credit: www.facebook.com/nextdaybetter

Education Equality in the Motherland

Since 1925, the basic education system in the Philippines has been surveyed and reformed countless times. However, such reforms haven’t exactly proved to be successful. The current Philippine education system, which was modeled to reflect the K-12 system in the US, continues to face much critique. Some argue for a decentralization of the basic education system by installing school-based management, as to cater to the needs of each particular socioeconomic environment and other influential factors. According to the World Bank, Philippine primary school enrollment is relatively high. UNESCO reports that literacy rates are also high. However, the education system continues to struggle with lack of resources, understaffed schools, and managerial and organizational issues. Secondary school enrollment is usually lower. As of 2012, the Department of Education (DepEd) made school compulsory. Though enrollment may be higher than it has been in the past, there is a severe lack of employment opportunity for after graduation.

Many activists and reformers are pushing for efforts to revitalize the education system, such as Teach for the Philippines; they continue to work toward education equality throughout the PI. However, how can a nation create larger, systemic change to a problem that countries face across the world?


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was formed in 1967, is currently pushing for regional economic collaboration by 2015. Member countries include Brunei, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia , Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. It is even a goal to use English as the primary language of communication, which is why there’s a major push for language acquisition across ASEAN. However, according to a 2008/2009 report, the Philippine Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) notes that the country has a poor performance of improving the education system, unlike many other Asian nations. This creates even further concern for the future of the Philippines.

In addition to primary and secondary school reform, there is also a call to address higher education. As ASEAN promotes the movement of goods, services and labor between its member countries, the Philippine Daily Inquirer raises and important question: “What does this mean for our students who will be graduating from universities in a few years and will then be looking for work?”

As employment opportunities are already scarce, not just in the Philippines alone, but across the Philippine diaspora, I wonder what will happen to my friends and family. The struggle to find work continues to grow more competitive. Some of my relatives and family friends, despite attaining a higher degree back in the PI, are now domestic helpers or working in retail, for example. How is this fair, when such hardworking individuals are forced to find work outside of their expertise or training?

Many Filipinos have migrated, leaving behind families in search for work. Something must be done to reverse this “brain drain”, and I believe should be continuous support and investment in education. We need the youth of the PI and the larger Pilipino community to know we believe in them by providing them with the tools needed to succeed in a global community, and not just for economic gain.