No Free Lunch

Bridging divides, fostering change

I came out of an evening gathering a few nights ago feeling a renewed surge of hope for our country. I listened intently as 35 young people from various parts of the country described initiatives they are spearheading to help improve lives around them. Their energy and enthusiasm were contagious, and their dedication and passion palpable. Here was a diverse group of inspired idealists, all articulate and exuding youthful energy—students, teachers, engineers, artists, police and military officers, community workers, among other occupations—who in turn inspired us who listened to them.

The occasion was the launch of the second batch of fellows in the Future Bridging Leaders Program (FBLP) of the Asian Institute of Management’s TEaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership. The program is the 15-year-old center’s initiative specifically focused on the youth, aimed at producing future leaders who will be catalysts for social change among the successor generation of Filipinos. Among the earliest alumni in the center’s main program were Bangsamoro Development Agency’s Dr. Danda Juanday, former Mindanao Armed Forces commander Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, and Balay Mindanao Foundation’s Ariel Hernandez—illustrating how the center’s Bridging Leadership program in itself has managed to bridge diverse and even conflicting segments of society by the very choice of its fellows.


From the FBLP’s first batch of fellows in 2016 emerged 24 young bridging leaders who pursued change initiatives in entrepreneurial education, employment facilitation, adolescent health services, cultural heritage promotion, and juvenile delinquency management. The new batch of 35 emerging leaders, chosen from an initial applicant pool of 500, will pursue an even more diverse range of thematic areas for social change, through an equally diverse set of trainees. Of the group, 23 are male and 12 are female; 14 come from Mindanao (with 3 from strife-torn Marawi City), 3 from the Visayas, 10 from Metro Manila, and 8 from other areas of Luzon. Even more diverse is the range of their occupational backgrounds, already described earlier. They will pursue change initiatives in inclusive technology, social enterprise, rural futures, responsible business, community transformation, education, culture and heritage, environmental sustainability, public health, and preventing violent extremism.

Easily a standout in her slick Philippine Air Force (PAF) uniform, 2nd Lt. Christine “Chin-chin” Calima is determined to spearhead the establishment and institutionalization of an Air Force Leadership Excellence Center. Through it, she aims to improve character development and values formation, military knowledge and strategy, and physical development in the PAF. To help stem violent extremism among Muslim youth in Mindanao, Datu Beds Kali hopes to imbue bridging leadership in the Youth Reconciliation Council, a group of passionate, capable youth in Maguindanao that helps mediate early youth conflicts among Muslim clans. Johnson Badawi will embark on a Peace of Mind Project that will wage a mental health awareness campaign and a capacity-building program targeting youth affected by conflict and violence in Maguindanao. Adam Anay will pursue his Stories4StoriesPH initiative that will strengthen the love for culture among Mindanao children by presenting strong positive characters and values rooted from their folklore and local stories. In Luzon, Rafael Madrigal of Manila Water Company aims to alleviate living conditions of relocated informal settlers by making water and sanitation services more easily accessible through a flexible cost-sharing mechanism. There are many more, each one a ray of hope in an otherwise troubled and badly divided society as we have now.


Some insights from the first batch of FBLP fellows perhaps well sum up the transformational leadership that the program fosters. One of them remarked: “No one is born a leader. Leadership is a personal choice and a continuing process.” Another said: “Vision is nothing without action.” I am inspired to see these budding leaders at the forefront of the real change we all need.

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TAGS: Future Bridging Leaders Program (FBLP) of the Asian Institute of Management’s TEaM Energy Center for Bridging Leadership, Social Change, youth
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