Since I was chosen as one of the SSEAYP International Awardees for 2013, it is but proper to personally accept the recognition by attending the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) International General Assembly (SIGA) held at the Don Chan Palace in Vientiane, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
I took my flight from Laoag to Manila and rushed to Clark Airport in Pampanga in just a matter of few hours by taking the bus and luckily got in time at the airport for my flight to Bangkok. I flew by 8:45PM. Then proceeded to the Don Mueang domestic airport on a free shuttle bus from the Suvarnabhumi Airport to catch my early morning flight at 6AM to Udon Thani then took a van to the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge or border and arrived there before 9am.
There were local people who received us at the border then waited for some other delegates to come in. We had an orientation at the Don Chan Palace after checking in. I met the delegation from various countries and of course my colleagues from the SSEAYP International Philippines. We started going around downtown by visiting the night market.
The next day was the opening ceremony with speeches from key officials such as Dr. Vilayvong Bouddakham, Secretary General of Lao Youth Union and Mr. Osamu Shimizu, Vice Minister for Policy Coordination of Cabinet Office who were present in the entire duration of the program. This year’s theme was “SSEAYP exchange cultural experiences” and the SIGA was hosted for the first time by the Lao SSEAYP Alumni Association.
There were country reports filed by different alumni associations where their accomplishments in the Social Contribution Activities and post-SSEAYP program activities were highlighted.
During the day, a panel discussion was held where successful ex-PYs were invited as panelists. The following topics were discussed: ASEAN-Japan Educational Integration, ASEAN-Japan Young Entrepreneur in Contibution to Society, Tourism and Cultural Promotion in Laos and Youth Development and Social Contribution.
We also did a courtesy visit to the Philippine Embassy in Vientiane and met Ambassador Maria Lumen Isleta and her staff. We were warmly received. The ambassador gave us a briefing about Laos and the embassy’s activities. The absentee voting was ongoing and saw the Sentro Rizal.
A welcome reception was held in the evening with sumptuous dinner being served with some wine. It was a feast also for our eyes to see colorful Lao cultural performances. And of course the much awaited SSEAYP International Awards ceremony was conducted. This is given once every three years to alumni who made outstanding contributions not only to alumni associations but to the society as a whole. I was truly honored to receive the recognition from SSEAYP International.
On day 2, we started our day with alms giving in front of our hotel to monks who came early in the morning. It was another experience of Lao culture. Later, we were grouped according to our interests and visited the following institutions: Lao Brewery Company, National Art and Music School, Lao Textile Museum, K&B Furniture, Vientiane High School, Buddha Park, Patuxay Monument, Talat Sao Shopping Mall and the That Luang Stupa.
Then we proceeded to the headquarters of the Lao Youth Union for our lunch and an afternoon of traditional, cultural exhibition and activities. We concluded our general assembly with a Baci ceremony before the farewell party. It was announced that the next SIGA will be hosted by Malaysia.