My SSEAYP Experience (Part I)


It was in 1993 that I joined the SSEAYP (Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program), an annual youth exchange program sponsored by the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan and implemented in the Philippines by the then PCYA (Presidential Council on Youth Affairs) now known as the National Youth Commission.

It is a program open to all young individuals who are 18 to 30 years old, I was 19 then, one of the youngest in our batch, our batch was the 20th. We also have our National Leader who is now the Vice Governor of Leyte, Ms Mimietta Satorre Bagulaya. The SSEAYP is an annual cultural exchange program is in cooperation with the ASEAN member countries for their youth to gather and discuss pertinent issues affecting the youth today. The delegates coming from various contries tour Japan and other ASEAN countries for 52 days on board a Japan luxury ship, the Nippon Maru of the Mitsui OSK Lines, meet State officials, interact with local youth, and experience living with local families which we call, the homestay.

The Application Process:
Not much has changed with the papers needed for application. Once the NYC receives it, and finds it complete and qualified, the applicant will then be sent a message of his interview date and venue. I received a telegram in my time and was told to go to Zamboanga City for the interview, it was in 1992 but I decided to settle for the Sangguniang Kabataan elections, which was first implemented that year, the next year I reapplied again and was chosen. I was with my cousin Bong who has tried applying for the program for four years that year but I was admitted instead.

Questions during the interview were all programmed, and it all starts with this; tell us something about yourself. In interviews, indeed, the more talks, the more mistakes. I was asked if I know something about ASEAN History and the countries involved, situational questions like what if your foreigner roommate stinks, how would deal with him? Or, during homestays, you do not like the food served, what could be your reaction? Finally, I was also asked why, should the panel choose me because the interview will be conducted by a panel which is composed of a representative from the regional office of the DSWD, the Civil Service Commission and a representative of the National Youth Commission as well as an alumni of the program, should there be any. I was made to present a talent which I sung.

It will take about ten to 15 minutes mind boggling Q and A and a showcase of talent from the applicant.

After a few days from the interview, I was sent a message again that I was finally accepted and I was told to go to Davao City for a psychological testing, and I was subjected to a battery of tests thereat which lasted for a day. I discovered that we were 2 from Region 9 and the others in Davao were all from Mindanao and that day the Mindanao block was formed, unofficially as we already gelled. I discovered that after the test, my competitor who was a professor from WMSU in Zamboanga City failed the psych test.

But this Psych test by region has already been scrapped and I was informed that all hopefuls will have their tests in Manila.

The dates for each stage of the process is very demanding, it only gave me too little time to prepare, too bad for those coming from the provinces. Lucky for those living in Manila.

The Pre-Departure Training:
After I was informed of my acceptance to the program, I immediately filed a leave with school, I was a fourth year college student then and it was the start of the second semester which i must forego in exchange of the experience of touring Southeast Asia and Japan as a Philippine delegate. But the school president had been very understanding with my plight, I was allowed to enrol 2nd semester and was assured that when I come back, I will graduate. What a gift from the president!

So I left for Manila alone, I was 19 and fearful what would fate bring with me travelling to a bustling city without much in hand as my parents were mere government employees and at that time, there were three of us in college. I stayed with my relatives before the PDT (Pre-Departure Training) to be held at the Imus Sports Complex in Imus, Cavite.

The batch had their first meeting at the Bahay Ugnayan in Malacanang, and it was the first time I saw the whole breed, yet I was not that uncomfortable as I met the Mindanao block once again and we were all seated together. 

Mitzi, a doctor from Davao, now a cosmetic surgeon internationally recognized for her contributions in Project Smile Train,  Monching, a college professor from Notre Dame University in Cotabato, now Manager of Chinabank. Glenn, an entrepreneur and a college instructor of the Don Mariano Marcos State College, now a university, and Carlo who is now a government doctor.

The others from various regions and the NCR were all impressive especially with those from La Salle, UP and Ateneo. First impression: mga walang kamatayang anak mayaman.

We were all briefed with the program by then Chairperson of the PCYA Francisco Katibayan and Commissioner Anna Marie Periquet as well as the other PCYA staff. We all knew of the office deeper as two of their staffs were also included in the batch. Araceli Aves who was an office staff that time, after the program, eventually became Commissioner of the NYC and Mark Fernandez who is until now, connected with the NYC. Cel is also from Iligan City.


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