Journey to the Land of Smiles (Part 2)

It’s officially the first day of the Case4Space conference. But before jumping to the conference proper, we have to eat breakfast first.

We received a note the night before that we should be present in the hotel lobby at exactly 7:25 in the morning. It is to remind us that we will be fetched by an official van in going to the United Nations building.

I left my room at 7AM, knocked at Jinel’s door 3 times, and waited for his reply. He slightly opened the door to check. When he saw me, I thought he was a bit surprised with what I was wearing. He said he has another concept of business casual attire. He even cited Mark Zuckerberg as one who attends business meetings while only wearing a shirt and shorts.

When I was packing, I thought of bringing 4 business casual attires (as instructed in the logistics email). But the concept was not clear, so I searched how it looks. Most of the results were either collared shirt with vest or folded long-sleeved polo and slacks. I chose to pack the latter.

The debonair

It was a great morning with the Thai-inspired breakfast buffet. I was excited to really looking forward to the breakfast menu. There were a lot of food choices but I decided not to eat the “usuals” like egg and sausage. I tried the Thai ones. Surprisingly, the food was spicy! It was delicious, but I never thought they’d serve something as spicy early morning.

While eating breakfast, I met Silvano Rodrigues and Weipeng Wang. I got to know them as we eat. Silvano is from Timor Leste, while Weipeng (or Danny, his English name) is from Beijing, China. It is such a cool experience knowing people especially from a different country. Their stories are quite incredible to hear.

Breakfast with the debonair (as Jinel would say). Photo by Silvano Rodrigues

On our way to the venue, I met Dana Choi from South Korea, Wangchuk Dema from Bhutan, and Jeffrey (I forgot his surname, but he’s a Filipino too!). We had our first selfie in the van. It was an exciting short trip to the UN.

Front row left to right: Dana Choi (South Korea), Wangchuk Dema (Bhutan), Silvano Rodrigues (Timor Leste) | Back row left to right: Danny Wang (China), Rejinel Valencia (Philippines), Me (Philippines), and sir Jeffrey (Philippines) | Photo by Dana Choi

Entering the building, I saw the UN logo which struck me a lot since it was my first time to visit a UN building. I never thought I’d see it personally. As a member of UP MUN back in the Philippines, I see the UN logo a lot but never personally. The building is huge. Being inside the UN Conference Centre felt like I was already in the UN Headquarters in New York! There was a round table,  a stage with a backdrop of the case for space event, a podium, and the large UN logo on the wall which made it more surreal than ever.

Almost everyone of us looked fascinated hence all the picture-taking sessions. It was a bit awkward, but who cares? We’re tourists too!

img_4935   img_4933

We found our seats on the third row, left side. We were near the stage so we can see clearly who’s talking. I was sitting together with Jinel and Danny. Since I was a first-timer, I brought with me my laptop, a notebook, pen, and other school stuff. I really looked like a fresh-from-the-oven delegate.

The first day’s session talked about the current civic space that we have in the society, and how the youth is participating towards the attainment of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) inside that civic space. It was a long day full of plenary and breakout sessions. It was interesting since I do care about what I can contribute in the implementation of the SDGs.

What is ‘civic space’?
Civic space is defined as an area – either physical or virtual/online – in which all members of society, both as individuals and groups, are able to freely, effectively and without discrimination exercise their basic civil rights, such as the right to information, to freedom of expression, to assembly and association. In other words, civic space refers to the conditions that are necessary to enable members of society to undertake free and voluntary action in order to advance socially-relevant goals.

This is according to the definition found in

While a lot of Filipino youth are still unaware of the SDGs and its importance, I want to make sure I do my part towards its realization. It’s a bit of a long shot for me to do it alone, but thankfully a lot of youth leaders were there too to take part.

My co-winners in the Call for Stories category are all accomplished youth leaders in their countries. Some are already working for their organizations. Honestly, I thought I was going to be the youngest participant since everyone I met so far were already taking (or have already taken) their Master’s Degree. But then I met later on Geon Hee Lee from South Korea (we call him “Ban Ki Moon” haha) and Samira Hassan from Singapore. They are both 17 year old (and were both incredibly awesome!).

I met Kefan Yang (Kenya) and Ha (Vietnam) during the beginning sessions of the case for space event. Photo by Silvano Rodrigues

There were a lot of young professionals in the event too. Each of them are members of their own civil society organizations (CSO). I got inspired by the way they do their work. Their passion towards their set of advocacy is incredible. There were also people from the UN, Restless Development, Youth LEAD, AIESEC, Forum-Asia, and a lot more.

Young journalists all over Asia-Pacific were also present to be part of the Youth Newsroom, a team who will cover the 3-day event.

I got intimidated knowing that a lot of them are already doing concrete actions towards the SDGs even Ban Ki Moon and Samira. I realized I needed to do something more concrete than simply sharing development-oriented posts. But I needed a boost, and this is it.

As we go through the day, we also needed to work on our youth statement. The youth statement is something we already started writing days before we even arrived in Bangkok. Headed by Sarah Haynes from Restless Development, we are tasked to formulate a statement containing all our ideas, calls, and solutions towards allowing more youth participation in the decision-making processes. It was a bit exhausting that we have to work on it during the margins of the sessions.

When the day ended, the three of us decided to go to Siam Square. I am not really familiar with the place, but it is like a shopping site in the city. It was really impulsive so we went there exactly after the sessions ended.

TIP: Don’t go to Siam Square unplanned. There are a lot of cool stuff to buy, but you might have a hard time knowing exactly where to start. Know where to find the cheapest items.
(Know more here:

It was also that exciting time when we rode the Tuktuk! We are aware that riding the tuktuk is more expensive than getting a taxi. But it was an experience we have to have.

My first ever Tuktuk ride (and hopefully not the last).
These tourists visited Siam square unprepared so they ended up buying nothing but food.

The lights were amazing. We tried looking for a Uniqlo boutique since according to Jinel, one can buy a cheaper Uniqlo item in Bangkok. But apparently, not (haha!) Items are priced as much as in the Philippines. As for Danny, Uniqlo items are cheaper in Beijing. And so we didn’t buy anything.

It was already almost 10PM, and we’re still roaming around the square. We passed by a lot of restaurants and shops. We took a lot of pictures and selfies. My feet got tired since I was wearing my black shoes the whole time. But it was all worth it. It was the time I really felt the Bangkok air.

We went back to Trang Hotel via taxi for less than 200 Baht. It was an exciting night exploring the square. Lights were everywhere. But I missed the Christmas feels. Knowing that Thailand is generally a Buddhist country, they do not celebrate Christmas. It was the end of November, and I am missing the flickering lights of Christmas.

More photos HERE.
Photos in the story are all mine otherwise mentioned.

READ: Journey to the Land of Smiles (Part 1)


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