Written by philippines

Cebu City—the Youth 4 Sustainable Cities tour bus has finally made its way to Cebu City. Historically, Cebu’s heritage is well-spoken for – in our early history books we encounter records of the nation’s first resistance and therefore our first heroes; culturally, the city continues to flourish, welcoming new waves of tourists annually to its array of festivals. Gastronomically, of course, who hasn’t heard about their world-famous lechon?

According to the 2015 Census of Population, Cebu City was the most populous among other highly urbanized cities, amounting to 923 thousand people, followed by Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue City. With a median age of 23.8 years, Cebu is ranked as the youngest city in Central Visayas, with half its population born in the year 1995-1996 – mostly young adults.

Following a four hour drive from Dumaguete City, the shift in the city’s pulse was already palpable. We settled down to host the two day training with our community partner The Company Cebu, a co-working space at the heart of the city that fosters community events like startup accelerators and educational forums.

“With a median age of 23.8 years, Cebu is ranked as the youngest city in Central Visayas, with half its population born in the year 1995-1996 – mostly young adults.”


Day 1: February 22

Day 1 focused on fostering community and creating synergy among our 27 ambassadors. A quick ice breaker and a few brief introductions later, our young leaders were already connecting with each other with ease.

What better way to engage with young change-makers than by connecting two languages they speak fluently: social media and collective action? We asked our ambassadors to come up with their own online campaign hashtag to promote one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals they were to pick at random – their local dialect!

In the spirit of Greta Thunberg’s campaign #FridaysForFuture, this activity gave the ambassadors insight about the process that goes into creating events that resonate and spur people to action.

“In the spirit of Greta Thunberg’s campaign #FridaysForFuture, this activity gave the ambassadors insight about the process that goes into creating events that resonate and spur people to action.”

One hashtag was #BinhiSaMalungtarungUgma for SDG #13: Climate Action, which means Seeds for Sustainable Tomorrow. Another was #SalingsingSaYutangKabilin for #15: Life on Land – Grow The Land You Inherited, and #10: Reduced Inequalities, #PatasNgaPaglamboParaSaTanan, translating to Fair Growth For All.

Context is key in designing urban solutions, and the ambassadors dug deep and collaborated to map Cebu’s unique ecosystem, identifying the available resources, partners, barriers to action, and other important clues.

When asked to describe Cebu, many wrote: magaling, creative, good English speakers. Another ambassador mentioned a lack of resources, but none enough to deter the community from organizing itself and taking action. With most of the group composed of students and fresh college graduates, this thesis was proved true. One ambassador, for instance, confessed they just came directly from a night shift; another left right after the training to chase a scheduled exam. It was incredible to see the the passion and initiative displayed by our ambassadors, despite challenges and pre-existing priorities.

What do Cebuanos consider barriers to meet ups? Many wrote: registration fees, schedule, info dissemination, lack of awareness and transporation. This all points to a lack of accessibility – both in resources and information.

Another ambassador mentioned a lack of resources, but none enough to deter the community from organizing itself and taking action. With most of the group composed of students and fresh college graduates, this thesis was proved true.

As ambassadors for sustainable cities, these were their major interests: displacement of informal settlers, irresponsible waste disposal, expensive housing, and, unsurprisingly, traffic. However, one topic appeared multiple times, more than the rest, which was sex education.


Day 2: February 23

With their context realized, Day 2 focused on clarifying the ambassadors’ next steps. Through pitch training and action planning sessions, we gave them the push to up their current strategies and polish their objectives.

We also introduced a beloved makesense methodology: the barcamp! Through this session, ambassadors grasped the opportunity to build the agenda of the discussion and share their own expertise for the benefit of anyone in the room.

Topic # 1: Renz on Thought organization

Knowing how to be relay information in a way that is accessible and easy to understand is a hallmark for any effective communicator. Renz talked about best practices is conveying any message, no matter the situation.

Topic # 2: Tina on how lichens can be bioindicators for air pollution

Tina shared the topic of her research paper from senior high school. Fun fact: did you know that lichens have a 97% percent chance of detecting pollution in the air?

Topic # 3: Sam on savings, investment, and how debt can make you rich

It’s always important to take into account longterm stability versus temporary pleasure. Sam, a financial adviser, discussed the importance of the financial literacy to avoid the common pitfalls along the journey.

Topic # 4: Debie on SOGIEducation and debunking some myths in science

Debie debunked common myths in gender and sexuality through an empathetic and lively discussion.


What’s next?

Following the ecosystem mapping session, the ambassadors formed teams to plan their next events around the top three issues that surfaced. The first team tackled sex education, particularly how to have a deeper understanding and awareness of HIV and AIDS. The second team focused on the lack of inclusive spaces for minority groups, while the last team planned to create opportunities to solve Cebu’s prevalent housing problem.

Team 1: Sex Education
Team 2: Lack of Inclusive Spaces
Team 3: Urban Housing and Informal Settlers


Meet the Changemakers of Cebu

Cybel Tantay, 20

Bel has been working as an advocate for children’s rights since 2016. With her organization, the Children’s Legal Bureau, she supports the right of out-of-school-youth to education through several programs, their own radio show, seminars and even trainings for parents, so they themselves can intentionally create safe spaces in the home.

Aside from this, she continues to learn about how to provide institutional support to children through her organization that handles legal cases, protecting children who have been victims of abuse.

Her journey all started with her younger brother; once very outspoken, she was shocked to see how quiet he suddenly grew. She discovered he was a victim of bullying. Since the incident, she felt impassioned to make sure no child will ever go through the same turmoil again.

“Children have the capacity to be changemakers. If walang nagguide sa mga bata, sino magiging future natin? If wala silang direction? (If no one will guide the children, who will become our future? If they don’t have any direction?)” she said.

“Children have the capacity to be changemakers. If walang nagguide sa mga bata, sino magiging future natin? If wala silang direction? (If no one will guide the children, who will become our future? If they don’t have any direction?)”

– Bel

As the basic unit of society, the family should be protected and nourished. Bel believes the reason why many children grow and fall into bad habits is due to a lack of fundamental support and resources their family should have given them. Through her work, she can help children receive training so they can not only grow, but thrive, despite their environment.

Alvincent Gonzaga, 23

Al is a planning engineer at the MegaWide Construction Corporation. Graduated at University of Carlos, Al is a young man with a big idea.

Al spoke to us about how steel is found in most architectural projects, but it is far from being the most sustainable. In response, Al proposed an alternative renewable material in building projects called: Bambtic, which, from the name itself, combines bamboo and plastic.

“Bamboo is strong, flexible, and less rigid. Thus, it absorbs less seismic energy from earthquakes, and it’s less damaging for the whole structure. Bamboo is also endemic to the Philippines and South East Asian countries,” he said.

Its convenience, combined with its lightweighted-ness, also makes the material a great alternative, especially in assembling off-site. This also makes it more beneficial to construction workers who do not have to spend many gruelling hours under the sun.

The only problem? We do not currently have a building code for bamboo (yet!). Al hopes this will change in the future.

As for when his involvement with the SDGs started, Al cites his LGU for planting the seed. With pride he spoke about the various initiatives his LGU began, which they would always share with the communities, such as tree planting events and coastal area cleaning. When he went to USC, he never forgot all the things he learned.

Initially, what interested him in the Youth 4 Sustainable Cities program was supporting social entrepreneurs, as he himself had an idea. It was his first time to organize and facilitate an event, thanks to the program.

How does Al envision Cebu in 10 years?  “I want Cebu to have a touch of the rural experience,” he narrated with a smile. “You go out and you feel the breeze. No pollutants, no additional stress to work. New enginnering methodologies, and, oh – a bamboo building code of the Philippines!”

“I want Cebu to have a touch of the rural experience.”

– Al

John Leonard Avenido, 21

Leo is a maritime student in the University of Cebu Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue. As the acting Safety Officer of the Nowegian Shipowner’s Association (NSA) 25th Batch, the current Editor-in-Chief (Online Editorial Board) and Literary Head of his school’s official publication, COME Nautilus, one can imagine Leo to be too busy for initiatives like these.

Yet, Leo also juggles his time as a member of environmental organizations in Cebu, like the Isla Paraiso Organization and Sea and Terrestrial Environmental Protectors (STEP) Philippines, where he currently serves as the assistant project manager in Terrestrial. In his leisure time, he spends his days writing, while also working on his own local environmental organization he founded himself, the Cynefin Group.

In 10 years time, Leo’s vision for Cebu is simple yet all-encompassing. “A city that leaves no behind,” he said.

In 10 years time, Leo’s vision for Cebu is simple yet all-encompassing. “A city that leaves no behind,” he said.


Youth 4 Sustainable Cities is a free program created in partnership with Citi Foundation and our strategic media partner GMA Regional TV that aims to inspire and support the Filipino youth in transforming its cities into more sustainable and inclusive places.

This program is the first step of Philippines based, Pathways to Progress initiative that seeks to engage and involve local youth with the Sustainable Development Goals and urban sustainable development. 

Youth 4 Sustainable Cities has 3 phases: 1) the call for youth ambassadors, 2) the roadshow and call for projects, 3) and icubation program of selected startups!

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Pathways to Progress:  https://www.citigroup.com/citi/foundation/programs/pathways-to-progress.htm