Summation Remarks at the 2016 EWC/EWCA International Conference in Manila

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By Regina M. Ordonez
Vice President, EWCA Philippines Chapter

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and aloha again.  The room seems to be filled, with this sweet energy of the aloha spirit. Do you feel it? It’s something I felt, in recent EWCA international conferences. Tonight is our culminating activity, when we will all be dancing, chatting, and embracing each other with lots of mahalo and aloha.

And surely we all enjoyed each other’s company, the beautiful cultural dances, the flowing food and drinks, the poster exhibits, the service of the volunteer staff, and those who attended to us at the tables and desks of the hotel; the sumptuous dinner, and the choice of where to go during our free afternoon yesterday - whether the historical Intramuros in old Manila, the rice fields of IRRI of Los Banos, or the upscale megacity of Makati for shopping, or just to rest. To top it all, we were honored to have the President of the Philippines speak at our conference, a first for any East-West Center Alumni International Conference.

But now, on a more serious note, let me ask: The last three days have seen us renewing as well as making new friends.  Going back to our theme, “Bridging Diverse Cultures towards an Inclusive Asia-Pacific Community,” have we built those bridges, or strengthened their structures, between our respective countries, communities and homes, and those of others in this room?  Have we been able to enjoy getting to know each other better, through the panel presentations and the late night conversations at the lobby, even as we are different from each other in terms of background, color, age, expertise, and belief systems? Yet there is this sharing of the same goals we have all carried through the years as products of the East-West Center, so that all of us alumni strive to create a more inclusive and peaceful world.

And here is the opportunity. There are many conferences with specific agenda – trade, anti-corruption, technology, and the like. But this conference is different – a gathering of alumni who can talk about anything and everything under the sun. And if any of us see a connection, a link to our own work or vision, then we are off to a good start of bonding and friendship. This is unity in diversity!

The variety of topics is dizzying, ranging from de-radicalization of terrorists, to development challenges in the Pacific, to economic cooperation, multicultural education for an ever smaller global village, transnational exchanges in music and the arts, disaster resilience through public-private partnerships, governance challenges, environmental impacts and issues, ethnicity and nationalism, international conflict resolution, health concerns, and seeking harmony through cultural and religious values. It was not easy to sort them out into sub-themes, but together the EWCAA Committees in Hawaii and the Philippines did it. Congratulations!

Embedded in these papers is an intelligent and exciting social, economic, and political discourse reflective of our times, indeed of our human condition, -- daily newsfeeds we receive through the papers, TV, the internet, and the smart phone.  

You heard - better still, listened - to a few among the 80 panel presenters, who spoke from their heads and hearts. The diversity of topics can be gleaned, with no specific order and no specific preference, from a few of these, since there is little time to mention all the very deserving papers:

  • the influence of Korea’s pop idols and pop music on Japan and Indonesia’s idol-scape, reflective of a “close but distant” relationship; from Eun Young Jung and Anderson Sutton;
  • the EWC team’s research on how to achieve food security for the expected nine billion people who will inhabit this planet in 2020 and beyond;  from Delia Rodriguez-Amaya
  • how to manage the equitable use of power and energy sources in the Philippines, from the Energy Policy and Development Program (EPDP) team based in the Philippines;
  • the cooperation needed in disaster management among three groups of actors with separate agenda (and we know what that’s like): 1) scientists and disaster managers, 2) bureaucrats and politicians , and 3) local respondents;  from Cecilia Ioana Manoliu
  • solutions to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from domestic and industrial waste through bio-methanation technology, from India; from Sengoda Gounder Rajamani
  • the challenges of media from John Nery’s plenary, and the effects of decentralization, or proliferation, of local government districts for stability and growth by Wilmar Salim;
  • and lastly, knowledge of, and openness to, different faiths and different religions as a peace-making  and peace-keeping approach; with tolerance, even celebration of our diversity, replacing aggressiveness and abrasiveness; from Jeik Hyun and Arfa Sayeda Zehra.   

May I quote from the opening line of the abstract of Pakistan’s Prof. Zehra, one of this year’s awardees: “Political interests and maneuvering (has) withered the world apart.” I love the way it is said, it gives us a picture of a world, moving downwards, weaker and frailer, as it fights off all kinds, of wars, commercialism, and poverty.

And may I add from a short poem from the saintly Mother Teresa:

Come with me into a world of poverty,
Into a land where men are dying endlessly

Into a world of inhumanity.
Can’t you see they are starving?

Where is your charity?
They laugh and cry, they are people like you and me,
They need help, not just sympathy.

A day goes by, the night is long for everyone
A child is crying, perhaps he’ll live to see the sun
And yet he knows the morning may not come.

Throughout the world our brothers live in poverty
They’re everywhere if only we have eyes to see
So look around and find your sanity.

So share with each one something beautiful,
Something beautiful that shows your love.

To those of us who attended the session, Education for a Globalized World, Assistant Professor Lu Leng echoed this sentiment in her paper on the UNESCO Heritage site Dunhuang in China, when people of all cultures met and carried on their business in that trading post centuries ago, with the unspoken principle, “Love Like One.”

As East-West Center alumni, we are in a position to divert, if not reverse, the negative megatrends, as we continue to share our knowledge, do our research, and pass on what we have learned, to key policy makers and business leaders who shape our planet. Richard Vuylsteke of the Hong Kong American Chamber of Commerce agrees it should be done.

Let us take action. This multifarious, complex set of issues, studied and recommended by many of us to our governments and NGOS, can serve as a bridge in resolving global problems, for as long as we continue to apply the multi-cultural approaches of understanding and friendship we shared many years ago in the halls of Manoa and Lincoln Hall, and in the classrooms of the University next door.

How to bridge cultures into one inclusive community?By reaching out in mutual trust, acceptance, and an appreciation of the goodness in the other.And of course, by meeting like this, breaking bread – or eating rice – and, if not, at least keeping in touch with our various Chapter leaders and members.

Let us bring that light of our Conference, back to our individual homes, together with that spirit of the East-West Center, the spirit of aloha. And thus make this world a better place.

Thank you for being here, thank you for the brand of EWC friendship that we all treasure. 

And now, let’s party!