Dela Cruz represents PH at Asian and Oceanian students’ forum

August 15, 2019
Christine C. Natividad

Tristan dela Cruz (rightmost) Current Sanggu-JHS Chairman Tristan dela Cruz of 10 Zuraire represented the Philippines in the Asian and Oceanian High School Students’ Forum 2019 held at the Wakayama Prefecture in Japan last July 27-31, 2019 . Master dela Cruz was accompanied by Ms. Christine C. Natividad of the Araling Panlipunan Subject Area. The forum was organized by Wakayama Prefectural Government, Wakayama Prefectural Board of Education, and Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and Southeast Asia. Participants from other countries/areas included Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. High school students from other prefectures in Japan also participated in the forum. 
The forum aimed to develop a global perspective among high school students by exchanging opinions on issues such as disaster risk, education, environmental issues, food, tourism, and culture. Each participant prepared a research paper on an issue that would serve as an anchor for exchanging ideas during the forum. Through these exchanges, the forum also aimed to foster cooperation and understanding among participants. Finally, the forum also aimed to provide the participants opportunities to experience the rich culture and history of Wakayama Prefecture.
During the first day of the forum, participants from other countries/areas met their host families from Wakayama Prefecture and experienced homestay. The host families brought the participants to the market or tourist spots in Wakayama. While students were on homestay, teacher-companions were given an opportunity to see tourist spots at Wakayama such as the Wakayama Castle and the Tama Museum at the Kishi Train Station.
On the second day of the forum, the students and teacher companions were treated to the majestic site of Koyasan, a World Heritage Site in Wakayama Prefecture, which serves as the center of Shingon Buddhism in Japan. At Koyasan, participants were able to visit three areas namely Danjogaran, Okunoin and Kongobuji Temple. Danjogaran is one of the holy sacred spots at Koyasan. Participants marveled at the pagodas, Shinto shrines and the bell tower. Okunoin, on the other hand, is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism. Aside from Kobo Daishi, prominent monks and feudal lords, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi, have had their tombstones erected here in the hope of receiving salvation. Finally, Kongobuji Temple is the head monastery of the Shingon Buddhism. One could peacefully spend their day at a garden of stone and sand in the monastery.

The Opening Ceremony was held on the third day. The Governor of Wakayama Prefecture, Yoshinobu Nisaka, graced the occasion with an opening speech. Afterwards, foreign participants introduced their own country or area donning their traditional dress. Participants from Japan, who are not from Wakayama, also introduced their prefecture. In his country introduction, Master dela Cruz stated that: “We are who we are as a people not because of how similar and homogenous our culture is, but rather because of how much we choose to personify, embody and embrace our diversity.”
On the fourth day of the forum, student-participants conducted the sectional meetings. Here, participants were divided into five groups depending on the research area of the participant namely disaster risk, education, environmental issues, food and tourism and culture. Each group had seven members composed of three Japanese students and four foreign students. Each participant was given 10-15 minutes to share. Master dela Cruz talked about the importance of developing hard (technical skills) and soft skills (e.g. communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity) among students. In his research, he conveyed the following message: “Nowadays, society gives more importance to soft skills – personal attributes that enable us to interact well with other people as well as adapt to the ever-changing requirements of the real world. Given this situation, it is paramount that both students and formators realize the importance of developing soft skills. One avenue for students is through engagement and participation in a student government.” High school students from Wakayama Prefecture served as audience during the sectional meetings.  Tristan dela Cruz
During the last day of the forum, participants conducted the general meeting. The presentations conducted during this meeting were a product of collaboration among the presenters during the sectional meeting. Each group had to come up with a report that would synthesize their main ideas from the sectional meetings. The audience, composed of high school students and teachers from Wakayama prefecture, were given an opportunity to ask questions or give comments to the presenting group.
The forum culminated with a dinner reception hosted by Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka at Daiwa Roynet Hotel Wakayama. Master dela Cruz and Ms. Natividad had the honor of being introduced to the kind governor of Wakayama and the Consul-General of the Philippines at Osaka, Honorable Maria Aileen Bugarin. Foreign students and teachers were able to share their talents during dinner. The night culminated with a group dance from all participants.

(L-R) Christine Natividad; Honorable Maria Aileen Bugarin, Consul-General of the Philippines at Osaka;  Honorable Yoshinobu Nisaka, Governor of Wakayama Prefecture; Tristan dela Cruz