Manila Youth Conference

Philippines | 4-6 October 2013

“It is not important whether we are just starting to consciously work for the betterment of our communities, or whether we have been engaged in this process for a long time,” said one participant at the Manila youth conference, the first of three such gatherings to be held across the Philippines. “What is important,” she added, “is that we are united in one aim: to grow spiritually and to assist in the transformation of society.” Her comments echo the desire shared by her fellow conference-goers—young people from the Southern Luzon and Palawan regions of the Philippines—to join in efforts to contribute to the betterment of the world. From 4 to 6 October, some 740 youth gathered at a forest reserve on the outskirts of Manila, at the base of Mount Makiling, to find ways to broaden this conversation to include an increasing number of people.

Three full days of thought-provoking consultations, inspiring plenaries, and vibrant arts presentations generated many insights among participants, culminating in a closing session in which youth shared what they had learned and what they planned to implement upon returning to their neighbourhoods and villages. “I used to keep to myself, just because I am a tribal man, and some of us feel that we are insignificant or uneducated,” said one participant, who together with his friends walked for eight hours as part of their journey to the conference. “But since coming to this gathering, and having studied texts that taught me about the importance of service to others, I feel I have overcome this shyness and I can now associate with anyone to join in working towards creating a better world.”

“I learned that starting change doesn’t need many people. Even one person can do something. Even a small flame can dispel darkness.”

A participant at the conference

Delving into the conference materials stimulated profound discussions, and many remarked on the increased clarity that the study and consultation had evoked in them. “Recently, a local leader suggested that I dedicate more time to helping my community,” a young person said. “A few days later, I was informed that I have a job opportunity abroad, and I didn’t know which option to choose. In coming to this conference, I have better understood the importance of supporting the progress of my people and have decided to stay in my locality.”

Workshop groups and plenary sessions were infused with creative expressions that allowed those gathered to more deeply grasp the concepts being explored. Participants used skits, songs, and dances to illustrate their understanding of a particular theme, and some groups shared artistic expressions that they had created in the weeks leading up to the conference. Youth from San Jose presented a dance depicting the twin processes of integration and disintegration that are unfolding in the world: the former bringing mankind closer together, and the latter, breaking down the barriers that block humanity’s progress. A group from the Mangyan tribe sang a moving ballad about the hopes and aspirations of their community, and, in a beautiful blend of traditional and modern art forms, a group from Palawan presented a tribal dance set to contemporary popular music.

Keeping in mind that efforts to build a better society are strengthened in unified action, the participants also recognized that the process of transformation could begin with a few: “I learned that starting change doesn’t need many people,” a youth said. “Even one person can do something. Even a small flame can dispel darkness.”


  • The majority of the participants were teenagers for whom guardians are a legal requirement when traveling. Guardians were found for all the groups of young people to travel safely
  • Many community members rallied together in support of the gathering, including adults that tirelessly assisted with food preparation and cleaning
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  • Some 740 participants gathered from the Southern Luzon and Palawan regions of the Philippines

  • Participants studied the message of the Universal House of Justice addressed to them dated 1 July 2013

  • The conference materials were translated into one of the local languages, Tagalog

  • Groups of friends who travelled to the conference together consulted on their ongoing efforts to better their communities

  • A young woman reads one of the sections of the study materials

  • Youth gathered in large workshop groups to reflect on themes such as developing the capacity for true friendship

  • The conference was filled with both purposeful study and joyful fellowship

  • Group sessions involved time for study, reflection, and the sharing of experiences

  • Participants used a variety of activities to more deeply understand the concepts in the materials

  • Youth made maps in order to better understand the realities of their neighbourhoods and villages

  • Groups took turns sharing the fruits of their consultations

  • Plenary sessions were joyful and high-spirited

  • Music and other arts were seamlessly integrated into the conference

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