My name is Jose Luis Pablo, but everyone just calls me “Nico.” I’ve been enamored with the written word, especially poetry since I was eight when I had to write my first haiku for a class. It was this love that led me to co-found my high school’s first literary organization (which would eventually expand to encompass all creative arts) with a supportive teacher and my schoolmates. This was pivotal because prior to the organization, there were few to no opportunities for students in my school to express themselves creatively.
Currently, as an adult, I still turn to poetry as a way to engage with the systemic problems that continue to afflict the LGBTQIA+ community. Poetry, being a literary art, allows writers and readers to explore alternative worlds and realities (i.e.,non-heteronormative modes and lenses), or lets them walk in the shoes of the Other. This practice of imaginative empathy bares to us the terrors of institutionalized queerphobia and queer silencing and oppression, but also the "what ifs" of equity and unconditional acceptance. However, I think art in itself is insufficient to right wrongs. So when donation drives spurred on by the pandemic seemed to get quieter at the start of this year, a friend and I created a zine of queer art and poetry to fundraise Php 10,675 for various LGBTQIA+ organizations.
After almost 5 years of working as an associate creative director for an advertising agency, I joined the development sector in 2018. For three years now, I have been the Communications Manager for Ashoka Philippines, a local office of the world’s first and largest network of social entrepreneurs and innovators who are fixing broken social systems. As part of Ashoka’s "everyone a changemaker” vision, I convene the Youth Years Collective, a collaborative network of youth-serving organizations across sectors that have a united mission to form young Filipinos to be problem-solvers for the common good.
Partnering with a science and arts organization like BAFI is crucial to the achievement of Ashoka and the Youth Years Collective’s goals because it reaches young people and their mentors widely. Collaborations with BAFI have tremendous potential to incorporate 21st-century skills in traditional curriculum (in a fun way) so that more young Filipinos can become better equipped to face the uncertain future.
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