Wednesday, August 11, 2010

East Asia Graduates Conference 2010 in Hong Kong

Travel light, travel with peace. This was what I put in mind with my first foreign trip for East Asia Graduates Conference (EAGC2010) held in Hong Kong. The trip was just less than two hours, same time zone, as if I was just travelling to Baguio City for a regular news coverage. I convinced myself that I need not fear despite travelling alone, because the God of shalom is in and with me.

The Philippine Delegates
The flight going to Hong Kong, considered to be the world’s freest economy, was smooth and easy. I never encountered interventions or difficulty at the immigration, which is opposite to some of Philippine delegates’ experience. Still, we met altogether at the Noah’s Ark, the venue for the 5-day conference, safe and sound. PTL! 

The conference was attended by at least 14 countries in East Asia. It’s a gathering of mix culture, a fiesta of uniqueness and diversity, indeed a real God’s assembly! Most of the delegates have physical resemblances. I was mistaken to be an Indonesian thrice, which connects me to my oriental roots, and directs me to the issue of national identity. It’s really hard to pinpoint one, particular identity for an archipelagic nation like the Philippines! But we’re not alone, other countries too!


In the session of Dr. Stephen Lee, an associate professor for Biblical Studies, he led me to re-affirm my identity in Christ, that by the grace and redemption of Jesus Christ, I am set apart, a chosen people, a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9). It is the Lord himself who called us to be who we are, to be who I am – a saint! This could antagonize some mainstream religious perspective of a saint, an issue of canonization, etcetera; but this is really who we are!

As a Christian graduate in the marketplace, I also learned that success does not equate to my significance. It doesn’t make me one when I am successful or not; my significance lies in the fact that I am a child of God.

I am struck with God’s word: “Anyone who sets himself up as religious by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion that passes muster before God the Father is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the Godless world.” (James 1:26-27, The Message) If I am a saint in the marketplace, my destiny is to be sanctified for a mission, that is, to be salt and light where I am, a pro-active, yet uncorrupted professional, despite all the temptations of the world. This is possible, and can be achieved even in your own distinct context.

The workshop “The role of Christian graduates in social movements and poverty” facilitated by Kuya Jose Silvestre Gonzales from the Philippines even enlightened the reason why the Lord puts me in the field of media. It reaffirms my commitment for social justice, truth and transparency. 

Showing the video clip of Efren PeƱaflorida, the CNN Hero of the Year for 2009, I was teary-eyed, not only because of the poor’s plight in their access to education, but because the Lord can work in the hearts of man, to effect change and impact the community.

Accordingly, “poverty is pronounced deprivation in well being. To be poor is to be hungry, to lack shelter and clothes, to be sick and not cared for, to be illiterate and not be schooled. Poor people live without fundamental freedom of action and choice that the better off take for granted.” But the most insidious kind of poverty is the poverty of hope. Take their hope, and the poor people become poorer as they don’t have anything to live up for.

I am a witness of this kind of poverty in my news gathering and coverage. Despite my objective approach to the reality of the scene, I am never numbed to feel what their hearts want to say. I won’t deny that more than once in my coverage, I just couldn’t help myself but shed tears for the picture of helplessness and hopelessness posed upon me. It is not easy to listen to their requests, to their pleas, as if I can do much. But I realized that it is exactly the reason why the Lord puts me where I am today.

In Mr. Mark Greene’s session, it is the strategic value of my work as a broadcast journalist that I must be grateful for. It is not mere reporting that I do, but I represent the Lord in the way I touch people’s heart, by listening, by empathizing, by triggering their dying hopes to come into full spirit. Indeed, every contact leaves a trace. 

I can therefore view my work as my ministry. This is my context where I can enhance and transform my mission, and love in action. It is true that the workplace consumes so much of our time, energy and focus; but it is also the place where we can beat the odds, develop and grow in holiness. The marketplace is part of God’s redemption where saints are sanctified for a mission.

With other tongue

My small group is composed of a cardiologist from Vietnam, a human resource personnel in a government hospital in Hong Kong, an accountant from Mongolia, a church worker from China, a once Korean soldier but now a teacher, and a former IT professional turned into coffee business from Hong Kong

We had different stories to learn from each other. But what is clear to us, I believe, is the fact that we are blessed to have work to bless others in return. Thanks for the presents and for sharing your stories!

Special Interest Group: Media

I had interesting interactions with delegates under the media group. Each country has a different view of the role and function of media in their country. For some countries, the Press is somehow controlled by their government, restricted, bounded by regulations. Others do not put high regard with the role of Media in nation building and good governance. Still quite few respect media as a powerful domain, a catalyst for social change and truth. In general and my personal POV, I regard media in the Philippines as highly respected and trusted by people. But I also believe that there is still a need to police the very ranks of the media, and guard its very essence as protected by the Constitution. (My apology and prerogative for not identifying the countries represented) 

Food, City Tour, Macau

The whole duration of the conference was like a fiesta! We were never starved of food. Even though I am not used to eating their food, I tasted almost everything. I liked their desserts, coffee and tea even more! J

In The Peak, you can see the majestic view of sky rise buildings of Hong Kong and its surroundings. It’s a picture of a First World country. But somehow in the conference, someone posed a question whether it is a reality or an illusion, because of the heightened disparity of the rich and the poor in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it’s a blessed trip, mounted with great experiences and lessons learned.

After the conference, together with two families from the Philippines and another Philippine delegate, we went to Macau by ferry. It’s almost an hour trip. We’re blessed to be accompanied by Mr. Thomas of Macau. He toured us to various tourist and significant sites of Macau.

Macau’s grandiosity is magnified at night, with its splendid casino buildings covered by an array of lights. But of course, Macau is not all about casinos. There is much to see like the beach in Coloane, the Westin resort, Sai Van, the borders of Macau and Mainland China, the A-ma Temple, the busy, shopping streets, among others. Honestly, I like Macau’s friendliness than Hong Kong’s. J

The favor of the Lord does not end there. We experienced His grace when we were boarding at the ferry to get back to Hong Kong the day after. We didn’t have enough HK dollar for two ferry tickets, and we failed to change our US dollars at the money changer because it was still closed. I realized we’re too early for the 7am trip, but we needed that early trip because our group in Hong Kong was waiting for us. I believed it's God’s intervention that somebody had to sell his ticket for us at a cheaper price, therefore, completing the fare we needed to buy two tickets. The moment we reached Hong Kong’s terminal, I quickly searched for the money changer, and bartered my remaining US Dollars. There I felt that the money in my wallet already had a buying power! Haha

The last day in Hong Kong

My last day in Hong Kong was the shopping day! It’s innate for Filipinos to buy something for their family, friends and officemates. We call it PASALUBONG. No matter how simple the pasulobong is, the receiver will always be thankful and happy to have one. Of course, I couldn’t be gracious and loving to all by giving everyone a pasalubong. Budgetary constraints so to speak, hehe.

But I am giving those who haven’t received a pasalubong from me my stories: how the Lord has blessed my trip, how He directed my path to realize my role as a Christian graduate, how the Lord works in and through the saints from every tongue and tribe, and how every Christian graduate can be sanctified for a mission in the marketplace. Allow me also to thank those who support my EAGC trip, financially and prayerfully. Thank you and God bless you steadfastly. Pray with me as well as I continue to discern the plans of the Lord for me, regarding my work and ministry opportunities.

By the way, Hong Kong and Macau are two rich countries. But I think my heart’s beating belongs to someone of a Pinay beauty! Just kiddingJ

Mabuhay and God bless! †