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[PH Voices] Who Are These People?

By Paola Nicole Figueroa

In November 2016, I was lucky to be part of the Philippine delegation sent to Lima, Peru to attend the APEC CEO Summit, under the APEC Voices of the Future (VOF) ProgramI was an educator tasked to facilitate youth delegates, and also served as a representative and leader from my country.

The summit focused on “Quality Growth and Human Development”, and what caught my attention were all the talks on being “inclusive”. As an entrepreneur by profession, it is very easy to mind my own business — why do I need to worry about small people? Why do I need to worry about problems outside of my industry?

The answer to all the “Why’s” were thankfully addressed and shared during the summit, and I got it from the most unexpected of sources. Typically, an educator gives while an entrepreneur takes. Though I was the educator/giver in this case, in reality, I was really the one being schooled by the youth delegates. This is the consciousness I learned to balance by joining the APEC VOF Program.

Who are these people??” was what I found myself asking most of the time, often bewildered, usually amazed. I enjoyed most being in the company of the delegates and their brilliant minds. I was with youth delegates who spoke about the future of water, bananas, robotics, labor, social media, plastic bottles, sports, drugs, health, and family. They cared and they wanted to make a difference everywhere. If given the opportunity, I believe they could.

I also learned that the landscape is changing. I learned that the society we built benefits only a select few. I learned that we must redesign our style to be more inclusive for people, and more sustainable for our resources. I am proud to be an alumnus of an association that is driven to pursue solutions to problems like this, and has the machinery and actionable measures to make a difference.

Where does one go after conquering Machu Picchu? We start off by caring about what matters, looking for opportunities to matter, wanting and working to make a difference everywhere, and always believing we could. That’s where we go.

My message to Filipino youth is to read the story of the “The Ant and the Grasshopper”. Prepare and over-prepare to make a difference. Economies have so many problems left unsolved–choose one and dive deep.


Paola Figueroa is an educator during APEC VOF 2016 held in Lima, Peru. She currently works in her family business, which operates educational playgrounds in metropolitan malls. She is also an active volunteer for an international organization that teaches peace education to children.

PH Voices is a space where former APEC VOF PH alumni can share their experiences and lessons learned from the VOF program, as well as views and insights on important issues – from the youth perspective.