A Rewarding and Invaluable Experience at 2018 AKYNW

Spending ten days with over seventy participants in two different countries was a new experience to  me. The activities included in the workshop held at Korea were insightful and interesting. I had the chance to discover another side of Seoul during the Korea program. One of my favorite activities was the Seoul City Hall TOPIS tour. Before the tour, I had never heard of TOPIS and I had no idea what it was. We visited the TOPIS office and it was extremely intriguing to personally see the operations of the transport control center responsible for operating and managing Seoul’s overall traffic. The TOPIS office is not open to the public and I felt incredibly honored to be given this opportunity to know more about the organization. I have always been amazed by the accuracy of the real-time bus arrival timings displayed at the bus stops in Seoul. The lecture given by an officer at the TOPIS explained how this system works and it also gave me an insight to exactly how integrated the transport network in Seoul is. Any accident or construction work on the roads is recorded and reflected in the system and updated on the TOPIS website, enabling drivers to receive the information and change their routes to avoid traffic jam at the affected areas. From recording the speed of cars on the roads to checking the availability of empty parking spots in public spaces, the officer showed us several controls of the TOPIS and I was impressed by the advanced cutting-edge technology of the TOPIS. The powerful CCTVs of the TOPIS could even zoom in to see the shapes of people hiking on a mountain!

The importance of a well-functioning transport system became even more evident during the five days we spent in Manila. The urban traffic congestion issue plaguing Manila is serious and costly. After experiencing the extreme traffic congestion in Manila, it made me realize the importance of an efficient transport network and how well the TOPIS is doing in terms of managing the transport operations in Seoul. Now, whenever I take the public transportation, be it the bus or the subway, I cannot help but think of the things I learnt at TOPIS. It was an invaluable experience that broadened my knowledge of Seoul.

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Another activity included in the Korea program which I enjoyed was the YTN broadcasting company tour at Digital Media City. It was my first time inside a broadcasting company and I was astounded by the broadcasting studios, radio studios and workplaces of YTN. Our guide at YTN, a PR manager of the company, gave us a brief history of the company and brought us to the news studio. There were cameras, lights and screens at the studio and it was a brand-new experience for me to see the actual setup of the studio which we typically see on television every day. We saw ourselves reflected on the big screens through the cameras and we had fun pretending to be news anchors and weather presenters. I also learnt that in Korea, blue screens instead of green screens are used as the virtual background at the studios. The guide explained that green screens are used in Western countries because the detection of the blue color in people with blue eyes would replace their eyes with the virtual background if blue screens are used. I thought that was an interesting and cool fact! We were also given a chance to see and touch the cameras ourselves. The professional cameras used at broadcasting companies are extremely expensive and the old camera we were allowed to play with that was used in the 2000s costed about 80 million won. The guide also explained to us that the image shown in viewfinders of professional cameras are in black and white in order to protect the eyes of the cameramen who have to stare into the viewfinders for long hours.

We were then brought into a radio studio and the radio broadcast was on air and live in front of us! We had to be silent and careful not to disturb the ongoing broadcast at the studio. I was extremely thrilled to see the radio DJ broadcasting the news on air with my own eyes and seeing the massive control panel of the radio studio was also a new experience for me. The YTN tour was a memorable and unforgettable tour. We got to see the behind-the-scenes actions of broadcasting studios and I like that we were given a chance to experience how it is like to be working in front of the camera as well as behind the camera.

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For the Philippines program, a cultural activity I enjoyed was visiting the heritage houses in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar and taking the boat ride around the area. The boat ride was a perfect way to take in the beauty of Las Casas. The heritage collection of houses around Las Casas was interesting and the art displayed around the area was beautiful and lovely. The boat ride was peaceful and surreal and I felt strangely at peace during the ride. My group members and I put on straw hats provided on the boat and although it started to drizzle towards the end of the ride, it was nonetheless a pleasant and enjoyable experience.

We also visited various houses in Las Casas and it was amazing to see the old furnishings and arrangements of the centuries-old Spanish heritage houses. Each house was unique and different from another house. In one of the houses, the tour guide showed the traditional kind of CCTV people used in the past. It was a peephole on the floor of the second story of the house. The peephole was created by removing a piece of board of the flooring, allowing one to see who was at the door. If the person at the door was someone the owner knew, the owner would pull a rope to open the door so he or she would not have to go down to the first floor to open the door. If the owner disliked the person, he or she would pour water down the hole to drive the person away. The tour of the heritage houses of Las Casas was fascinating and I learnt to appreciate another side of the Philippines from this tour.

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Other than the cultural activities mentioned above, another activity of the Philippines program which I liked was the team building games as well as trying traditional Filipino snacks. The team building games were fun and engaging. Not only did the games strengthen the bond between my group members, they also helped to unite all the other participants of the workshop as well. We cheered for each other, regardless of which group we belonged to, and I could feel the unity and camaraderie of the AKYNW participants. The games included sack race, calamansi relay, egg toss game and luksong baka (which translates to “jump over the cow”). The luksong baka is a game which involves a player crouching while the other players jump over him or her. Although I slipped and fell a couple of times during the games, it was an unforgettable experience and I thoroughly enjoyed this activity. We also tried some delicious traditional Filipino snacks. We had turon (also known as banana lumpia) which is fried banana rolls, as well as tempura and fish balls covered in sweet sauce. This snack was sweet, savoury and addictive! I could not help but keep reaching for more. It was “sobra sarap”, which means “very delicious,” a Tagalog phrase I learnt from my Filipino group member and this phrase describes exactly how I feel about this snack.

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Overall, the activities of both the Korea program as well as the Philippines program were engaging and interesting. Towards the end of the 10-day workshop, I felt slightly drained and tired but the activities mentioned above perked me up and lifted my spirits. I am grateful to be given a chance to visit places in Seoul which are not easily accessible to the public as well as experience another side of Manila that is hidden and obscure.

The workshop was a chance for me to step out of my comfort zone and broaden my social circle. Although the entire workshop was pretty tiring as our schedule was fully packed, it was a fruitful one that allowed me to gain new knowledge and build lasting friendships. It was an incredible experience talking to and getting to know participants from different ASEAN countries as well as participants from Korea, Japan and China. The memories made during the workshop is something that I will treasure and I am thankful to be selected as a participant to join the workshop.