Saint Pedro Poveda College held its first Model United Nations Assembly on November 21, 2014. The theme for this school year's MUNA was "The Role of Women in Poverty Reduction".
In the past, most students only found an opportunity to peer into and express their stand on issues faced by our country and the international community within the confines of a classroom, during the hour-long Social Studies classes. Students would raise questions and express their opinions on the country's state of affairs in Balitaan sessions, and perhaps justify their reasoning with some of the lessons learned in class. Although there was always a steady supply of driven and opinionated students, such news-sharing sessions and a few debates here and there were seemingly the only available springboards for ideas.
The Model United Nations Assembly's objective is to educate students on international affairs, diplomacy, and the fundamentals of the UN. Perhaps this was the opportune moment to integrate the program into the curriculum; it is aligned with the objectives of the K-12 program to provide an education that encompasses all fields and interests, and gave way for students to sink their teeth into the historical, social, economic, cultural, and political perspectives of foreign nations.
Prior to the event, a representative was chosen from each batch in the high school department to be a delegate at the Model United Nations hosted by the University of Asia and the Pacific from 25 September 2014 to 27 September 2014. Maxine Gutierrez from Grade 7, Gabriella Lagdameo from Grade 8, Gia Serrano from Grade 9, Sofia Piñon from Grade 10, Leanza Lopez from 3rd Year, and Andrea Ahyong from 4th Year were the selected students. They were tasked to observe and absorb; once they returned they had to pass on whatever they'd learned to their respective batches as a means of preparation for the school's own event. As for the author's own view on the experience, it was an initially daunting task to undertake, mainly because it was our first time and very few high school students were in attendance. However, the event was ultimately an effective learning experience.
In preparation for the school's own assembly, each section had to provide a comprehensive and legitimately sourced research on their assigned countries, with two students selected as delegates per section. The chosen delegates were trained by members of the UA&P and Ateneo MUN, headed by UA&P's Secretary-General and Poveda's invited Honorable Chair Mr. Nicolas Espinoza. These students were trained on parliamentary procedures, delivering speeches for debates, drafting resolutions, and mastering the art of research; skills that would prove useful not only upon presentation when speaking at the assembly's podium, but also in the pursuit of their future careers.
Poveda's first MUN was held on 21 November 2014. The delegates, dressed in full business attire for the occasion, looked the part of student-cum-ambassador. Having been trained in the weeks prior, the students were pulled out of their morning classes for the program's commencement, opening remarks, and General Debate, which would not be seen by an audience for the time being.
"Everyone was so scared of making mistakes, no one could even motion to begin the MUNA ceremony.", Nicole Garay, the delegate of Venezuela, recalls of start of the program. It didn't take long for the initial anxiety to fade, delegates soon joined the Speakers List and gave speeches on their country's stand on the issue and proposed solutions. In between speeches, delegates formed working groups and drafted resolutions during moderated and unmoderated caucuses. Two working groups submitted their resolutions, before a lunch break that preceded the main event which was viewed by Poveda's entire high school department and visiting spectators from Xavier. The goal of the audience's presence was to educate the student body on how world leaders tackle global issues and create significant policies.
The students filled the bleachers to witness what they and their representatives prepared for the past months. They were tasked to pay attention to Substantive Debate proceedings in order to answer a passport-like booklet. Kricket Kahulugan, a member of the audience, noted that "(I believe that) they were diplomatic and tried to reason out their ideas. They spoke objectively rather than being biased about their personal feelings.". Delegates debated on the resolutions at hand, giving supportive or oppositional speeches and amending clauses. With everyone watching, they were able to show off their oratorical and snap decision-making capabilities for the purpose of protecting their countries' interests. In the end, the house proceeded to Voting Bloc and both resolutions were passed. As the Chair's gavel marked the conclusion of the year's assembly, the delegates cheered and commended their peers as the audience and members of the dais looked on with levity.
The establishment of MUNA in our school is perhaps one of the most progressive moves we've taken in improving our curriculum. The program not only aims to broaden our knowledge on international affairs, but challenges us to experience and understand the outlook of another country as our own. Past outreach programs on how we can be of help to our country and its less-privileged communities are taken to the next level. How can we be global citizens? How can the youth of today solve the world's problems, when our own everyday quandaries seem so inescapable and unsolvable? With the opportunity to undertake the personification of a foreign sovereign state, we not only sympathize and seek the vindication and welfare of our assignment, we also realize that sometimes the plights of those across the globe are not uncommon to our own.