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Life by Design


Dreaming Big Dreams

Posted by Carren |

One Saturday afternoon, Mag:net Café Bonifacio High Street was filled to capacity. No, those people were not all packed into that venue because they were all struck by the sudden need to eat merienda. They were there to listen to six amazing Filipinos share their own stories at the WhyNot Forum.

The Forum

The WhyNot Forum was inspired by Ted Talks (, where speakers of diverse background are invited to share their ideas and their lives in 18 minutes. It operates on the principle that ideas are a powerful thing, empowering people to act and enabling revolutionary changes to occur. Similarly, the WhyNot Forum brings in amazing Filipinos of different backgrounds to talk about their lives and ideas in 18 minutes in the hopes of inspiring Filipinos around the world to “Think new thoughts. Share big dreams. Do Brave things.”

This was the 3rd run and, thankfully it shows no sign of slowing down.

The afternoon was filled not only in the physical sense- with warm bodies inside the café, but also psychologically – with positive energy.

The Line Up

The six speakers were as varied as the colors of the rainbow. First was Grace Dimaranan, Managing Director of Top Peg a Filipino Animation company. Her motherly aura belies the struggles she went through to get Filipino animated content out into the market.

Next came a man full of flustering passion, Tommy Lopez, talking about educational reform and the tough choices he has had to make to first create a University of Makati that truly served the Makati community and, consequently, to move the Philippine educational system away from the standard mass produced system that strives to be everything to everyone.

Third came Paul Zialcita, known as the Warrior of the Drums. His talk focused more on his unusual synthesis of percussion and martial arts. He wowed the crowd with the versatility of his water cooler drum as he demonstrated how this one precious “instrument” could produce 3 octaves, sound like the bongos, K-hon, African drums or any percussion instrument one could think of.

Finally, the night was capped off by a rousing talk given by a veritable institution amongst Ateneo high schoolfolk, Mr. Onofre Pagsanjan lovingly nicknamed Mr. Pagsi. His talk focused on the one question, “Paano ako naging ako?” Who were the people that most influenced him? How did his experiences shape the person he has become? The audience was taken on a ride back to on memory lane as he recounted his misadventures and nuggets of wisdom picked up from 80 or so years of life.

The Bud of the Bud

While all of these speakers talked about a wide array of topics, I could not help but notice that certain themes wafted above the rest. From the point of view of a twentysomething looking for her place in life, there are three that particularly hit close to home.

All the speakers had a strong sense of who they were. Mr. Pagsi describes the experience of defining his core value – the one value that would remain constant as all other things in your life are taken away by writing ten things that would define your life and slowly, painfully whittling this list to only one.

Each person on that stage had a clear idea of what they were exactly working for, be it a stronger Filipino artistic pride or giving the Filipino community better education. The lives that stood before us that night made no qualms about the people they have become. They presented themselves as they were, no excuses. They have made the task of defining their core value and proceeded to make their lives and dreams around it. Knowing themselves let them gave them the ground on which to dare to dream or mangahas mangarap in the words of Mr. Pagsi.

Second was the strong sense of self-worth that was implicitly conveyed. Grace Dimaranan would not have had the gumption to make her own Filipino animated content were it not for her strong sense of belief in her artistic capability. Likewise, Tommy Lopez lack of a college degree would have stopped him from even contemplating the thought of an AIM degree if he had doubted himself. It is this strong sense of self worth that made each one risk everything, their whole self, for the things that they believe in.

Finally each life on that stage had risked and continue to risk. There was a risk to put up half of the money in making Grace’s first foray into Filipino animated content, Tutubi Patrol. There was a risk to change the way things are done in a rigid environment of education rife with standard tests where mistakes stigmatize students. The speakers all have poured their beings into the road they chose. They dreamt capa y espada (with cape in hand and sword flourishing), as Onofre’s mother, Tentay would have termed it.

To a twentysomething like me, these lessons were the biggest one learned and the most difficult to apply. And, to answer the question posed at the beginning of the article, I realized that while Tommy Lopez was correct in saying we were all there because we cared, I was also there because I needed something to hope in – extraordinary stories of triumph. The kind that need to be heard, so that others may know that it is not impossible to dream big dreams… and have them come true.


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