Video by INQUIRER.net's Cathy Miranda
It seems it is not always all about “me” for the so-called “Me Generation.”
The 10 National Capital Region (NCR) winners in the search for the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP) showed that today’s youth can also be compassionate and have concern for others, as they reach out to communities, share their passion and try to craft solutions to perennial problems.
In their own modest ways, the 10 TOSP-NCR winners appeared to have lived up to the regional selection theme, “Choose to be a hero every day.”
The NCR winners will move on to the national TOSP, which will choose the Top 10 from among 30 finalists.
“People think that the youth are disengaged, that [as] part of the Me Generation, we are apathetic [and] egotistical, [and that] all we do is take selfies and upload them to Instagram, and tweet all day,” said Maria Angela Teresa Sebastian, one of the winners.
She is part of Tulong sa Kapwa Kapatid, a youth organization that provides educational assistance to underprivileged youth in Payatas, Quezon City.
Sebastian, a communication research magna cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, said she and the other NCR winners were committed to the same goal—nation building.
The young people’s altruistic work so impressed Ofel Bisnar, chair of the TOSP-NCR screening committee, that he said, “I look forward to what this generation can do for the country.”
Passing the torch
Keynote speaker Francisco “Paco” Sandejas told the regional winners, “It’s up to you guys now to fix this country.”
Sandejas, a TOSP alumnus and managing partner of Narra Venture Capital, also stressed the importance of playing fair and educating others.
“Education is key,” he said. “Educate yourselves and educate others.”
Aside from Sebastian, the other NCR winners are Jason Alacapa (UP Manila), Irish Dizon (Philippine Normal University), Billie Crystal Dumaliang (Ateneo de Manila University), Grant Buena Joy Mesa (University of the East Manila), Lancelot Yupingkun (UP Diliman), Jose Lemuel Silvestre (Far Eastern University Manila), and Jose Miguel Moreno, Justine Sucgang and Ira Gayll Zamudio (De La Salle University).
The TOSP program has honored graduating college students since 1961, when it was founded by businessman and industrialist Jose Concepcion Jr.
Bisnar said awardees were chosen on the bases of academic excellence, leadership, social responsibility and moral values. The 10 regional winners were chosen from 47 nominees from different schools in Metro Manila.
As part of a three-day formation program, the regional winners visited New Bilibid Prison and had “sharing sessions” with Gang Badoy of RockEd Philippines and notable young alumni of TOSP-NCR.
Yupingkun, who graduated cum laude with a degree in industrial engineering, said the TOSP experience was “refreshing.”
“My peers and family don’t really care about nation building … At some point, it became discouraging [talking to them]. But then I met these brilliant people,” he said.
Everyone is passionate about an advocacy and skilled enough to work for the betterment of the country, he added.
Noting the surge in electricity prices and shortage in power supply, Yupingkun, a top power camp intern of Manila Electric Co. in 2013, said he wanted “to contribute in bringing down the prices and widening the electrification [coverage to give] everyone access to cheap and sustainable electricity.”
Silvestre said he found fulfillment in spreading his love of the arts and teaching theater to children.
“When I was a child, I really wanted to be an actor,” he said. “But… in college, I realized I had a mission.”
Founder, workshop facilitator and musical director of Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardee Theater Guild, Silvestre goes around the metropolis teaching basic acting to children and promoting campaigns, such as family planning, through plays.
“Theater has the power to promote an advocacy,” said Silvestre, a summa cum laude mass communication graduate.
“Although it entertains us, at the end of the day, it has a lesson that will inspire, teach and change lives,” he added.
Silvestre said the arts and culture were as important as health and education in nation building because watching plays and enjoying the arts changed people’s perspectives.
He said that because Filipinos lack education, foreigners like Koreans and Americans appreciated the Philippine culture more. “I want to teach the arts and culture because I am one of those who believe in what they can do.”
This year’s TOSP-NCR winners, known collectively as “Batch Infinity,” vowed to put the nation’s welfare before their own ambitions.
“If we should dream only for ourselves and for our family, if we can only be of service to people who can eventually pay us back, we are living a small dream. That’s injustice to our gifts from God,” said finalist Alisson Ray Lagada, who read the batch’s response.
“Regardless of our uniqueness and our quirks, we will choose to be heroes—heroes with a shared responsibility of building our nation,” Lagada said.
“All of you have chosen to be heroes every day,” Faye Matriano, RFM vice president for marketing, said in her welcome remarks.
“It’s wonderful to see young people inspired and moving with passion to affect the lives of people around them,” Matriano added.
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