Make Your Voice Count

A genesis, in photos

A genesis, in photos

By Abigail Amon – Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A month ago, I was still in Japan. It all seems like a dream. Not sure if the namesake was intended, but the Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) program really felt like a sort of genesis, a beginning of many things. I’m personally glad I was able to bring my camera and capture these commencements.

 

The beginning of an adventure

 
Our first delegation huddle at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Japan.
 
Our first delegation huddle at Haneda Airport, Tokyo, Japan.
 

Our day-to-day activities satisfied our curiosity of Japan. We had two orientations – a pre-departure briefing at the National Youth Commission office in the Philippines and an actual orientation proper right after arriving in Tokyo. Both were informative and of course, exciting. Not a day was wasted during our program, from having educational lectures at the Foreign Press Center of Japan to just enjoyable (yet still informative!) activities like exploring Nagoya Castle.

A sight of the shinkansen (bullet train) during our bus ride, a foreshadowing of our day four.
 
A sight of the shinkansen (bullet train) during our bus ride, a foreshadowing of our day four.
 

We also experienced a different kind of adventure–a gastronomic one. Aside from the delicious daily breakfast our hotels provided, the organizers made sure that we experienced all the Japanese food we could along with the occasional Indian cuisine and international buffet.

Some of the Japanese food we were able to try. (L-R: sashimi and udon, tonkatsu, nabemono, okonomiyaki)
 
Some of the Japanese food we were able to try. (L-R: sashimi and udon, tonkatsu, nabemono, okonomiyaki)
 
This was our fifth dinner in Japan. Still, we looked forward to every ‘itadakimasu!’ we get to exclaim before each meal.
 
This was our fifth dinner in Japan. Still, we looked forward to every ‘itadakimasu!’ we get to exclaim before each meal.
 

Our adventure continued even on the bus. Aside from the casual sightseeing we get to enjoy during the bus ride from one location to another, our guide and translator Hiromi-san would fill us in on random Japanese information. She taught us how to count in Japanese (using English words for better memory work) and filled us in on Japanese imports and exports. From time to time, she would also share some stories about her personal life and her husband, which made Japan even more familiar to us.

Hiromi-san was already so full of energy during our first day in Japan.
 
Hiromi-san was already so full of energy during our first day in Japan. She maintained that until her last day with us!
 
Some photos captured from within the bus. Because we were only twenty delegates, we each took a two-seater so that we all had access to a window seat.
 
Some photos captured from within the bus. Because we were only twenty delegates, we each took a two-seater so that we all had access to a window seat.
 
 

The beginning of many discoveries

There was definitely more than what meets the eye. What were notable to me was Japan’s technology, culture preservation, and beliefs, among many other things.

Japan easily wowed us with their tech. From the moment you have to go to the restroom, you are greeted with a Washlet equipped with buttons for a built-in bidet and seat temperature. Even in the comfort of our solo hotel rooms, I appreciated the bathroom mirror’s anti-fog mechanism as I remembered all the previous times I had to wipe a hotel mirror after a shower.

Five of our itinerary stops easily flaunted Japan tech: the Traffic Control Center, Tokyo Metro Museum, the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, and Asahi Shimbun. Traffic Control Center showed us how they used beacons to communicate with cars during traffic to warn drivers about upcoming accidents or emergencies. Tokyo Metro Museum and SCMAGLEV & Railway Park provided us with simulations to show how effective Japan’s transportation was. (We witnessed this firsthand as we rode the shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya and vice versa.) Finally, Asahi Shimbun shared with us how they used digital spaces to reach more readers in the younger generation.

Part of the traffic control map at the Tokyo Traffic Control Center. Red lines indicate heavy traffic.
 
Part of the traffic control map at the Tokyo Traffic Control Center. Red lines indicate heavy traffic.
 
Life-size model of the shinkansen that Japan currently uses. The future one is said to run at a speed of 311 mph, causing the train to actually levitate.
 
Life-size model of the shinkansen that Japan currently uses. The future one is said to run at a speed of 311 mph, causing the train to actually levitate.
 
The Nozomi shinkansen run on strict schedules. We made sure to be there before the train doors opened. This photo was taken at Tokyo Station in Chiyoda.
 
The Nozomi shinkansen run on strict schedules. We made sure to be there before the train doors opened. This photo was taken at Tokyo Station in Chiyoda.
 
Besides digital journalism, we also encountered this kind of experience. Their printing factory was closed for the day so, as we should have expected, they brought out virtual reality glasses for us to digitally observe the factory.
 
Besides digital journalism, we also encountered this kind of experience. Their printing factory was closed for the day so, as we should have expected, they brought out virtual reality glasses for us to digitally observe the factory.
 

The most interesting thing I’ve witnessed: Japan, alongside technological progress, continues to preserve its culture. Mizkan Museum pulls this combination off flawlessly. A storytelling app accompanies visitors as they take a trip through a historical exhibit filled with physical, interactive props. A life-size replica of the first boat that exported sake doubled as a backdrop and stage for the museum’s animated graphics. We even had a quick film showing about the beauty and value of nature. And if you thought they were done awing you, our last stop had a motion control game on sushi and a booth that printed our faces on our very own vinegar bottles.

Mizkan Museum in photos, as described in the previous paragraph.
 
Mizkan Museum in photos, as described in the previous paragraph.
 

We also managed to visit notable historical sites like the Nagoya Castle, the Imperial Castle, and the Zojoji Temple.

The exterior of the restored Nagoya Castle. The intricacies of the castle become more evident when you see the interiors.
 
The exterior of the restored Nagoya Castle. The intricacies of the castle become more evident when you see the interiors.
 

They have a deeper meaning behind saying “I don’t believe in a god”. I still remember Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka telling us that when Japanese people say this, they actually mean it’s because they don’t believe in one god but in over eight million gods. This is accredited to Shintoism, a belief that “a god resides in everything”. That includes every item we see and even every person’s death. When the Japanese work, they believe that the items hold a certain spirit, and so they treat them with respect. I would like to think that it is this belief system, and not entirely discipline, that brings about the good-naturedness and efficiency of the Japanese.

Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka, President of Foreign Press Center Japan, briefed us on the latest national stats of interest including Japanese beliefs such as Shintoism.
 
Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka, President of Foreign Press Center Japan, briefed us on the latest national stats of interest including Japanese beliefs such as Shintoism.
 
 

The beginning of friendships

Amidst the well-planned itinerary were the unexpected memories we made along the way. My co-delegates and I bonded over trying our luck with gachapon (capsule toys) to finally trying out Ichiran Ramen to playing with claw cranes in Akihabara. On a personal note, these exciting moments wouldn’t be the same without them.

The gachapon experience. With a few yen and some luck, you can get your very own Torchic. These capsule toy machines are everywhere in Japan.
 
The gachapon experience. With a few yen and some luck, you can get your very own Torchic. These capsule toy machines are everywhere in Japan.
 
Ichiran is a definite bucketlist item to anyone who would like to visit Japan. Our ramen cravings were satisfied as we, despite the individual cubicles, still enjoyed our hearty meals together.
 
Ichiran is a definite bucketlist item to anyone who would like to visit Japan. Our ramen cravings were satisfied as we, despite the individual cubicles, still enjoyed our hearty meals together.
 
Akibahara was filled with arcade and claw crane games. These were only a few of the many we saw as we strolled the district.
 
Akibahara was filled with arcade and claw crane games, as confirmed during our night stroll in the district.
 

It was also my pleasure to take their portraits whenever the time allowed. Each of us brought our own stories and experiences to share during the travel. Our own stories mingled with laughter made the trip even richer. As much as I enjoyed capturing scenes, it was just as important to take photos of these moments with the people I spent them with.

Cheesy insert: to Dae, Kim, Jess, Kuya Ian, Jigs, Kenjie, Pau, Ate Amele, Ate Jenny, Ate Audrey, Kuya Jowi, Ate DA, Nadyne, Niel, Ate Mela, Ate Riz, Lisbet, Lou, Kuya Allan, thank you for the friendship. It was our happy mix that made this trip more worthwhile.
 
Cheesy insert: to Dae, Kim, Jess, Kuya Ian, Jigs, Kenjie, Pau, Ate Amele, Ate Jenny, Ate Audrey, Kuya Jowi, Ate DA, Nadyne, Niel, Ate Mela, Ate Riz, Lisbet, Lou, Kuya Francis, thank you for the friendship. It was our happy mix that made this trip more worthwhile!
 
 

The beginning of more

Aside from our discoveries about Japan, we also had introspective moments, not only about ourselves and our co-delegates, but also our own country. Agreeing to be part of the JENESYS Youth Exchange in Media Industry (YEMI) program meant agreeing to apply our learnings upon getting home.

During our last day in Japan, we had a successful reporting session with JTB Corporation. Ate Mela presented a rundown video of our entire trip and then Ate Amele and Nadyne proceeded to share with JTB the action plans we were going to do upon going back to the Philippines. We then proceeded to dance to the ever-famous theme song of Pinoy Big Brother “Pinoy Ako”, our celebration of Filipino pride.

Our reporting session at JTB Corporation. We all agreed to wear traditional Filipino attire for the day.
 
Our reporting session at JTB Corporation. We all agreed to wear traditional Filipino attire for the day.
 
As our agreed cover photo caption would say: Twenty delegates, ten days, one country, one family.
 
As our agreed cover photo caption would say: Twenty delegates, ten days, one country, one family.
 

Ten days seems like a short amount of time, but with the experiences we had, it felt like a pseudo-lifetime. As we parted ways at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last December 4, we were despondent, but at the same time inspired because we were going home with our hearts full of memories and lessons. The photos I’ve taken, the stories I’ve learned, and the friends I’ve met are proof that this was all somehow part of reality.

Thank you to National Youth Commission and JTB Corporation.

To my Youth Voices Count team, I learned a bit more, not only about journalism and comms, but also about people and culture.

Here’s to new beginnings, and more.

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JAN GABRIEL CASTAÑEDA

Philippines
He/Him
Board Member

Jan is passionate about seeing through the potential contributions of psychological sciences and human rights advocacy in LGBT people’s lives. He is currently Program Associate of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and is a member of the LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines. He has written for various platforms and publications on a diverse range of topics from gender and sexuality to human rights experiences in different contexts. Jan’s desire is to engage in productive and meaningful work that bridges scholarship with practice rooted in people’s real experiences.

PATRICK JUANICO

Philippines
He/Them
Graphic Designer

Currently, Nico is a college student studying in the Philippines and is simultaneously working for Youth Voices Count as one of the graphic designers for the organization. He lists producing the brand logo and look of HRPlus Asia as one of his significant achievements. His interests in literature and creating films have also honed and continued to improve his skills in graphic designing.

JAN ELLA BRILLANTES

Philippines
She/They
Social Media Officer

Jan Ella is currently taking up her undergraduate studies at the University of the Philippines Visayas and has been a consistent academic awardee since 2019. She is involved in various organizations such as the Catalyst UPV as the Volunteer Director in 2021, former Publications Committee Head for UP Lipad and former member of Iloilo Pride Team.

JE-ANN PALMAIRA

Philippines
She/Her
Project Finance Officer

Je-ann is the current Project Finance Officer under the Finance Department. She graduated from the University of San Agustin with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration major
in Marketing Management.

Her involvement in her University’s Little Theater organization led her to find an interest in theater, films and the arts. Aside from theater arts, she also partakes in the company’s production work including stage management and most notably, heading the organization’s marketing team.

MARION REA CAMEROS

Philippines
She/Her
Accounting Associate

Marion graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting Technology which has made her suitable for being the Accounting Associate of Youth Voices Count. She lists watching movies as one of her hobbies that helps her wind down during her leisure time.

ATTY. RONIFELLE L. BARRIOS

Philippines
She/Her
Legal Counsel

She is a graduate of AB Political Science from West Visayas State University (WVSU), in Iloilo City. In her days in college, she was the founding Prime Minister of WVSU Debate Circle, the ROTC Corps Commander and later a Volunteer Instructor in the Air Force Reserve Command. When she ran for the first time in their University Student Council, she was elected number one councilor. Her interest in leadership grew when she joined the 10th National Youth Parliament, organized by the National Youth Commission in 2014, where she later on became the Regional Convener for Western Visayas.

She then pursued her studies to take up law in San Beda University in Mendiola, Manila. As a law student, she was still active in student organizations: She joined moot court competitions, she served as layout artist in 2 of San Beda Law’s Official Publications: The Barrister and San Beda Law Journal. In her last year in law school, she was the President of San Beda Law Human Rights Advocate (HRA), where she was later conferred Leadership Award by the Association of Law Students of the Philippines (ALSP) and her organization, HRA was awarded top advocacy organization.

She passed the 2019 Bar Examinations and became a full-fledged lawyer by 2020.

She worked as Associate of Javier Santiago Torres & Panghulan Law Offices. She now runs her own RLB Law Office as a solo practitioner and serves as Notary Public for and in Quezon City. She serves as legal consultant to MSMEs and Non-profit organizations. At present, she is the Vice President for Communications of the National Society of Parliamentarians, Inc., the Chief Legislative Staff of Councilor Quin Cruz of Pasig City Council and part-time law instructor in Malayan Colleges Laguna – a Mapua School. Interestingly, she is the creator and blogger of The Young Lawyer PH. Recently, she served as Resident Parliamentarian during the Bangsamoro Youth Parliament held last Nov. 7-11, 2022 at Cotabato City.

A lawyer by profession and an artist by heart.

LOUELA MARIE PRADO

Philippines
He/She/They
Admin Officer

An advocate at heart, Louela is a part of several youth-led organizations in the Philippines with various advocacies ranging from climate justice, environmental protection, gender equality, human rights, SRHR, mental health prioritization, youth empowerment and HIV/AIDS awareness. She is currently the Interim Chairperson of Iloilo Pride Team after serving the organization for 4 years as the Admin Officer, Executive Secretary at Proyekto Philippines, Member of Team Dugong Bughaw, and more.

She graduated as Summa Cum Laude at West Visayas State University majoring in English Language Studies and is currently taking up her Masters in English Language Studies at the same institution. During her stay at the university, she served as the Vice Chairperson at the University Student Council and Federated Student Council where she organized programs and initiatives that advocated for student involvement in societal causes and being the voice of the students that lobbies their concerns to the administration.

In July 2022, she was awarded by JCI Regatta as one of the Top Outstanding Students in Iloilo and a Top Circle Awardee which is the most prestigious recognition given by the award-giving body.

RONAN JAMES B. PENUELA, RN

Philippines
He/Him
Project Officer

Ronan passed the Philippines nursing licensure exam in 2022 immediately after graduating his Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of San Agustin. While juggling his academics, he was elected governor of his college’s student council (Nursing Student Council) in 2021 and board member in 2019 where he was awarded the leadership award and Agustino para sa Tao award due to his excellence in service. He is also a certified Safety Officer (SO1) after completing his training.

He is currently a dialysis nurse in training. He handles the Intersex projects of YVC.

ANFERNEE NENOL KAMINAGA

Marshall Islands
He/Him, They/Them
Project Officer for IGNITE! Empowerment Grants Program

Having done some activism for the Marshall Islands both locally and regionally with climate change, youth empowerment, LGBTQI rights, and nuclear injustice, Nenol takes pride in being an advocate for the causes he is passionate in, being a part of Youth Voices Count and taking a step in amplifying young LGBTQI+ voices. This also inspired him to co-found the first Marshallese LGBTQI Youth Support called Brighten the Rainbow. He is featured in “We Have a Dream” which is a collection of stories from young leaders around the world.

THARINDI DEVASURENDRA

Sri Lanka
They/Them
Project Manager

Tharindi is currently a feminist activist and researcher based in Sri Lanka, and has worked with the Youth Advocacy Network Sri Lanka (YANSL). They are a trainer on advocating for comprehensive sexuality education and providing knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) where they actively advocate for safe abortion and bodily autonomy for women.

One of Tharindi’s brainchild initiatives is an Instagram page which mainly focuses on the process of reaching out to queer women in Sri Lanka, a platform that helps in providing them visibility and strategy direction on programming through social media and other means.

They have completed their Bachelors (BA Honors) in English and Linguistics at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.

JOHNMEL ESTIMAR

Philippines
They/Them
Finance Manager

Johnmel M. Estimar is the founder and senior adviser of La Villa Pride, a grassroots-level organization for LGBTQI in Villa, Iloilo. They are also a member of the Iloilo Pride team, a Community Based Screening motivator for HIV and an LGBTQI Rights Activist. Miles, as they like to be called, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University-Molo, Inc. They also hold an Associate Degree in Cruise Ship Management in the same University.

They have ample experience in clerk and accounting work for nine years from their previous employer, they are currently employed with Youth Voices Count as Finance Manager since 2019.

ANTHONY DE VICENTE LOPEZ

Philippines
He/Him, They/Them
Deputy Executive Director

Mx. Toni graduated with a bachelor’s degree of secondary education majoring in English at the Capiz State University back in 2021. Aside from this, they sought out other educational opportunities such as Advocacy and Project Management at the Women Deliver Digital University (2015), International Women’s Health and Human Rights at Stanford University (2014), and Global Health and Humanitarianism at the University of Manchester (2013).

An advocate of many causes, they are members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, and Y-PEER Pilipinas, founder of the Y-Cap for SRHR, founder of United Colours of CapSU, and Alumnus of Women Deliver Young Leaders Program. Back in 2018, they were awarded as the SDG 5 Youth Champion due to the amiable service they have rendered for gender equality.

JUSTIN FRANCIS BIONAT, MA HRD

Philippines
He/His/Him
Executive Director

A learner for life and a seeker of knowledge, Justin graduated his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Political Science at West Visayas State University, Philippines and took on a Master’s of Arts in Human Rights and Democratisation (International Program) at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University, Thailand under the APMA / European Union Scholarship. At present, Justin is pursuing a Juris Doctor (JD) degree (Law Degree) from the College of Law, University of San Agustin, Philippines.

Justin entered Youth Voices Count, Inc. in 2018 while studying in Thailand. He later took on the role of Executive Director beginning 2019 and successfully set up the legal registration of the organization in the Philippines under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Since then, he has been leading the organization in various programs and projects centered around LGBTIQ children, adolescents, and youth. Outside Youth Voices Count, Inc., Justin is active in other initiatives in the field of research and law. He was a law student fellow of the Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP) of the Legal Education Board and the UP Law Center in 2022.

As an aspiring lawyer, he hopes to one day be instrumental in providing legal support for marginalized populations. Justin has also published reports, journal articles, commentaries, and book articles in the fields of law, HIV/AIDS, LGBTIQ, and Human Rights.

In 2018, he was awarded the Young Achiever HERO Award by APCOM Foundation during the HERO Awards reception at the Royal British Embassy in Thailand for his outstanding work on equality and human rights. He is one of the Youth Council members of the Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organization that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria”, and a Board Member of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia Committee.