Very rarely do we see and hear people from different walks of life talk about things they are passionate about. Passions which have changed their lives and can change other people’s lives too. Thankfully, there are TED events all over the world.
A TED event gathers significant individuals from different fields to feature their stories through short powerful short talks which aim to inspire people, and share meaningful ideas. It started in 1984 as a conference in California where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged. Today, it covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues and in more than 100 languages. Independently organised “TEDx” events help share ideas in communities around the world.
Last October 11, TEDx Diliman made its audience experience how Filipinos can inspire and make a difference for humanity by spreading good and powerful ideas.
Exhibiting Filipino identity
Center for Art, New Ventures and Sustainable Development (Canvas), led by its executive director Gigo Alampay successfully organised TEDx Diliman 2015 for its fifth straight year. This year’s event, dubbed “Paths Less Travelled” fulfilled TED’s mission as a global community, bringing together people from every discipline and culture by exhibiting the Filipino identity.
The whole day event was divided into three sessions – Technology, Culture and Passions, which featured eleven individuals speaking under an intricate backdrop of paper-cut tree branches and leaves designed by artist Liza Flores
Canvas’ fine background in the arts and culture is an edge over other TEDx events in the country, enabling the organisation to showcase and deepen the Filipino national identity.
Some of the inspiring talks were the following:
Technology: Dr. Iris Isip Tan as social media doctor
Being ‘hospitable’ sometimes takes a toll on us Filipinos. Because of our nature to people around us, we usually share our medical experiences, hoping that what cured helped us will also work for others. This practice of self-prescription and self-medication is definitely not advisable especially our health is at stake. Enter the crucial role of social media which makes sharing of information – either truth or false, much easier.
With our country regarded as the social media capital of the world, ‘false information’ now proliferates in many platforms, endangering the public. Endocrinologist and UP College of Medicine professor Dr. Iris Isip-Tan shared how she used social media to educate people on health concerns and remind them that no ‘Googling’ and internet research will replace expert consultation of medical professionals.
Culture: Chef Waya Araos-Wijangco’s life made special
A chef who became a teacher of children with special needs in the Open Hand School for Applied Arts, Araos-Wijangco shared how providing learning opportunities can empower other people. Open Hand School help provide children with special needs the skills they need for the real world, skills and training that enable them to work in normal places. She believes that work is a human right and has the power to transform, give dignity to all people, especially those with special needs. Her emotional talk ended with thoughts on humanity, justice and compassion that compel us to rethink how we see people with special needs. She said that we should not treat them differently, and by doing so, we create access, we create ramps in our hearts and minds for them to live a normal life. Quoting Mother Teresa, she asked the audience – “How do we love? We love in small things, with great love.”
Passion: Ambeth Ocampo on liberating ourselves from the past
Speaking before the audience at a time when Filipinos were at the height of acclaiming the history-inspired film “Heneral Luna,” famed historian and professor Ambeth Ocampo, challenged the audience to transform our history as Filipinos by liberating ourselves from our past.
Ocampo is known for his writings and publications that tell untold stories of our national heroes that expose the truth behind the textbook knowledge we have acquired in elementary school. As expected, he did not fail the audience, some of which are students, as he unmasked historical events that led to what we now are as a nation.
According to Ocampo, after Bonifacio’s death, there were supposedly two people who can lead the country to liberation – General Antonio Luna and Apolinario Mabini. Of course, viral social media posts of students who didn’t know why Mabini was in a wheelchair for the entire Heneral Luna film also reached Ocampo and was greatly disappointed with this. However, he hoped that with the success of Heneral Luna, a film on Mabini which would tell the hero’s story – his great mind and great love for the country would soon pursue.
While we know that history is the story of our past, Ocampo emphasized that it is the continuing story of our nation. He lamented that our governments after Aguinaldo have not changed, and that is the reason why we, as a nation, also did not change in the last 400 years. How, he asked? Because we tolerate improper acts. Aguinaldo became president because he did improper acts such as what transpired during the Tejeros convention. Ocampo says that “(in school) we were only told that the reason why the convention failed is because Andres Bonifacio was a hot-head, you are not told that there was cheating in elections, ballots were already written. We had dagdag-bawas in 1897, what else is new? How can we tell our children, and our children’s children that our forefathers cheated? It’s not in the textbooks but it should be there.”
Ending his powerful speech, Ocampo debunked the idiom “history repeats itself.” Instead, he reminded the audience that as Filipinos, we should not forget our mistakes so that we will not repeat it. Our task is to stop repeating our historical mistakes which we can only do if we liberate ourselves from the past.”
Leading paths to humanity
All TED events are created to seek a deeper understanding of the world through free knowledge. It believes in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. This year’s TEDx Diliman did not fail to connect its Filipino participants to the world not only through inspiring and powerful speakers but also with ideas that touch humanity, and expressed globally.
This was shown through videos of TED talks (from previous TED events in different countries) “Virtual Choir” and “Listening to People’s Stories.” The first is a story of how a musical conductor created a virtual global choir using the internet to sing a piece he composed. This is not a simple story of creating a group of people that could sing his work, but it is a story of how different faces and races can virtually come together to create wonderful music. This is a story of how music, a language which the entire humankind understands and relates with, can be a tool to unite a divided world.
The same concept also applies to the story of Dave Isay, creator of StoryCorp, an audio project that records the conversation of people interviewing each other about personal experiences and expressions of feelings.
StoryCorp has collected more than 50,000 stories of people which are archived in the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, constituting the largest single collection of recorded voices in history. Isay aims to record the most number of conversations of people all over the world to serve as an archive of human wisdom, of what makes us human. The gathered stories reflect and remind us that whoever we are, regardless of age, gender, and race, we know how to love and in Isay’s words – “we value every single life equally and infinitely.”
Canvas executive director Gigo Alampay culminated the event leaving the TED message to everyone: the belief in the “power of ideas, rewards in connection and these ideas lead to something good”, for the community, country and the world, one step at a time.
Photos by the author. Some rights reserved.