Keynote Speech of Bam Aquino on the Opening Ceremonies of he Ship Opening Ceremonies for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP)
Diamond Ballroom, Diamond Hotel Manila, 11 November 2015
My name is Senator Bam Aquino and SSEAYP changed my life as well! Not because I was a former delegate but because I met my wife through the SSEAYP Program when she was a delegate – a National Capital Region (NCR) Youth Representative on the 31st SSEAYP.
I’m very happy to be here not only because I can say SSEAYP changed my life, but because I am honored to be standing in front of the future leaders of ASEAN and Japan.
I am very pleased to be here to send you off on an exciting adventure! I am sure that everyone is anxious to get on a ship together, discover new places, and make new friends.
Tens of thousands of years ago, people boarded wooden boats and sailed to the unknown. They would happen upon new shores with strange faces, foreign languages, new spices, treasures to find, and strange customs to witness.
Mountains, oceans, and seas were natural barriers between peoples. But being the curious explorers that we are, we found each other.
We broke through barriers. We overcame mountains with our vehicles and trains; we tamed the savage seas with our ships; and we conquered skies with our planes and rocket ships.
Today, we are more connected than ever. With the Internet, we can meet and interact instantaneously with people from all around the world. Right now, you could be messaging people back home on social media! We can even Google ‘uncontacted’ tribes and learn about how they live in the remotest parts of the Amazon.
Today, indeed, we are more connected than ever. Seeing new faces, learning new languages, and familiarizing ourselves with new customs can be done in the comfort of our own room. Now, more than ever, we can foster multiculturalism and celebrate our diversity.
And still, there are so many areas where we have yet to overcome divisive barriers living within our own minds, our own countries, our own region. Many, unfortunately, still fail to understand one another; many still refuse to embrace our differences.
All over the world, even here in our country, we find areas where conflict is still quite present. There is conflict in many different parts of the world; and in those parts of the world, we find discord, discrimination, and, sometimes, even hatred for one another.
On a macro and a micro scale, we can see discrimination and a failure of many to accept diversity and a failure to respect our differences.
But where many people fail, dear friends, I am hopeful – and the leaders here in front are hopeful – that you will succeed.
As you spend time with one another and form the bonds of friendship with young men and women around Asia, as you go on adventures together and learn about other parts of the world together, I believe you will open your minds and your hearts, or puso, to the beauty of our differences.
I am hopeful that your exposure to a variety of histories, a variety cultures, and a variety of paradigms and perspectives will allow you to grow, learn, and evolve into the next generation of Asians and global citizens that can steer our world to the path of peace and prosperity for all.
As we usher in a stronger, united Asia, we have this opportunity to honor our varying histories and cultures while building prosperous nations for everyone.
Thanks to the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program, you have the opportunity to be part of this progress and be part of this change. Not only do you have the opportunity to be ambassadors of your respective nations, you are privileged of being representatives of the united Asia, the ideal Asia, in each place you visit.
Together, you can paint a remarkable, colorful image of our diverse region growing in harmony and not in discord.
I would like to leave you with a quote to keep in your back pocket or maybe at the back of your minds as you go on this great adventure. It is a quote from Mark Twain, the author who penned The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
He said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
And I hope, dear friends, that as you travel together, you will create and co-create that united Asia that we all want for our countries, our nations, ourselves and the future generations ahead of us.
On that note, I wish you well. I wish you safety. And I wish you fun!
May you return home with souvenirs of unforgettable memories, lasting friendships, awesome #selfies, and life-changing experiences!
Mabuhay kayong lahat! Mabuhay ang SSEAYP! Thank you and good afternoon!