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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
“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
“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
Scenes of the sea and beaches
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
“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.
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.
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:
“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
“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.)