Attendance at the Manila regional conference pushed past 1,000 people as Baha’is from eight countries, territories, and islands met at a two-day conference in the capital of the Philippines. Nearly 700 people from the Philippines itself were joined by friends from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Caroline Islands, Mariana Islands, and Marshall Islands.
Such diverse gatherings of people who don’t all speak English apparently are not that common in Manila, as organizers struggled to find enough rental headsets to provide translation for everyone desiring it. The conference was held in the 1,000-seat theater of Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, named after the first president of the Philippine Republic.
“When we received the letter announcing the conferences, we knew we had to go.”
A young pioneer who attended with a fellow pioneer
Presentations the first day included reports from each national community of activities and achievements. Dr. Penelope Walker, who along with Mrs. Zenaida Ramirez represented the Universal House of Justice at the conference, gave an opening presentation and talked about the current needs of the clusters – “current” meaning “now, not next month, not next week, but now,” reported one listener. Five other Continental Counselors participated in the conference.
Stages of development
The reports from the national communities not only gave a good picture of the progress of the Five Year Plan in each place but also showed how the process of systematic growth unfolds.
For example, the presentations began with a combined report from the Caroline, Marshall and Mariana Islands, all of which are beginning to see results from applying the framework for action associated with the Five Year Plan. The next report from Hong Kong, Macau, and Japan, provided an overview of communities somewhat further along where there have already been significant breakthroughs in the teaching work.
Still greater momentum was evident in the report on the progress of the Five Year Plan in Taiwan where recent cycles of activity have resulted in 40 to 50 new believers, already involved in the teaching work and the institute process.
“I had just returned home from a long trip and had only 24 hours before leaving for this conference, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”
Participant from Asia
The final report was from the Philippines, which provided the participants with insights into all elements of the framework for action to foster vibrant and growing communities.
This progression in the reports created a burgeoning understanding among conference participants, adding to the enthusiasm and making this a very successful segment of the program.
Two messages from the Universal House of Justice – one addressed specifically to this conference and one dated 20 October addressed to the Baha’is of the world – were studied in 27 simultaneous workshop sessions.
The highlight of the second day was the 19 workshop sessions during which people from particular clusters or regions consulted on how they could best help each other to undertake core activities and to implement intensive programs of growth, especially in goal clusters. The overall result was an increase in the goal for new programs of growth between now and Ridvan 2009, and additional new programs by August. Also, 206 conference participants offered their services as tutors, 477 offered to join teaching teams, 268 people offered to be home-front pioneers, and 45 offered to be international pioneers.
After the conference, as the international visitors headed home, about 100 Filipinos stayed on for consultations the next day at the National Baha’i Centre in Manila which focused specifically on activities in their country.
“When we received the letter announcing the conferences, we knew we had to go.” – A young pioneer who attended with a fellow pioneer
“I had just returned home from a long trip and had only 24 hours before leaving for this conference, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.” – Participant from Asia
“I didn’t think I would be coming. My circumstances are not good and financially it made no sense. But spiritually, it felt like the right time – spiritually it was the right decision.” – Participant from Asia
Video: Twelve guitarists play and sing at the conference.
Workshop sessions give everyone an opportunity to be part of the consultation.
Everyone gets a chance to do personal planning and goal-setting.
Baha’is from eight countries and territories came to the conference in Manila.
A new member of the Baha’i community, left, who is attending her first conference meets new friends during conference registration.
People listen to a presentation during a plenary session.
Workshops focused on making plans for communities back home.
A choir performs during the gathering.
Workshop sessions were held both days of the weekend conference.
Children attend their own program.
Baha’i youth from the Philippines were stationed around Manila to help participants find their way. Here, people have just landed from the Mariana Islands and pose with their greeters at the airport.
In the workshops, people consult about how to help each other with activities in their communities.
Some of the youth relax together outside the conference hall.
Participants from out of town arrive at the National Baha’i Center en route to the conference.
Baha’is from different islands in Micronesia pose for a photo. The conference provided the first opportunity they had had to discuss plans across their region.
Song, dance, and other cultural expression are a part of all the conferences.