On November 2018, the Philippines through our corporation (along with other power companies) hosted an ASEAN meeting in Bohol, Philippines – the Heads of ASEAN Power Utilities/Authorities (HAPUA) Council, Working Committee and Working Groups meeting.
It was a significant event for power utilities in the ASEAN member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) as it is an avenue for sharing best practices in the energy sector. It also pursues projects toward energy security and sustainability in South East Asia.
With just the sound of it, I really wanted to be part of this event that was supposed to take place in the first quarter of the year. However, when the member states have settled the date for the 2018 meeting, it landed exactly on the date of my flight going to Singapore to assist in and attend my sister’s school program.
Can you imagine my dismay when I learned I cannot be part of Philippine’s hosting of the HAPUA? I was waiting for my boss to tell me to stay and I would stay. Haha! But I thought, there must be a reason why I can’t join the meeting. Besides, family is of more weight than anything else.
Fast forward to February 2019, the HAPUA Secretariat called for a gathering in Indonesia to strengthen bonds among country secretariats. Since I was tasked to join the corporation’s international commitments last year, I joined our Corporate Communications manager, Maria, in attending the event. And this is where I got to know Yogyakarta who is most famous among locals as Jogja.
Where is Jogja?
Jogja is a city in the island of Java in Indonesia. It is said to be the country’s cultural capital and I must say it is indeed brimming with traditions and historical sites that have been efficiently preserved through the years.
I can also say that Indonesia is so rooted with its culture and history and this gives them the identity which is vital for a country to progress forward. This is evident in their heritage sites, way of simple living and their loyalty and use of their native language. I hope Filipinos can be as loyal and loving to our native/national language also. (You know, English is important in connecting to other nation but there is beauty in being so rooted in our own.)
One of our hosts said that when you visit Jogja, you have already visited half, if not most of what Indonesia is made of.
Also, our super jolly tour guide said that since Jogja is still ruled by monarchy (Sultan), equality is maintained in the city. This is seen through the similarity of houses. Fancy and big houses are discouraged so as to promote equal opportunity for all. What a city to live simply!
Jogja can be reached by an hour of plane ride from Jakarta, just like what we did or a 10-12 hour land trip from Jakarta.
Upon landing Adisucipto International Airport in Jogja, we were met by our guides who welcomed us with wide smiles, a bottle of water and pastries.
In the hotel, the receptionist was friendly enough and spoke about the city. I would probably engage in a long conversation with her if I wasn’t tired. But yeah, I had to get acquainted with my bed for a couple of days, eat dinner and prepare for the next day’s meeting.
The Bridge of HAPUA
The meeting started with the ASEAN anthem.
Leaders spoke about the challenges and growing need for effective communication among member states. This is where our role comes in – the country secretariat serves as the link or bridge among the states in order to arrive with effective programs and resolutions in securing and strengthening energy supply.
As the entire meeting was unfolding, there were a handful of thoughts in my mind. I thought ‘what am I doing here?!’ and felt like a new student in middle school. On one hand, I was also happy to be there because I know it will be a new learning field for me.
There had been more presentations and discussions in the afternoon. Maria for one discussed some developments in a project of the Working Group 4 which is chaired by the Philippines.
Getting exposed to such meetings, I have seen and appreciate the mutual respect that each state gives to everyone. Amazing ASEAN!
Cultural night is part of any ASEAN meeting. It is where delegates get to experience, taste and see the authenticity of the country host. As for this gathering, Indonesia prepared local dishes and fruits for us to taste; and good music for us to dance along with. And oh, they also made us wear the traditional Javanese clothes.
I thought that most food will be spicy, on the contrary, most are sweet. It has a distinct taste, like pasty or creamy but sweet. Such a delight that they also have the same tropical fruits I love like watermelon, papaya, mangees (mangosteen)and honey dew. What was new to me was the snake fruit which taste like langka but only crunchy.
Travel is an education of some sort. Likewise, when I travel, I realize how small I am in relation to how vast countries can be. I see how God can put something this vast in order and I find comfort that all is well.
Jogja up close
On the next day, we went to Central Java to explore Borobudur including the famous and grand temple, the community of Ngadi Harjo; the Pawon, home of the Luwak coffee; the Magical Plataran on the hills where we had a splendid lunch and conversations about flight schedules, time differences and power situations in our respective countries (haha!); and the Hamzah Batik to buy souvenirs and ‘Java finds.’
On our last night at Jogja, we went to the city’s busiest street – Malioboro. The street was full of stores – from Batik to shirts to souvenirs. Buskers or street performers are everywhere . This is where tourists or even locals can ride the local tricycle or tuktuk or horse carriages.
I realized that there is really a special feeling in buying with local currencies when you travel. I always feel a unique taste of freedom whenever I use foreign moneh! Hahaha!
Dinner was fun with our young tourist guides from Hocus Pocus Jogja. But I just wish they allowed me to pay for our food because I felt they went out just for us when they can be at the hotel resting. Hihi. Maybe, I can return the care when PH hosts again.
We are one, we are ASEAN. Indeed, my fellow secretariats and I are diverse and different and yet we are related and connected.
Flight back home
The last day could have allowed us to see more of the city. However, a professor of mine (from Graduate school) emailed us an exam that is due the next day, so I stayed at the hotel to write the essays. Thank you to The Alana hotel’s receptionist for giving me bond papers for the exam. Haha!
On our way to the airport, we dropped by to the Bakpia store where local delicacies are found and the grocery to buy last minute treats for our family and friends.
On board the flight back to Manila, Maria and I were the last ones to board (again! We were the last ones to board too going to Jakarta, our baggage were almost pulled out already. Lol). Our foreigner seatmate who was a retiree going to Manila asked us politely and funnily, ‘Is there a reason why you were late?’ hahaha! We said we took time eating. Then he told us the story of him finding the best mini-pizza meal at only 40,000 IDR. He was such a talker and a funny person. He asked me where I’m from and when I said Bulacan, he said he had a friend there. Apparently, he’s been to the Philippines for several times already. He even greeted us with ‘Maayong buntag!’ (Good morning in Cebuano). Too bad, I have to write some more essays on the plane so we have to cut short our conversation.
Remember how I felt regretful not to attend HAPUA in Bohol? Today I thought, maybe God wanted my first ASEAN to be something this beautiful and memorable. He is truly reasonable, gracious and generous.💛
I would like to thank Philippine Airlines’ roster of movies that I was able to watch for the first time Wonder and of course, listen to Bruce Springsteen. 🎵everybody’s got a hungry heart…
Upon arriving Manila, I went to my class.
The next day, I miss Indonesia already.
It’s true what they said there, I thought. Jogja istimewa – Yogyakarta is special!
Hahaha! I think I have to put this here. Not all HAPUA meetings look like this, especially since this one is arranged for the secretariats only. This was to improve bonds and discuss communication practices to make coordination easier among the states.
HAPUA meetings with the Council and Working Committees are way different. And that is something I have yet to experience soon 🙂