by Clarissa G. Rodriguez
Lights on, curtains off, we are never too young to conquer the stage.
A young man was standing yet he was belittled. He was looking at the stars yet he was underestimated. He was setting hopes yet he was discouraged. With the loud crowd whose delighted eyes were fixed at the podium, his presence had been neglected just like an empty darkness.
In a day, the flaming torch in his passionate soul was tremendously blazed. In a month, the fervid desire in his mind was sprightly ignited. In a year, the hidden dream in his heart was greatly unleashed. So he decided to rise and to break the chains that hindered him from his utmost potential.
He stepped out from the dimmed upper box, making his way onto the stage. Hands on the sides, feet on the cold mat, he took a deep breath and smiled.
Ladies and gentlemen…
At age 18, he is known as Mirus Ponon, who founded the Youth Advocates for the Philippines (YAP) with thousands of members in just less than three months.
Mirus is a public speaker, activist, blogger and a student who is committed to continue his studies at the University of Pennyslavania after spending his freshman year at De La Salle University Manila.
He led several groups but his most prominent organization is the YAP which is a non-profit organization that supports the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Mirus was also elected as the Philippine Officer of The ASEAN University Student Council Union as he is also designated as a Philippine Representative of United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, Asia Pacific Alliance of Youth Advocates, and Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.
Since then, he has been acknowledged in GMA, Inquirer, and Thailand News. With these accomplishments, he has been nominated for the National Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Awards.
But behind these exceptional accomplishments as a leader, he was once pressured and felt underdog.
“I’m someone that for most of the time, felt alone in my goals in my life. I never felt any support from my peers after always being labelled as ‘OA’ or as someone that was dreaming too high,” Mirus sighed as he reminisced his past, back on the darkness at the upper box.
Yet he was also like a phoenix who rose from the ashes. The sparkling lights pointed to his coat and said that he aspired to be the bridge for those students who lost confidence towards their dreams in life.
“There are many students and fellow youth who feel that they are incapable because we live in a world that achievements and grades define us, but [this] should not be the case. Anyone can make the difference in the tiniest of ways as stakeholders of our own future,” he added with a stronger conviction with his deep voice.
Through YAP, he executed his dreams for the youth to instill the proper foundation of being a leader and an active citizen for the Philippines.
As he held the microphone with his passionate bare hands while waiting for the questions, one from the audience asked him.
“Out of the 17 SDGs, where do you think have you contributed a lot?”
Mirus quickly nodded and said, “I believe we’ve balanced our focus to all the 17 SDGs.”
Being an SDG advocate, Mirus created a local youth framework for the Philippines called “ARCHIPELAGO.” Despite being scattered and separated as Filipinos live in an archipelago, Mirus emphasized that it is important that Filipinos must stay united.
Project ARCHIPELAGO aims to produce a sustainable framework that reminds the Filipino youth of their responsibilities in being agents of change, thus taking action upon important advocacies. ARCHIPELAGO is an abbreviation of 11 advocacies that are relevant to today’s society:
- Arts, Culture and Media Awareness;
- Research Innovation, Science and Technology;
- Climate Action and Environment Protection;
- Hunger and Poverty Alleviation;
- Inclusivity of Marginalized Sectors;
- Public Health and Mental Awareness;
- Education Accessibility and Quality;
- Livelihood and Labor Rights;
- Agriculture and Sustainable Industrialization;
- Good Governance and Social Responsibility, and;
- One Unified Youth
As YAP instills a passion of service and a sense of initiative to future youth leaders through outreach programs and volunteer-based activities, they amassed a significant social media following in less than six months: 200,000 Facebook followers, including its 5,000 members, and a monthly reach of one million.
All ears and eyes wide opened, the crowd started to dig deeper on his message and to look upon the heart of volunteerism with a proper sense in advocacy. As he spoke, Mirus expected them to be nationally conscious.
“The impossible dream [is] to erase the stigma [sic, recte phenomenon] of the youth leaving the Philippines once graduating, the stigma that there is no hope where in fact that we are the hope, and the stigma that we are incapable,” Mirus highlighted in his speech.
Mirus also shared that as he went on his YAP journey, challenges paved along his way which involved puppy love, instant gatherings, intensive school works, and more teenage dramas that he could not control of.
“The funny thing is, these challenges are challenges we have to face every day, so it’s always a reminder to take a backseat and tap yourself on the back,” Mirus smiled at the audience.
Mirus reminded the listening souls that they should constantly support one another; that life is all about relationships that should be treasured and appreciated.
He also added that in times of crisis, he suggested to everyone that they should prioritize themselves, their families and if possible, find ways to help one another.
“We have an EQ and IQ, but what I advise for everyone to focus on is our AQ (Adaptability Quotient).”
When he was asked about his future goals, he responded that he also desires to be the next President of his country or the next Secretary-General of The United Nations.
Lights on, curtains off, as he took his closing part of the speech, he passionately wandered on the stage, looking in the eyes of his fellow youth.
“Find your purpose … Always ask yourself: In a world changing for the better or worse, what can you do about it?”