Loida Nicolas Lewis, The Lewis College in Sorsogon, and Training Tomorrow’s World Citizens

Good things happen when I spend quality time in writing “from the heart” — because my blog truly reflects a cacophony of experiences. Today, I choose to talk about some incredible people in my life. Go ahead and click on the green-highlighted names for some supplemental information about these “provocateurs of change.” Thank you to Robert “Bobby” Lim Joseph of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS) for coining the term, “provocateur of change” to define his role-in-life after I had told him that I was “an influencer of change.” This conversation occurred in Bangkok, Thailand one humid afternoon in February, 2005. Bobby, I’ll finish my story about you one of these days.

Sometime in early June of 2007, during one of our rare phone conversations, Loida Nicolas Lewis gave me an update about her activities after she retired as Chairperson and CEO of the 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (or NaFFAA) in October, 2006.

Let me share with you some tidbits about my relationship with Loida. I best summarized it in a nomination form that I recently submitted to the Filipina Women’s Network during its search for 2007’s 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S.

Loida Nicolas Lewis has personally mentored me in the 3rd Global Filipino Networking Convention. I was quite intimidated by the men’s leadership in the organizing committee. The day she arrived in Manila in December 2004, we had a late night conversation when she told me: “Woman, you are fully empowered! You don’t have to wait for the others to make decisions!” That was an “Aha!” moment. My work proceeded smoothly from that point — and the convention was a success beyond anyone’s expectations!

One of Loida’s best personality traits is the ability to be compassionate when talking about difficult topics. There were many times when I cried on the phone (with her on the other end) because she had to make some tough decisions — and I was opposed to some of these decisions. However, after such conversations, a positive solution always came out because of our interaction and synergy.

When Loida is not sure what a person’s motivations are, she is very direct and asks, “I really don’t know where you are coming from. Can you explain this situation, please?”

Maybe I’ve had some rare moments with Loida that became life lessons. Whatever people may think about her (“I love her, I hate her, whatever”), I am privileged that she took some time out of her very busy life to guide me through some of my most difficult moments in organizational development and event coordination.

Thank you for all you do, Loida! Your humanity and divinity shine through!!!

Back to our phone conversation…

“I’m very busy with The Lewis College in my hometown province of Sorsogon,” Loida revealed. “I recently took over the full-time management of this school — so I’m quite excited. Although the focus of the school had always been about education, that is, the teaching profession, I believe that offering a dynamic nursing program allows our students to become world citizens.”

The Lewis College has taken quite a revolutionary step in the right direction. “Be a Certified Nursing Assistant” in just six months!

Congratulations to Loida for wisely investing her talents, resources, and skills in Cogon, Sorsogon City.

To continue…

“Loida, your efforts are commendable. As for your students becoming world citizens, it’s really easy,” I remarked. “All you have to do is announce to your NaFFAA friends that they are welcome to come and visit The Lewis College during their trips to the Philippines so they can interact with your students. I’d be happy to make a trip to Sorsogon and talk to your students about how to market themselves or whatever subject matter I’m comfortable with.”

Loida appreciated the simplicity and beauty of the suggestion. I also knew that I validated her dearest wish for the Filipino global professional to excel.

Thus, I related to Loida about my trip to Cebu City in October of 2002 when a dear friend, Padma Mangharam Siap, who also happens to be a corporate trainer, asked for my assistance in working with the Visayas and Mindanao store managers of Jollibee for half a day. It was a sales training workshop Padma conducted. The topic was about “Handling Objections.” Although I followed Padma’s PowerPoint presentation as-is, my role-playing activities with the managers focused on the appropriate words to use and their professional mind-set that effectively empowered them in dealing with local and foreign customers.

After the session, the managers gave their feedback. Many of them felt that their experience with a practising sales professional from San Francisco was ground-breaking. Apparently, these managers understood the academic principles they learned — yet felt inadequate about what words to use in difficult situations.

So, Loida, you’re on the right track. What our future world citizens in the schools need is more training in effective communication skills.

Real-world practice with Overseas Filipino professionals visiting the Philippines can help our students become tomorrow’s world citizens.

I hope there will be many of us who will go back to our hometowns and make the time to chat with students. Although we can’t have “Fireside Chats,” we can certainly take the time to visit classrooms and interact with students. Or yes, maybe a “Bonfire Chat” could be arranged. Wow!

There are also several programs that allow Filipinos from the United States unique opportunities to learn about their roots and share their talents and skills at the same time. A few of them are: The Filipino American Youth Leaders Fellowship Program, the Gilas Project, Lakbay Aral, and Gawad Kalinga.

We can also sponsor more student exchange programs and familiarization trips for deserving students to more countries, not just the USA. How else can we train the future leaders of the Philippines to become true visionaries if we don’t take the time to expose them to the world’s citizens and cultures?

The programs I am most familiar with are the ever-popular Rotary Youth Exchange, the Rotary International Group Study Exchange Program, and the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships.

A good example of a “fam trip” is a yearly sojourn of Muslim and Christian students to the United States under the auspices of the Philippine Youth Leadership Program.

In late April of 2007, Padma Mangharam Siap and her children, 19-year old Shana Siap and 17-year old Lakhi Siap, invited me to go with them to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois so I could observe them train a group (about 30 participants) of Muslim and Christian 15-to-17 year old students who were visiting for a month. The family was conducting a one-day seminar workshop on “Touching HeArts”: The Integrated Arts approach to PEACE (a.k.a. teaching basic theatre skills for effective leadership). After Padma conducted the introductory section, Shana and Lakhi took over. It is always a pleasure watching kids teach other kids, although I teased Shana that she reminded me of an old Filipino TV sit-com character, “Miss Tapia.” Lakhi, her younger brother and a graduate of Theatre Arts from the Philippine High School for the Arts in Mount Makiling, was her willing role model and demonstration partner during the workshop. I could see that the participants, by the end of the session, understood how to properly deliver their messages through the Performing Arts.

I also had a lovely reunion with one of the program’s facilitators, Lily Ann Villaraza. I met Lina Davide Ong, Ed.D., who happens to be the Director of the International Training Office of Northern Illinois University.

Princess Emraida Kiram had told me about this Philippine Youth Leadership Program that started four years ago as a result of the advocacy work of Nagasura “Naga” T. Madale, Ph.D., the first director for the Center of Peace Studies in Mindanao in 1976. There aren’t many documented acknowledgments that highight Dr. Madale’s pioneering work in bringing this program to fruition. It is ironic that this youth leadership program exists in the suburbs of Illinois, not in the East Coast or the West Coast where there are huge Filipino populations.

When I spoke briefly with Dr. Madale, I was quite taken aback by his emotional responses when I asked him about the importance of this program. Naga was in tears when he talked to me about his hopes of a peaceful Philippines, especially in Mindanao. Emraida, who is a close friend of his, validated to me that this Philippine Youth Leadership Program, is very close to his heart.

The purpose of the program, in its most integral state, is to expose the students to how people of different religions in America are able to live together in harmony and peace. These kids are chosen specifically because they are being groomed for future leadership in the Philippines. To date, there are about 100 students who finished this program at NIU.

I met the students and some of the accompanying teachers, about four of them. It is a wonderful feeling to see Christians and Muslims bonding well with each other.

At the end of their trip, these visiting students celebrated their graduation day with an original performing arts presentation that highlighted the theme of peace.

I was given a copy of the project overview:

The Philippine Youth Leadership Program is a project funded by the Office of US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Implemented by the International Training Office and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, this project enables Muslim and non-Muslim youth and adult leaders from the Mindanao region of the Phlippines to participate in an intensive, thematic, month-long training institute that focuses on encouraging inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue and conflict resolution. The major goal of this project is to facilitate a greater degree of mutual understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim youth from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the surrounding provinces.

One more thing…

Loida Nicolas Lewis strongly supports Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid for the U.S. Presidency in 2008. When the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Hillary Steering Committee (a.k.a. AAPI for Hillary) was launched, Loida became its New York Filipino American Co-Chair as well as the Co-Chair of Filipino Americans for Hillary, together with Alice Bulos, Chair Emeritus of the Filipino American Democratic Caucus.

It looks like the White House Project’s theme of “Let’s Hurry History!” resonates well with Loida’s political advocacy. Quoted from the website: “The White House Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501 c(3) organization that aims to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors—up to the U.S. presidency—by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women.”

Planning the training programs of tomorrow’s world citizens is everyone’s duty and responsibility. Let’s hear from more of you!



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