The ED (Educational Discussion) Caravan, a traveling, three-day event dedicated to fostering awareness and involvement of students in pressing issues, recently completed its second incarnation at the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). Having completed its first leg at the School of Engineering, the talks were held this time at SAS’ AVR from Sept. 21-23.

The Caravan was opened with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the SAS Amphitheater in the Philip van Engelen building, attended by the School’s dean. The ribbon-cutting then paved the way for the ED Caravan’s bread-and-butter—its eponymous educational discussions—to be held at the nearby AVR.

To open the educational discussions proper, Nino Olayvar, a political science major from UP Cebu and vice president for Anakbayan in the Visayas, gave his two cents on the controversy surrounding the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Founded in 1989, APEC aims to mobilize international free trade between its 21 member countries, including such heavy hitters as Japan, China, Russia and the United States. APEC countries make up 40% of the world’s population, 50% of international trade, and 60% of the global GDP. It follows four main objectives in pursuit of its overall goal: sustaining the growth and development of the region, enhancing gains of both domestic and global economy, developing and strengthening an open, multilateral trading syste, and reducing barriers to trades and investment between participants. Olayvar noted a drop in tariffs from 16.9% to 5.7% between the cooperation’s formation in 1989 and 2011, as well as its prevalence in bringing about K-12 and academic calendar shifts.

After this, AianUmiibig stepped up to the podium to give a talk on gender and sexuality equality. Umiibig, a graduate of UP Diliman, is also a member of the core group of Bahag Hari and chair of STAND UP. Her talk revolved around the many issues faced by the LGBTQI (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender/transsexual, questioning and intersex) in all facets of society, from the academic to the professional to basic societal interactions. Umiibig highlighted the previous ineligibility of LGBTQI men to enroll in certain schools without passing masculinity tests, as well as the discrimination they suffer from employers. Media, politics and religion all have inherent biases against the LGBTQI, resulting in their forced invisibility and the invasion of the subjectivity of high-ranking individuals obstructing their disqualification and exclusion in decision-making.

Naiskongmabilangsaisanglipunannahindinatumitingin kung anoangkasarian para syaytatanggapin,” Umiibig said. She closed her speech with several tips for communicating not only with LGBTQI individuals, but other people as a whole: Never assume; be respectful; if unsure, ask; be careful about confidentiality, disclosure and outing; avoid seemingly “helpful” tips; and, lastly, labels are personal.

The second day of ED Caravan opened not with a speech, but a film showing of Dekada ’70, a 2002 film based on a 1983 novel by Lualhati Batista. Organized by the SSC to promote social awareness, there was no speaker, but rather the film’s main character, a middle-class woman supporting her family during the Marcos regime of martial law.

After the film showing was a talk from Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, member of the Gabriela Women’s Party. She opened by commenting on Dekada ’70, stating that the modern apologists of  Marcos—those who defend him without having lived under his rule—are sacrilegious to the memory of those who suffered and died during that era by saying that it would be better if we returned to the Marcos regime. She then moved on to a talk regarding the rights of not only one, but two marginalized groups—the Lumads, native people mostly centered in Mindanao, as well as a much larger group: women.

Ilagan, a prominent feminist, had a few points to give on women’s rights. The Philippines ranks as Asia’s top performer in terms of closing the gender gap and providing equality for men and women—in fact, worldwide, we are just behind Norway. However, this does not mean that the Philippines is operating at its most optimal level. Although our country can boast two women presidents—Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo—conditions for women are still subpar in many respects, such as social equality and reproductive healthcare. The Philippines, despite its progressiveness in closing the gender gap, still ranks low among mother- and child- friendly countries, according to an InterAksyon article published in May 2015. Ilagan’s talk revolved around a central point: “Are women genuinely heard, especially women from marginalized sectors?”

Ilagan also had a few words to say regarding the Lumads, the group of indigenous people native to the souther Philippines. TheLumads, despite their ancestral claims to Filipino lands, have been subject to brutality by police and authority. Many have been evicted from their homes and forced to settle elsewhere, while others have been outright murdered and slaughtered on their own soil. The Lumad killings have brought international outrage, including from the United Nations, to say nothing of the condemnation from within the country—such as from Davao mayor and popular politician Rodrigo Duterte.

The third day was opened with a talk on the environment and natural resources by ZethRepollo. Repollo is a representative of, an email-based organization advocating the change to renewable and sustainable sources of energy. To this end, Repollo’s talk highlighted the overuse of fossil fuels in daily life and offered alternatives, such as wind and geothermal power, which are as renewable as they are easily-sourced. The problem, however, is that they require space to build windmills and power plants on, and Repollo was careful to highlight that we do not sacrifice the country’s already-jeopardized forests and grasslands in the process of converting to green energy.

Patrick Torres, USC alum and former SSC Councilor, spoke about the abuse and marginalization of the lower economic classes in rural areas. Torres’ talk covered such instances as the disputes between farmers and landowners; despite the ancestral land on which farmers make their living, their rent is still paid out to landowners and hacienderos who have a legal rather than generational grip on farmland. Additionally, Torres brought up many cases, particularly during the Arroyo administration, of police officials using peasants and other members of the rural poor as scapegoats, framing them for crimes they did not commit in order to end investigations quietly and minimize public uprising.

With the second leg of the ED Caravan having wrapped up, students should stay tuned to see when the Caravan is coming to their neck of the school. However, whether within one’s own building or in one across the campus, the passion and intellect of ED Caravan speakers is infectious, humbling, and thought-provoking—things we could all use a little more of every now and again.

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