Remembering SIGA 2017
Furthering Asean alliance from the Philippines
Friendship attained must be retained
Thirty-seven delegates from Singapore recently attended a 5-day mega event, SIGA 2017, in the Philippines, with the theme, “One Heart, One Beat, One Team”. The assembly seeks to broaden the participants’ international outlook, and foster mutual understanding and friendship across Southeast Asia and Japan.
Some 200 delegates from the ten Asean nations and Japan comprising past youth participants, national leaders and host families of the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSYEAP) attended the meeting from 26 to 30 April (2017). This is the 29th year of SIGA meeting, held annually in Asean countries.
Last year (2016), SSEAYP International General Assembly or SIGA was held in Cambodia.
Way before delegates of SIGA 2017 arrived on the shores of Iloilo and Boracay, Philippine newspapers and newsletters have made announcements of the guests’ arrival. Some carried advertisements of the SIGA gathering, and huge billboards were displayed at some road junctions, welcoming the guests.
This year’s SIGA gathering was held in two beautiful cities of the Philippines – Iloilo, a smoke-free city, and Boracay, an island in paradise, which is rated Number 1 Tourist Destination in the world.
In Iloilo, SIGA 2017 was held at the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC). Iloilo City Mayor, Hon. Jed Patrick Mabilog, met the delegate leaders and opened the ceremony with a message emphasising the strengthening of friendship among Asean nations.
The group discussions focussed on seven topics based on livelihood, environmental conservation, and maternal and child health.
It was not all discussions and report presentations every day; the delegates did go for educational visits, and even provided some community service at an Ati village. The Ati people are one of the aboriginal tribes of the Philippines.
The closing ceremony of the Iloilo assembly was held at the Central Philippine University where Dr. Teodoro C. Robles, the institution’s President, made his welcome remarks. Exchange of tokens and gifts followed.
The second part of the assembly was held in the beautiful island of Boracay at the Paradise Garden Resort Hotel. During the closing ceremony of SIGA 2017, held in this hotel, speeches were made and lively cultural performances were staged.
Hon Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, Mayor of Iloilo City, and Mr Yacob Hussain, Singapore Delegation Leader, exchanging gifts at the opening ceremony of SIGA 2017 at the Iloilo Convention Center.
Singapore’s delegation leader, Mr Yacob Hussain, who was nominated to deliver the closing remarks, praised the Philippines organising committee for putting up an excellent and elaborate programme for the delegates. “The one that was really constructive and noticeable was the service to the Ati community,” he emphasised.
“But, most importantly, SIGA was once again filled with love and friendship with the spirit of SSEAYP touching all hearts. We shall cherish the happy experiences and memories of SIGA 2017 in the Philippines, and look forward to next year’s SIGA in Bandung, Indonesia,” concluded Mr Yacob who was a SSEAYP Participating Youth of 1992 and a Singapore National Leader of SSEAYP 2003.
The Singapore team was applauded for being the largest contingent for which it received a Certificate of Recognition. Each delegate received a Certificate of Participation.
In Iloilo: Activities at the Iloilo Convention Centre
An enchanting drumbeat-dance performance at the entrance of the Iloilo Convention Center by the Dinagyand Tribe
Meeting delegates from other countries in the outer hall of the auditorium.
Delegates being entertained by various exciting performances…
With the talented children after their vibrant performance…
The Singapore Delegation Leader, Mr Yacob Hussain, exchanging official gifts with Iloilo City Mayor, Hon Jed Patrick E. Mabilog. On the Mayor’s left is Mr Nielex C. Tupas, Executive Director of the National Youth Commission, while on Mr Yacob’s right is Ms Noormah Azizi, Secretary General of SSEAYP International Singapore. Later, the Singaporeans snatched an opportunity to have a group photo taken at the outer hall of the Iloilo Convention Center.
Group photos of the Asean Delegation Leaders and the Singapore delegates with Hon Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, Mayor of Iloilo City.
Group discussions (workshop): Each of the seven groups discusses a topic relevant to the current socio-economic scenes, namely: Social Inclusion, Health and Sanitation, Asean Integration, Migration and Labour Export, Climate Change, Workforce Integration and Good Governance and Economic Growth. Mdm Khairon Bibi (first photo) and Mr Joey Koh (last photo) are seen giving their points of the discussion topic.
Presentation of discussion findings and suggestions, and group photos.
The final day in Iloilo ends with farewell songs and friendship links…
Social Contribution Activity at the Ati Village
The delegates had the opportunity to be involved in a community service in Barangay Lanit, Jaro, where they took part in a tree-planting activity, vegetable farming, storytelling and even a Zumba exercise session with the people of the Ati community. The Ati children welcomed us with music and dances and participated in the various activities with us.
Visit to places of interest
Among the places the delegates visited were a wind-spin site for electricity generation, the Iloilo City Esplanade, an offshore fish-farm, a heritage site, a “Bible Garden” and a mango farm – yes, the mango is the Number 1 fruit of the Philippines.
“See, no hands!”, these Singapore ladies seem to say as they try to get their teeth onto the enticing mouth-level mangoes.
Closing ceremony at the Central Philippine University
A musical band welcomed the delegates’ arrival at the entrance to the Central Philippine University where a gala dinner was held in the delegates’ honour, during which the delegates were treated to several cultural presentations. The delegates received mangoes as a parting gift.
A group photo with the Mayor of Iloilo, Hon. Jed Patrick E. Mabilog (seated centre, blue jacket); and the President of Central Philippine University, Dr Teodora C. Robles (seated on the Mayor’s left). Beaming with great joy is Ms Noormah Azizi (standing at extreme left wearing red baju kurung and bluish tudung) whose image, unaware to her, appears on the large screen.
Mr Yacob Hussain, leader of Singapore’s delegation, exchanging gifts with Dr Teodora C. Robles, President of Central Philippine University. The delegates get to watch more Philippines cultural performances, including a bamboo dance that sought audience participation.
And there are opportunities for more lovely photos with lovely people…
On the way to Boracay
Five big and comfortable tour coaches took the SIGA 2017 delegates from Iloilo to the jetty to board speedboats to Boracay Island, with each coach displaying the official SIGA 2017 emblem banner on its sides (as can be seen from the above photos). The top photo shows Singaporeans with Malaysian delegates.
The coaches travelled in a disconnected line of convoy sandwiched between security forces – two traffic-police outriders, a police car and a SWAT van with the hind-team consisting of an additional service – an ambulance. The coach carrying Singaporeans was the first in the convoy. With the police motorbikes and the police car blaring their sirens gesturing for space and the right of way, the convoy, with the traffic giving way to us, could have reached the destination in half the time but for an unfortunate but small incident. A few delegates, one in the Singapore coach and the others in the other coaches, caught stomach discomfort, even diarrhoea, for which the convoy stopped for the medics to provide help.
A couple of houses at the point of the convoy stoppage offered help by allowing the severely affected delegates to use their toilets. One of the Singapore delegates even has to be hospitalised for a day.
We, the Asean delegates, heartily thank the police, the SWAT team, the medics and the residents for all the assistance and support given to us: Mr Iloilo City Mayor, we salute you for giving us the impressive security and medic services. We also thank you for the food gifts you placed in each of our hotel rooms as well as the security, comfort and friendship you gave us throughout our stay in your beautiful, smoke-free city.
Mr Agus Othman…
“During our entire journey from Iloilo to Boracay, our 5-coach convoy of Asean delegates was escorted by police outriders, the police, a SWAT team and an ambulance. Even when we were in the speedboat to and from Boracay Island, we were escorted by the police coast guard. We thank them for keeping us safe.”
– Mr Muhammad Agus Bin Othman, who has been a SSEAYP host family since 1986, Singapore
Ms Joyce Velu...
“The people who we met in Iloilo and Boracay are friendly and hospitable. We thank the administrators of SIGA 2017 in the Philippines for taking good care of us. We are also thankful to all the friendly security teams, the resort staff, tour guides, bus captains and others involved in making this event successful.”
– Ms Joyce Velu, who has been a SSEAYP host family since 1987, Singapore
In Boracay: Fun on Boracay Island
We really enjoyed our short stay in Boracay, indulging in its natural habitat and playing in its enticing beaches and surrounding waters.
“Coast”, the Singapore delegates’ hotel
“Coast” is a beautiful, popular hotel by the beach of Boracay Island, where we stayed. The group photo shows our excitement. Some members from the other delegation, seeing us cuddled in a group to take a photo, ran and joined us in the spirit of Asean friendship. A couple of them are: Standing tall in the middle in pink singlet is Mr Bong Manlulu ll, from the Philippines. He is Deputy Secretary General and Chairman of SIGA 2017 Organising Committee; and squatting second from right is Asst. Professor Dr Siripong Preutthipan, President of Thailand Alumni Association. (On the right is the glass door to the “Halal eating hall” temporarily set up for the SIGA Muslim delegates.)
A Halal poster is displayed on the glass wall of the temporary “Muslim eating hall” to indicate that the food served there, for all meals, is halal (permissible for Muslim consumption). (Adjacent to this hall, Coast has a big restaurant for its other guests.) Delegates Habsah Jamal (left) from Singapore and Mujahidah A. D. Sharief from the Philippines are taking breakfast in this “halal” hall. Later, I asked the front-desk staff if there was any halal outlet nearby for snacks, and the friendly Sales Manager of “Coast”, Ms Pettina Mae Cruz, asked Ms Apple to take us to one that is close by. One the way, I told Ms Apple my name, saying “My name is Orange,” to which she giggled aloud, saying where in the world could anyone have such a fruity name as “Orange”!
Scenes of the sea and beaches
Lure of the Boracay waters…and the more adventurous ones drift into the dark, ghostly caves…and the Muslim ladies, well, they didn’t have “burkinis” but no problem, they are still sporting.
Desmond Yew (left), his wife, Lynn, and Joey Koh engaging in the thrills of para-sailing.
Lure of the Boracay beach: People delighting themselves with sand building and enjoying the last rays of the setting sun…but the fun and fiesta of the day is not over yet – the lively Boracay evening has just begun.
Soon it was parting time, and on the evening of our farewell dinner reception at the Paradise Garden Resort Hotel, there were community singing. The Singaporeans took part in singing, too, with everyone in the delegation racing to the stage and vibrantly dancing to the beat of the ever-popular song, “O Singapura, sunny island”, with Mr Desmond Yew, delegation co-ordinator, leading the troupe from a hidden distance. The fun was so intense that nobody gave his or her phone to the non-Singaporean audience to take photos of us.
Scenes of parting
At the closing ceremony in Paradise Garden Resort Hotel, Boracay: Mr Yacob Hussain, Singapore Delegation Leader, Ms Cecilia Yvonne C. Ledesma, President, SSEAYP International Philippines, Mr Bong Manlulu, Chairman, SIGA 2017 Organsing Committee, and Mr Desmond Yew, Co-ordinator, Singapore delegation; and (in the other photo) some of the Singapore delegates posing for their last minute snaps in Boracay to record their memorable SIGA 2017 experiences.
Mr Earth (SK, but see his name closely) and Ms Quake (from the Philippines) having some earth-shattering earthquake fun…
Mr Joey Koh...
“SIGA 2017 in Iloilo and Boracay was really a great treat for us. The beautiful powdery beaches, the super clear turquoise colour water and the enchanting sunset in Boracay have also captured our hearts. It is a privilege to be entertained by cultural dances and music, and given the hand of friendship. Thank you, Philippines.”
– Mr Joey Koh, who was an Assistant Youth Leader of SSEAYP 1990, Singapore
Indeed there was social mingling among the delegates of the various Asean nations and Japan and fellowship established, and that is truly the spirit of Asean. During the five days of involvement in SIGA 2017’s programmes together, it was easy to make friends. In my wife’s and my case, we made many friends but we could only show some of them, indirectly shown in the many photos attached in this article. Here are two more new friends in the following collage.
We made many new foreign friends…among them are Ms Mujahidah Ameenah Dirampantan Sharief (Amick) from the Philippines – but don’t play, play with her – she’s a judo exponent; and Ms Namie Ikejiri from Japan.
Cebu, here we come
Some members of the Singapore delegation, 12 people, including my wife and me, with the exploratory spirit of the Philippines still attached to us, flew to Cebu by domestic flight for a 1-night 1-day stay to savour in some sights and sounds of this beautiful province of the Philippines.
Among the interesting places we visited were an old prison museum, the Santa Nino Church, Ford San Pedro, Magellan’s Cross, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and the Temple of Leah located on top of a mountain that gave a panoramic view of Cebu City.
The highlight here: Briyani lunch. Mr Yacob Hussain chanced upon “Briyani House” and we settled for mutton and chicken briyani, eating like gluttons. “Long time no eat briyani,” Yacob said, and we even walloped the second helping and left the plates clean. And the most popular drink among the 12 was hot masala tea.
The highlight here: Singaporean visitor. Perhaps it is easy to spot Singaporeans. One young lady, who was with some other people, approached us and jubilance burst out as the Muslim ladies exchanged the salam (hand-to-heart-touch) with her. Her name is Inna Saidi, and a quick group photo was taken with Ms Inna standing in the middle.
The highlight here: Yap Sandiego Ancestral House. This house, now turned into a museum, is one of the oldest wooden houses in Cebu. I wanted to purchase it as a present for my wife but she declined, saying she preferred a bungalow in Bandung, Indonesia. We hope to go there to look for it in April next year.
SK (Unofficial) trophy
And the SK (Unofficial) trophy goes to…….the lovely couple, Desmond Yew and his wife, Lynn Ng. (Hey, readers! Give a hearty applause lah in the spirit of Asean.)
Home sweet home
The Singapore delegates returned home with fond memories of an interesting and exciting SIGA 2017 trip to the Philippines. Here are comments of two friends from the Philippines delegation:
Ms Quake Garrido…
“I admire Singapore for sending the biggest delegation. The Singaporeans took part in all the activities at the various venues to establish friendship and camaraderie. Along with the other Asean delegates, they embraced and appreciated the cultures of the Philippines. I am happy to see the solidarity achieved with all the national delegates united in promoting understanding and closeness of the SSEAYP Family.”
– Ms Quake Garrido, a SSEAYP Participating Youth of 1997, Philippines
Mr Bong Manlulu II…
“I take this opportunity to praise the Singaporeans for meeting all the requirements of SIGA registrations very early. They made full pre-payment and their delegation was the biggest delegation comprising 37 people. I wish other Alumni Associations would emulate Singapore in making it comfortable for future SIGA organisers to do the necessary efficiently in all matters, such as in administration, logistics and finance. And, I want to thank all involved for the success of SIGA 2017.”
– Mr Bong Manlulu II, who is Chairman of SIGA 2017 Organising Committee
At Changi Airport
We couldn’t resist taking one last shot together with Ms Keiko Soeda (second from right), who had come to fetch her husband, Mr Yacob Hussain, Singapore’s delegation leader, at the airport.
And we hope to meet any of the SIGA 2017 delegates again: Friendship attained must be retained.
(To read about SIGA 2016, go to “Remembering SIGA in Cambodia”: https://readnreap.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/general-interest-wide-ranging-remembering-siga-in-cambodia/ )
(The writer and his wife, Khairon, were among the SIGA 2017 Singapore delegates. They have been hosting SSEAYP participants for the homestay stint for more than two decades, since 1989 and were Singapore representatives in the Invitation Programme for Host Families of SSEAYP from 25 Sep – 6 Oct 1995 to Tokyo and on board Nippon Maru to Brunei Darussalam, the port of call that year.)