Alumni Voice


“Strengthening Ties and Overcoming the Darkest of Times”

Sydney Picar Mateo

University student (Social Sciences and Philosophy)

To state the obvious, life in this time of the pandemic is indeed scary and life-changing. But even in the darkest of times, while our lives seem to be on hold due to the coronavirus scare, I think I was able to gain something. Suddenly finding myself with lots of time to spare, I was able to revisit and actively engage in my hobbies again. The continuing quarantine has allowed me to read more books and do some fiction writing. I remember that previously I was an avid reader of paperback best-sellers and novels and that it inspired me to write stories as a hobby. I also remember how that passion for the printed word backfired as it eventually got in the way of my academics. The stress and guilt perhaps were the reason why I experienced a disruptive writer’s block which led to my loss of interest in that hobby. But the isolation and boredom during the lockdowns seemed to work to re-ignite my love for books and writing once again. Perhaps the spark wasn’t lost to begin with, it just waited for the right timing. And I must say its timing is impeccable because it helped me make an important life decision.

Describing myself as indecisive is an understatement. As someone who has several interests and hobbies, I can’t seem to visualize and focus on what I want to be in the future. Every day I live just for the present and I keep on pushing away my worries and thoughts for the future. I was also having second thoughts about my college major and I’m rather confused and still undecided as to which department I would stay. But as a result of my rekindled passion for books and writing, I realize now that my one true love lies in creative writing. With the support of my friends and family, I could train my sight towards a new goal. Yet I am aware that the road ahead will not be all smooth and straight, noting the prevailing view here in my country that any other field not related to STEM is not so lucrative and productive. However, I refuse to be bound by what others tell me as the practical and smart choice. How we live our lives should be at most, our own preference on our own terms. 

Looking back now since that news of the first infection in March made everybody panic, despite the unexpected outcome that restored something positive in me, my life under quarantine has not always been simple and easy.     

The first months of the pandemic were filled with confusion and fear for our safety, constantly worrying about what the situation would lead to. The initial community lockdown restrictions changed my lifestyle for the worst. All of my routines stopped, schools closed for an indefinite period with resumption of classes unsure; it’s like life was slowly being sucked out of me. It invited a lot of unwanted thoughts and ideas to my head. There was no homework and friends to distract me from it. As the weeks and months went by, just as I suspected it would only get worse despite the unprecedented resumption of classes through online platforms, I decided to turn things around. Being alone with my thoughts also gave me the opportunity to have a further understanding of myself. I made peace with the things I discovered about myself. I was able to look back on my life and reflect. Of course, I also revisited my TYCA experience and it made me realize to my amusement how naïve I was then. Even so, I still cherish everything that happened to my life during that awesome time. I know now that whatever I lacked and missed then are in fact useful affirmation that life is really a work in progress and that learning is a lifelong task.

It still surprises me how the soft-spoken 15-year-old me was able to get over my stage fright and present along with my team some lofty ideas in front of some important people. Makes me remember my time with Team T, our awesome teamwork, our closeness and enthusiasm particularly on the night before the presentation as we finalized our speech and slides. We worked overtime in one of our rooms, and it felt like having a sleepover to do a school project. Our presentation topic which dealt with the concept of “United Asia” might have been too ambitious at the time but for me, it was a worthy opportunity to advocate such a goal for the coming generations. Even if it won’t be realized by us, the idea is already out there to inspire other youths to come after us. The youth holds so much promise in making positive change in the world. Imagine the magnitude of that potential if we work united. While writing this essay, I reimagined our presented topic on “United Asia” and made some adjustments. Borrowing the idea of my 15-year-old self, I would like to propose that an effort be initiated to further strengthen the ties among ASEAN + Japan youths and keep it active by establishing an active link among past, present, and future TYCA delegates. One of its missions or objectives would be to assist and guide future TYCA delegates, something like an advisory or briefing group. This group which will be under the guidance of TYCA representatives in every country will work to impart to the upcoming delegates the knowledge that each of the alumni gained in their own programs and serve to provide moral support to reassure them. In closing, I would like to commend the organizers of this project and express my heartfelt gratitude for trying to keep us TYCA participants together and for bringing back the happy memories. I wish and pray that all will continue to be safe and secure. We shall overcome this undesirable disruption in our generation.







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