In the past four months, I have been around Southeast Asia in line with my GIST (Guided Independent Study Travel) sojourn to visit the bamboo schools and green schools in the region and learn their best practices and challenges.
It has been an amazing and enriching journey. I thank the East West Center and Asia Pacific Leadership Program for giving me the opportunity to explore cultures, while I continue to unravel the roads that will shape my future and my community. My deepest mahalo!
Exploring Southeast Asian Cultures
When I started my GIST journey in Myanmar, I was hesitant and afraid; I was devoured by my fears of traveling solo, a practice not culturally common among Filipinos. However, as I began my sojourn in exploring the 11th-13th century temples in Bagan, the old civilization of Mandalay and the exotic but alluring cultures of Inlay, my emotional state and mind began to be at ease.
With my stroller and bag I traveled the roads of Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. The cultural exchanges with locals and tourists from the region were so enriching, the cultural visits captivating and the experiences liberating. The journey deepened my self-awareness, cultural understanding, diversity sensitivity and leadership adaptability. Now, I am more courageous, determined, confident, more energized to take action, and more adaptive to changes and resilient to the challenges.
Visiting the Bamboo Schools
My GIST fieldwork focus was to visit the bamboo and green schools in Southeast Asia and learn from their best practices and challenges.
In my visit to Bali Green School, Indonesia, and Mechai Pattana Bamboo School and Panyaden School in Thailand, my eyes glowed as I gazed at their beautiful architectural design. The cool breeze was so refreshing. The poles, the roofs, the window panes, the doorways, the boards, the chairs, the lockers, the trash bins that were entirely built up of bamboo—all were such an enchanting picture.
These schools were built with different visions and missions, but one thing was common: they value the need to create opportunities for innovation and out-of-the-box thinking while fully optimizing the natural resources the earth has bestowed upon us.
My visit to the bamboo schools filled me with thoughts and reflections. Above all, the personal meetings with the founders were deeply enriching and inspiring.
Environmental Mindfulness and Sustainability
Environmental mindfulness and sustainability were the primary drivers of the bamboo schools. The schools’ key goals are to produce generations of green leaders and to help reduce the carbon footprint of the world.
I was moved by the noble goals of the founders of the bamboo schools. I wish the same inspiration and motivation for a Philippine Blaan School. If I may quote Kun MechaiViravaidya, founder of the MechaiPattana Bamboo School, he said, “Many schools focus on teaching concepts that are not directly applicable and useful to the future of the students,” which he referred to as “junk.” He said that this imbalance will lead to an unsustainable future, which I totally agree with.
Taking note of these best practices, I will ensure that a Philippine Blaan School will also rally around environmental mindfulness and sustainability in our country. It will also serve as a life-long learning center for our entire community, where everyone is welcome to improve their agricultural, business, and general vocational skills and above all their traditional skills.
Ms. Edday is a young Blaan woman. This travelogue was written as part of her fellowship at the Asia Pacific Leadership Program in Honolulu, Hawaii.