New Year’s Yabai Resolutions

あけましておめでとうございます!

Frohes Neues Jahr!

Maligayang Bagong Taon!

Happy New Year!

Plastic.

I am sick and tired of the “New Year, New Me” movement. I mean, why do you even have to change yourself this year? Changing yourself every year will likely result in having a split personality or something.

Do you even have to change if you have a sick political ideology, and you endlessly bow down to a President that allows police brutality to flourish? Will pitying the dead mother and son erase the fact that you were once a blind maniac supporting a ‘strongman?’

I don’t think so. Changing your life this 2021 by denouncing yourself for supporting him is already too late. His daughter is now the possible leading candidate for the 2022’s Presidential Election.

Anyway, enough of these issues in 2021 now; why don’t we continue the Filipino tradition of toxic positivity? Let’s enjoy life! Live happily, and dodge all the social issues leftover from 2020 because we will continue repeating what we did this year. A stupid government affects everyone every year and any year. Why bother changing yourself?

I mean, being happy with everything is a good thing. And not speaking up even if you have the power to do so will make people even sadder and more stressed. Be happy with everything, and close your eyes whenever the government disappoints you, as always.

Also, go bingo yourself by blaming people for your failures. It sounds like the government. I know you have the same thick face as St. Francisco Duque III, who claims he did not fail his duty as the Health Secretary. If ever I hurt you with this paragraph, that means you’re probably like him, too.

Oh, my advice to campus journalists? Just continue being contest journalists, kids. Press freedom is dead and not a human right, anyway. Tokenism is still there; accept it. That’s how this big contest system works with the Journ Mafias who are afraid of students speaking up, making the Jorun Mafias happy this 2021, shut up and lick their dirty boots to win those contests, as you guys will always be contest journalists. Duh, get over with it, and continue becoming a bunch of school event stenographers!

Lastly, love? Love can fix everything, so go and find your special someone only to break their hearts again by not being committed and ask why there’s no one being with you throughout your success and failures.

Then what? Blame the people you “made paasa” and tell them that they didn’t wait for your first move, or they got too attached (too quickly), or maybe you just got bored with the entire thing.

Well, that’s fine. Who cares about feelings, anyway? Like what Ben Shapiro said, facts don’t care about feelings, and the fact is, even if you are a massive asshole while in relationships, who cares? Just be you and escape every tension you helped created with someone by making stupid excuses – continue breaking people’s hearts and ask something like, “Why haven’t I found the one yet?”

So why change yourself this 2021? Continue that rewarding narcissism and isolate yourselves from real feelings, social issues, and growth. Just be happy! Damn all those negative thoughts to hell.

Anyway, bato bato sa langit, tamaan e ‘di sapul!

じゃね!


Micah Corin A. Salonoy is a 17-year-old 12th Grade HUMSS student of Manuel A. Roxas Senior High School-Manila. She’s a consistent honor student who finished the Acceleration Program Curriculum of Sta. Ana Elementary School and Special Science Curriculum of Manuel A. Roxas Junior High School. Salonoy became Ang Gulong’s editor-in-chief in school year 2018–2019, also becoming a two-time RSPC Qualifier (2014, 2018). Together with 17 other Filipino students, she will represent the Philippines in the third batch of the MEXT’s Asia KAKEHASHI Project. Salonoy shares her essays, commentaries, and opinion on Revolt Magazine PH and Vox Populi PH. Read Micah’s thought pieces on Medium. You can email her at mikasaronoyu@revoltmagazineph.ink.

My Story: A Teenage Exchange Student in Japan, Part 3

Read the second part here.

We are currently quarantined for 14 days in a hotel in Narita as part of the government’s rules for foreigners entering Japan. Of course, the quarantine has not hindered us from delightfully experiencing Japanese culture and local sights at all. I started posting my student exchange journey on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. So far, it has engaged a lot of people. As of this writing, I’m happy to say that my two previous write-ups in my Revolt Magazine column have earned praise from my colleagues and program coordinators from AFS Philippines and Japan. Kids who want to try their luck with exchange programs are interested, too.

My school and esteemed journalists like Ma’am Eunice Barbara Novio have also given their congratulations and thumbs-ups. Consider this a short dance of joy from an aspiring writer like me. On to my story!

The Baby Foreign Correspondents

What has made an immense impact on me was meeting some fellow exchange students who also wanted to be journalists. Faiza, a participant from Indonesia, approached me after their photo-shoot in the country to discuss my article. I was surprised when she told me that she wanted to become a journalist, too, someday.

This is Faiza, a fellow journalist from Indonesia. We share the same stand about journalism press freedom, so watch out guys, we might be the one who’ll report ASEAN or APEC Summits together.

She also knows the struggle of press freedom around the world. These difficulties did not hinder her from reporting information to Indonesian households. I am glad that I met someone whom I might bump into and collaborate with in the future. It is a must to befriend anyone who is in this exchange program. You never know, maybe one of us will become a president one day and herald much-needed changes in our countries. That might be useful for a scoop or if I find myself in a bilateral meeting as an ambassador for the Philippines. The bigger your circle of international colleagues and friends, the more you learn about other countries’ customs, traditions, and culture.

I look forward to seeing Faiza publishing her articles and meeting her again at a future conference, or at an ASEAN Summit Press Center, APEC Summit, or the Olympics’ coverage. Writing about our exchange program journey is good practice for our future careers so that we might collaborate in the future.

In 10 or 15 years, I might see Faiza reporting for Indonesia at the IBCs of major events such as the ASEAN Summit, APEC Summit, or Olympics. I will cheer for her as I wait for my turn on Philippine TV.

Culture Shock?

Narita International Airport [UNSPLASH/thongzilla]

When I entered Narita, I did not experience culture shock because I already predicted what Japan’s ambiance might be like. The place was clean, and there was fresh air. What struck us the most was how cold the air was. If I am not mistaken, we landed at Narita when the temperature was hovering at about 18° Celsius. We immediately got used to the cold. My fellow Filipino participants whined last time about how hot their rooms were getting because the cold air wasn’t blowing inside. They had to turn off their heaters.

I admit that some of the exchange students are already showing early signs of homesickness. Homesickness is inescapable because we are comprised mostly of teenagers who have just been plucked from their comfort zones. Gladly, we’re all here to help each other with our homesickness. We’re trying to focus on and enjoy the four-month-long exchange program that we dreamed of and waited for a year.

We say “Sumimasen” when asking a question and “Arigatou” when saying thanks. I practice these words frequently because I wanted to start fitting in with Japanese society quickly. We discovered a language bonus when we arrived, too. Both the Filipino and the Japanese use the word “ano” as a filler while still looking for the right words during a conversation. Using “ano” while struggling to speak like a two-year-old Japanese (because of my grammar) made me feel kawaii at one point.

Disiplina, Delicadeza

What makes me respect the Japanese even more is their discipline.

As I begin my exchange program here in Japan, my country is just starting to feel the extent of the damage that Typhoon Ulysses wrought. Government negligence and the snail’s pace of government response pushed Filipinos to air their grievances online. Universities began promoting academic breaks as a form of protest.

President Rodrigo Duterte still flexes himself as a strongman during his late-night press conferences and rants about Vice President Leni Robredo’s fast response during the typhoon. Let’s not forget his misogynistic jokes. Also, NCRPO’s Debold Sinas was suddenly promoted by the President as the new PNP Chief even after his well-known blunder of breaking quarantine protocols to celebrate his birthday with his colleagues.

Filipinos defending these actions often say: “You critics always whine! Look at Japan; they don’t rant so much about their government, they always obey what their leaders say, shame on you!”

Well, guess what? The Japanese also protest!

They even put the protest in children’s films. A good example would be the renowned Ghibli Animation film, From Up on Poppy Hill, where one of the main themes is student activism. The film’s protagonists protest the demolition of the school’s old clubhouse, Quartier Latin, in preparation for Japan’s redevelopment during the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Well, guess what? The Japanese also protest!

The main characters, Umi and Shun, first met each other during Shun’s protest at school. He wanted to tell fellow students that the Quartier Latin should be saved. Together, the students find ways of saving their school’s clubhouse.

Love | Activism. The main characters, Umi and Shun, first met each other during Shun’s protest at school.

In Japan, people protest whenever their government does not satisfy their expectations. Japan’s Twitterverse was bombarded with Shinzo Abe memes when the former Prime Minister decided to give only two facemasks per household. The Japanese people were disappointed with the initial COVID-19 plan as well.

What makes Japanese government officials different from their Filipino counterparts is once they are criticized, they work double-time to show that they still deserve their government posts. They also listen closely to public feedback, or backlash, in some cases. Whenever a public official is involved in a scandal or even if some public official makes an inappropriate statement or joke, the Japanese officials will not hesitate to apologize to the public and resign from their posts. Perhaps this is something that Filipino government officials should do.

We discussed in our online seminars here that Japan is a conformist society. Everyone must follow the rules. Following the just principles of law will stamp out these public officials with faces as thick as cowhides. Philippine officials are known for abusing their power, even the law, to get what they want. In the process, these undesirables in public and administrative positions eventually harm those below them.

The Updates!

A Japanese vending machine with all the good stuff. [UNSPLASH/fabriziochiagano]

Here are the things that I’ve realized in my first week in Japan.

Day 1: I will surely get fat during the exchange program because I keep falling for Japanese food. This has been happening since the first day I’ve arrived.

Day 2: Doing laundry with a commercial washing machine is not hard at all. But yes, Mr. Bean inflicted childhood trauma on me.

Day 3: It’s fun to see the Christmas tree, but I realize that I am no longer a kid. Celebrating Christmas is weird for me now that there’s COVID-19. Christmas this year is incomparable to how it was celebrated before.

Day 4: Nattou is not “yucky food.” Sure, the texture might be weird and disgusting in the mouth, but the taste is not bad at all. It reminds me of okra. I need to drink a lot of water after eating okra.

Day 5: Celebrating a relative’s birthday overseas is difficult, especially if the Wi-Fi back home is “God knows why they’re charging us so much, but why are we not getting good service?” I’m not so sad or stressed over the situation, but Philippine connectivity will make you regret calling folks back home.

Day 6: Vending machines are cool. I wish the vending machines back home were cool and fair to users, too.

Day 7: The Japanese made tea preparation so posh that I feel so expensive and classy while drinking tea, even if I’m a coffee person.


And that’s it! Exchange programs do change people a lot. It is not for the fainthearted, and your values and culture will always be questioned and compared day by day.

To the kids who want to try joining an exchange program, I hope you guys are mentally fit to face tremendous pressure. It will push you to your limit. However, it’s still up to you if you want to change while still under the program or stick to your comfort zones. However, if you fail to change, your mind will be closed to the more holistic side of intercultural learning.

And to the kids interested in entering the Asia KAKEHASHI Project, please remind yourself that once you enter the program, you should always do what the Japanese people expect you to be:

An Asian student that is willing to be immersed in their society. Be willing to teach the Japanese students your culture for better knowledge and understanding. Give back to your country what you learned from being in their community after finishing the exchange for the program.

The Japanese taxpayers will fund your leisure and studying here in Japan. Show them that their taxes have not been wasted.

I believe that achieving this goal would be the greatest “Arigatou gozaimasu!” that you can give Japan.

じゃあ、またね!


Micah Corin A. Salonoy is a 17-year-old 12th Grade HUMSS student of Manuel A. Roxas Senior High School-Manila. She’s a consistent honor student who finished the Acceleration Program Curriculum of Sta. Ana Elementary School and Special Science Curriculum of Manuel A. Roxas Junior High School. Salonoy became Ang Gulong’s editor-in-chief in school year 2018–2019, also becoming a two-time RSPC Qualifier (2014, 2018). Together with 17 other Filipino students, she will represent the Philippines in the third batch of the MEXT’s Asia KAKEHASHI Project. Salonoy shares her essays, commentaries, and opinion on Revolt Magazine PH and Vox Populi PH. Read Micah’s thought pieces on Medium. You can email her at mikasaronoyu@revoltmagazineph.ink.

My Story: A Teenage Exchange Student in Japan, Part 2

Read the first part here.

The Senpais (先輩) and the Kouhais (後輩)

Entering an exchange program in Japan made everyone realize that they are not alone in facing problems. The old guards were also there and were willing to help us face every challenge. They are the definition of been there, done that, and their compassion to help their juniors continue to prevail, especially now in the period of the pandemic.

Any person who plans to enter an exchange program, especially the programs in Japan, must be aware of and respect the idea and norm of the senpai-kouhai relationship. Rooted in the Confucian philosophy (Li), it is not practiced widely in the Philippines, where juniors and seniors routinely and sometimes even openly compete. It would be absolutely shocking for Filipino exchange students to see how well-established the senpai-kouhai relationship is in Japanese high schools.

In Japan, the seniors are the advisers of their juniors. We often see this in anime and manga cultures. A good example would be the bond between teammates exhibited by the Karasuno High School Male Volleyball Team in Haikyuu.

As an “in-betweener” of the second and third batches, I often joke that I see the second batch as my semi-senpais. I have grown close to them during their cycle. I was also a batch alternate. I remain proud of their efforts to help my batch despite the difficulties in their schedules and the problems associated with the new normal (both physically and virtually). From April to June, the Filipino alumni gave free Japanese lessons to our batch virtually. The senpai assigned to teach me is Alexandra Opon of batch one from Davao. With Alex-senpai’s help, I learned the basics from Hiragana and Katakana (Kana) writing, sentence structures, phrases, and so on. I may not be the best student since my Nihongo skills are still novice compared to other exchange students of my batch, but I truly treasure the memories of being humbly taught and helped by my senpais, especially Alex-senpai. Alex-senpai contributed to my moving forward in achieving my dreams.

After the language programs and continuous updates given to us by the organization, the AFS Japan conducted webinars for the entire batch. This is where the Filipino batch 3 were challenged by the need for seamless teamwork. In the first few webinars, they assigned us to deliver a special report. Our special report was geared toward letting the Japanese community know how the Philippines was presently faring. I applied my radio broadcasting background to the challenge. I suggested that we make our webinar unique by creating a radio or TV broadcast simulation. With plenty of brainstorming, editing, and a healthy amount of suggestions from our senpais, we completed the task. We shocked everyone by showing them how we can deliver such a sugoi performance.

The alumni also launched their social media platform AKP Super Senpais to help the kouhais adjust during the pandemic. In their YouTube channel, Voices of Kakehashi, they shared pointers like how to prepare before departure. They also performed a comparative analysis of the Japanese dorm school, host families, and the differences between being placed in a city or a more rural area. They also shared tips and lessons that helped us understand Japanese culture better.

There’s Always Tomorrow

Ashita ga arusa (明日があるさ), singer Kyu Sakamoto said in his hit Japanese song of the same title. The song is about a boy who was afraid of telling a girl of his growing feelings. He meets the girl daily at the train station. Hearing “there’s always tomorrow” together with the song’s upbeat rhythm has always given me hope. The song also reminds me of silver linings, no matter how catastrophic things get.

We had a chance to meet Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad at our two-day virtual event, Asia High School Summit. Together with Japanese high schoolers, we exchanged ideas that we can do post-pandemic, like sustaining Asian tourism, economy, and diplomacy. Even if there’s a language barrier, I gained Japanese friends who were happy to share their stories and tips. We also had the opportunity to watch Kakeru, a live calligraphy event in Japan. We learned about different Kanji characters and how they are artfully painted on paper with fine brush strokes.

Second day of Asia High School Summit with our Guest Speaker, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad.

Along the way, I also bumped into a group of literary critics, reformists, and journalists who share similar ideas to mine regarding Philippine literature and journalism. I am a writer and a campus journalist by heart and soul, so I had to join their battle to fight against campus journalism and Philippine literature’s demoralization.

As the heat between the reformists and fanatics inspired me to help them save the Philippine literature from the ruins of romanticizing deviances and perversions, came the responsibility of representing my scholarship program. I can say that they do not affiliate my opinions about literature to it. However, I cannot hide the fact that I am still in the program, and my actions will reflect on me the rest of the scholars. I sought the wisdom of my senpais.

It was a hard decision, but it made me realize that I had a different life path when I published my controversial articles. Why do I need to question and compare myself with them now? Maybe it was fate that I have a different story to share. My story is unique, but I return to what brought me to the foreign exchange program in the first place: the concept of bridge builders.  

It is still us—the chosen bright students from different Asian countries—who would contribute to the different paths we chose. It would still be up to our decisions which social problems we want to pursue and solve. Some of my senpais helped with the fulfillment of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Others helped our organization as volunteers, while others served their LGUs and schools during the pandemic.

I chose the path that others haven’t chosen yet: being a vanguard of truth to develop our country’s literature and press freedom. I have never regretted this decision.

It is what makes me unique, and I need to own it.

Rising From The Ruins

I sometimes ask why God wants us to wait. Maybe He wants us to enjoy the waiting season, as he stated in Ecclesiastes 3:1: “For everything, there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

Strong bridges require a strong foundation. The COVID 19 pandemic proved to be a real test of our mettle. Our bridge-builders’ bonds became stronger. Resilience would probably be the secret formula to our firm bridge. It pushed us forward from every failure and regret.

Participants change, departure dates change, host cities, and schools change, but our primary goal of bridging the differences by the power of intercultural learning does not diminish. Other participants left our program because of personal and academic reasons. However, the fighting spirit that they left earned my utmost respect and all the other participants and alumni across Asia.

Indeed, exchange programs are not for the faint-hearted. Being in a new community, learning a new language, being the one who should break the ice to communicate with the locals, the list goes on.

Being an exchange student during the pandemic proved to me that it takes more than just resilience or interpersonal skills and the faith to keep going.

Sometimes, I am still appalled that my story is not as smooth as the others, but far crazier, unbelievable, and even pathetic (not all the time, though!). Other exchange students have their unique takes and stories, too.

I started dreaming about becoming an exchange student at 15. I experienced hardship at 16. I was closer than ever to achieving my dreams at 17. This is my weird foreign exchange story, peppered with COVID-19, crazy people, and even crazier opportunities for social change.   

Postscriptum: People have come to know me here at Revolt Magazine as the author of Contest Journalism and Tokenism in the Philippines. Why not represent campus journalists here, too? I say, always #DefendPressFreedom!

Micah Corin A. Salonoy is a 17-year-old 12th Grade HUMSS student of Manuel A. Roxas Senior High School-Manila. She’s a consistent honor student who finished the Acceleration Program Curriculum of Sta. Ana Elementary School and Special Science Curriculum of Manuel A. Roxas Junior High School. Salonoy became Ang Gulong’s editor-in-chief in school year 2018–2019, also becoming a two-time RSPC Qualifier (2014, 2018). Together with 17 other Filipino students, she will represent the Philippines in the third batch of the MEXT’s Asia KAKEHASHI Project. Salonoy shares her essays, commentaries, and opinion on Revolt Magazine PH and Vox Populi PH. Read Micah’s thought pieces on Medium. You can email her at mikasaronoyu@revoltmagazineph.ink.

My Story: A Teenage Exchange Student in Japan, Part 1

Participating in an exchange program is not for the fainthearted. The same goes for writing. I don’t know why I tried both. I welcomed 2020 with plenty of hopes and aspirations. In return, I got adversity and losses. The pandemic story is just the tip of my journey of trying to catch my dreams. I was returned to square one by conditions that were completely out of my control.

We were not the typical batch of exchange students catered by the ongoing Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) – funded Asia KAKEHASHI Project. We were the batch that the COVID-19 pandemic hit the most. Repeated cancellations nearly shattered the shared dream of being part of a 10-month exchange program and intercultural learning in the Land of the Rising Sun. These cancellations put our mental resilience to the test.

How It All Started

Most campus journalism seminars offered in my time as the Editor-in-Chief of my school’s publication were expensive. These seminars were also held in locations far from home. Only the privileged campus journos with ever-supportive schools enjoy the perk of joining these writing events.

I was searching on the internet for a free seminar or writing event. Luckily, the Goethe Institut Philippinen posted that they will have a writing event with the Japan Foundation and the De La Salle University’s Literature Department. They invited Dr. Yoko Tawada, an award-winning exophonic Japanese writer based in Germany, to talk here in the Philippines. The event was free and we can even direct questions to the speaker. I eventually invited my journmates to register for the event and use it as an opportunity to sharpen our naïve skills to prepare for the Division School Press Conference (DSPC).

“Writing in Two Worlds”

Dr. Tawada is more than just an exophonic writer and award-winning author . The most significant impact of her talk was probably sharing her life before becoming who she is today. Unlike others who traveled abroad via airplanes and ships, Tawada-san went to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway at 19. I didn’t realize that I had a fascination for these types of stories before. Given that my primary aim of going to her talk was for the DSPC preparation, I focused more on asking her tips on having confidence in writing stories in a second or third language.

(PHOTO | MICAH CORIN SALONOY)

Attending her talk was somehow a success. In the DSPC, I won 3rd place for News Presenting at the group category of Radio Broadcasting – Filipino, and 5th place at the individual category of News Writing-Filipino. Two other winners from our publications joined me in representing Manila at the Regional School Press Conference (RSPC). Unfortunately, we failed to join our region’s delegation to the National School Press Conference (NSPC) after being outranked by better campus journalists. What makes the loss worse is that it is our last chance to get to the NSPC. We’re already 10th Grade; Senior High School will be more of preparing us for universities, and joining next school year again would be a challenge with our juniors being better than us.

It made me hate myself. Why can’t I be as great as those other campus journos known as yearly qualifiers to the NSPC? Am I not good enough to make the dream I’ve been dreaming of since I started my JOURNey come true?I hate that I am settling for less and not challenge myself to some more excellent and significant opportunities where I can prove that I am great at something. I lost my great dreams, such as auditioning for the Philippine High School for the Arts’ Creative Writing specialization when I was in 6th Grade because of the fear of entering a dorm school in the mountains. Now that I lost my other glorious dream, getting to the NSPC, I need another route to consider myself a brilliant journalist.

Supposing that I am not a great campus journalist, I’d better train myself to become a foreign correspondent instead.  I want to be as great as Kate Adie, who fearlessly reports in war zones worldwide. I want to be like Maria Ressa, who exposed the Islamic terrorists’ connections and networks in Southeast Asia for years as CNN’s lead investigative reporter in Asia before her fight for Philippine press freedom today. I want to share stories like Anderson Cooper, who always touches many people’s hearts, mostly when he covered Typhoon Haiyan that hit my maternal grandmother’s hometown, Tacloban. Even if it’s in German, reading and watching Uwe Schwering’s stories as a foreign correspondent based in Tokyo makes me more fascinated by the world’s biggest metropolis, East Asia, and the Pacific.

How about going to Germany or Japan? Being young isn’t a hindrance to studying in Senior High School overseas. My 11th Grade journey abroad will be a great story that I can tell as a novice foreign correspondent. Like my father, who worked as an Overseas Filipino Worker for years, I want to gain experience outside the country. I dream of becoming a diplomat. Entering an exchange program might teach me independence, make friends with people who share almost the same interest as I am, and have a practical and robust resume for the future to apply for jobs.

I finally decided that there would be no more second-guessing opportunities. I don’t want to be haunted by not trying something I wanted. I wanted to prove something to myself. If I wanted to become a foreign correspondent or diplomat someday, it would be better to start training myself earlier by becoming an exchange student.

Nana Korobi Ya Oki (七転び八起き)

Entering exchange programs can break bank accounts, so I searched for scholarship-funded exchange programs for Filipino high-schoolers instead. Two scholarships emerged: the KL-YES Program funded by the USA and the Asia KAKEHASHI Project funded by Japan. Unfortunately, these scholarship programs already finished their submission dates when I discovered them.

In February 2019, the AFS Intercultural Programs Philippines (AFS-IPP) posted a last call of applications for the Asia KAKEHASHI Project. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe created this initiative to strengthen Japan’s relationship with the rest of Asia. The Asia KAKEHASHI (Japanese for “building bridges”) was set to provide full scholarships to one thousand Asian high-schoolers over the next five years. Scholars will be able to study in both private and public schools in Japan.

I submitted the application forms and regained hope when I received a letter stating that I was qualified for the program’s interview stage. The interview made me nervous. My answers might not be the best as other students interviewed, but I know I did my best. I was so confident in getting the scholarship that I was crushed, knowing that I’ve only been selected as an alternate for the second batch. Despite my alternate status not being upgraded, I still went out to befriend the participants of batch 2. As batch 2’s departure date neared, the alternates were notified that we could try again to apply for the third batch.

And so I did.

If I am not mistaken, I was the only one from the second batch of alternates who applied again. I passed the written application, and I was interviewed again. It is more challenging than the past application, but everything is worth the pain for my dreams. I waited for my status to change. My friends from the second batch were all excited about the results. They even call me to ask for updates since they happily assumed that I would finally be part of the program. Sadly, after weeks of waiting, I was again assigned as an alternate.

I did my best for the 2nd try, but why was it so hard to achieve your dream? Where did I go wrong? Does holding on to a big dream mean I have to be crushed by disappointing experiences? I do not question how they decide nor how God gives opportunities and experiences since these things are beyond my knowledge. I questioned why I even gave it a second try.

I was about to let go. Factors such as advancing to the 12th Grade next academic year, finances, the need for lab tests, and of course, all the energy needed to get things done affected my desire to join for the third time. I had honestly lost my interest in submitting another batch of qualification forms. It would be another catch-22 situation. I answered no when the AFS Philippines asked if I’m still interested in the program. They asked me because they are happy to inform me that they promoted me as a participant in the program. Luckily, they gave me a reasonable amount of time to explain my side of it.

I believe that this opportunity should not be let go once it comes your way, for it is a blessing given to one in a million. An entrusted duty to be done better than your capabilities to grow as a person you should be in the future. My 16-year-old self cried in the corner as I write this to the Confirmation Letter they asked me to do.

Finally, after months of trying and tears gushed, I am now a Kakehashier!

Sayōnara, Manila (さようなら、マニラ)

I did everything I could to hold on to this scholarship. My luck almost ran out when I got into major problems, like applying for travel clearance, submitting my school forms, and communication about my exchange program became unclear and uncertain at some point. The entire process stressed me out, but I conquered all of it.

What inspired me to keep holding on is that unlike the second batch, where their program duration was seven months, the third batch’s program will last ten months. The regret of not being one of the 2nd batch participants faded when it became an exact win-win situation in exchange for all the hardships and sacrifices I had to endure to get the scholarship.

I might even get to watch how the Philippines will get its first gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics during my program; I am already looking forward to becoming my Filipino school newspaper’s first foreign correspondent. I planned to write about the Olympics during my stay. World, I’m about to achieve my journalism dream!

But then, as I said, the COVID 19 pandemic happened.

Wear a Mask, Onegaishimasu! (お願いします!)

The AFS Japan informed us that they would move our departure from April to May. It was moved again to August, and then late autumn. Ironically, the Olympic Committee moved the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021. The world neared anarchy because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned last August 28. Japan now has a new Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga.

The COVID 19 pandemic stressed not just my mental health but also everyone in the program. Some from the original batch left the program because no one knew our exchange program’s final departure date. Others face existential crises—many experienced breakdowns. Our mental states were anything but good, especially when we spoke of the departure date. Our first “final departure date” was April 1, 2020. Today, we joked that the first departure date was false because it was April Fool’s Day, anyway.

The worst thing for me was that my original host school refused to accept exchange students due to the pandemic. It was a huge bummer that I was placed away from the Kantō region and away from the main Japanese island: Honshu. Well, at least, my placement is with my Seoul sisters with South Korea for being geographically closer to them.

I am already jealous of the former batches under these jokes, especially to my friends in the 2nd batch. Whenever we have Zoom meetings, hearing their exchange student stories pricks my heart as I compare what I am today with whom they are now.

Why did I have to feel left out? We were close for almost a year, and now I can’t even hear their stories. I want to talk to them, too. I should be in Japan now, talking about my daily struggles and all the fun experiences – if only this stupid pandemic didn’t happen. The reality of the pandemic made me cry every night.

Why was it so unfair? We are almost the same age, but why are they ahead of me? We’re in the same program; we simultaneously met each other, but why do I feel belittled every time they share their stories? Should I continue being friends with them? I am a nobody to them.

It might seem like I am overreacting, but this is the burden that I’m dealing with at the moment. I fear the hopelessness that tomorrow might bright. I am already part of the program, but why is it that I can’t even confirm when I am going to Japan this year? Why was life so unfair? Why is the world trying to stop me from achieving my dreams?

How can my fellow exchange students and I confirm that we will have a so-called happy ending to our exchange stories?


Micah Corin A. Salonoy is a 17-year-old 12th Grade HUMSS student of Manuel A. Roxas Senior High School-Manila. She’s a consistent honor student who finished the Acceleration Program Curriculum of Sta. Ana Elementary School and Special Science Curriculum of Manuel A. Roxas Junior High School. Salonoy became Ang Gulong’s editor-in-chief in school year 2018–2019, also becoming a two-time RSPC Qualifier (2014, 2018). Together with 17 other Filipino students, she will represent the Philippines in the third batch of the MEXT’s Asia KAKEHASHI Project. Salonoy shares her essays, commentaries, and opinion on Revolt Magazine PH and Vox Populi PH. Read Micah’s thought pieces on Medium. You can email her at mikasaronoyu@revoltmagazineph.ink.

A Campus Journalist’s Take on Contest Journalism and Tokenism in the Philippines

This was written in response to a Facebook post by Mr. Jonathan P. Nacua, a principal in the Division of City Schools – Manila. Mr. Nacua has a background in handling school newspapers and campus journalism contests. In his post, he claimed that “PRESS FREEDOM is not a HUMAN RIGHT.” I was about to drop it, but my disappointment with the message and the person who expressed it got the best of me. If someone can claim that that “press freedom is not a human right,” then I, as a practitioner of campus journalism, can use the same to counter it, for the sake of practitioners of alternative media and the press. It is such a shame that this statement would come from a man who claims to be an ally of at least one alternative media, the school press.

In Nacua’s post, he claimed that “PRESS FREEDOM is not a HUMAN RIGHT.” (Screenshot: Facebook)

It is such a shame that this statement would come from a man who claims to be an ally of at least one alternative media, the school press.

—Micah Corin A. Salonoy

First of all, the freedom of the press is technically a right of the people, as per the 1987 Philippine Constitution. The section protecting the freedom of the press is found in the article that protects the rights of the people. Article III, Bill of Rights. Section 4 states:

“No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of the speech, of expression, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress and grievances.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified on December 10, 1948, also clearly states that the freedom of the press and the right to expression are inalienable human rights. Article 19 states that people have the right to hold opinions without interference and seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. The Philippines is one of the countries that voted in favor of this UN declaration.

It would take a damning amount of “mental gymnastics” to ignore or avoid the Philippine Constitution and ratified declarations of the UN.

This message about the freedom of the press not being a human right can negatively affect practitioners of campus journalism and alternative media. Instead of commemorating Republic Act 7079, also known as the Campus Journalism Act of 1991, the toxicity of contest journalism continues to lay waste on the country as long as educators focus on contest culture and not on the long-term gains of the responsible teaching and practice of campus press freedom and press freedom in general.

The “contest journalism” has created a despicable circuit of students and educators. (Screenshot: Youtube)

“Contest journalism” has created a despicable circuit of students and educators who ‘practice journalism’ without objectivity and a more profound sense of responsibility to the nation and the current demands of societal relations and issues.

To add insult to injury, the vile tokenism in academic institutions, where awarded students are prioritized and appreciated more than other hardworking staff of campus publications, continues to propagate the idea that the peak of campus journalism is winning awards. It is shameful for any educator to banner awards and the culture itself while glossing over the deeper meaning of campus journalism.

[T]he vile tokenism in academic institutions, where awarded students are prioritized and appreciated more than other hardworking staff of campus publications, continues to propagate the idea that the peak of campus journalism is winning awards.

—Micah Corin A. Salonoy

Section 2 of RA 7079 highlighted that such contests, conferences, or even seminars are meant to promote the development and growth of campus journalism. The policy is declared to strengthen ethical values, encourage critical and creative thinking, and develop moral character and personal discipline of the Filipino youth, promoting responsible and free journalism.

Any educator or campus journalist who claims that press freedom is not even a human right is directly negating the core of the practice. If it is not a human right, then what is it for? Is press freedom meant to support the powers that be? Was it meant to support fascists and state abuses? What is it for, now?

In light of this message, we must look at personages like Maria Ressa, who recently got the support of the European Union. She continues to campaign for charges to be dropped against here. There is also Julian Assange, who recently got offered a pardon from the Trump administration.

It is a sad day indeed when the national campus journalism circuit becomes muddled with people who are immersed, not in the practice of campus journalism itself, but pure and shameless self-interest. We must always avoid taking advantage of these press conferences, whether we be students or educators. It is unethical, and it goes against the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish as members of the alternative press.

I have nothing but pity for campus journalists who are persuaded to attend questionable and overpriced seminars spearheaded by equally questionable ‘educators.’ We are in the era where divisions and regions have become so desperate to win journalism contests. It is a shame that winning contests has become a priority over promoting the ethics of campus journalism and press freedom in general. It is doubly shameful that educators and self-proclaimed supporters of the craft now use the fissures and weaknesses of the system to take advantage of others.

Winning contests does have its perks, but let us not hide the fact that not everyone who writes and wins can or are already great journalists.

—Micah Corin A. Salonoy

It does not matter who wins or goes to school press conferences. Winning contests does have its perks, but let us not hide the fact that not everyone who writes and wins can or are already great journalists. I do not claim to be one, either. Becoming a journalist is more than campus journalism or, worse, contest journalism. May you, young journalists, promise that in times of oppression, your pen and voice will rise to the challenge of helping save this nation rather than winning contests and school-based recognition.

I wish this coming decade will become an “Age of Enlightenment” of sorts for campus journalism in the Philippines. I also wish that there will come a time that the National School Press Conference and other press conferences and conventions would become so much more than just contests. The current culture that we have all fostered has created a generation of wrathful and award-hungry campus journalists and educators who want nothing more than to outdo each other with medals and trophies. But when do we stop going at each other’s throats and unify critically to protect press freedom and all the other rights of our fellow Filipinos? When?

Happy Teachers’ Day to other educators who believe that press freedom is a right. Mabuhay po kayo! And to the educators who believe otherwise, history will be the witness to your natural decay and demise.

-30-

Works Cited:

Elemia, Camille. “EU Parliament To Philippines: Drop Charges Vs Maria Ressa”. Rappler, 2020, https://rappler.com/nation/european-union-resolution-urging-philippine-government-drop-charges-vs-maria-ressa. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.

Elsom, Jack, and Geoff Earle. “Donald Trump Offered Julian Assange A ‘Win-Win’ Deal, Court Hears”. Mail Online, 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8747593/Donald-Trump-offered-Julian-Assange-win-win-deal-avoid-extradition-court-hears.html. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.

“R.A. 7079”. Lawphil.Net, 1991, https://lawphil.net/statutes/repacts/ra1991/ra_7079_1991.html. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.

“The Constitution Of The Republic Of The Philippines | GOVPH”. Official Gazette Of The Republic Of The Philippines, 1987, https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/constitutions/1987-constitution/#article-iii. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.

“Universal Declaration Of Human Rights”. Ohchr.Org, 1948, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/UDHR/Documents/UDHR_Translations/eng.pdf. Accessed 19 Sept 2020.


Micah Corin A. Salonoy is a 17-year-old 12th Grade HUMSS student of Manuel A. Roxas Senior High School-Manila. She’s a consistent honor student who finished the Acceleration Program Curriculum of Sta. Ana Elementary School and Special Science Curriculum of Manuel A. Roxas Junior High School. Salonoy became Ang Gulong’s editor-in-chief in school year 2018–2019, also becoming a two-time RSPC Qualifier (2014, 2018). Together with 17 other Filipino students, she will represent the Philippines in the third batch of the MEXT’s Asia KAKEHASHI Project. Salonoy shares her essays, commentaries, and opinion on Revolt Magazine PH and Vox Populi PH. Read Micah’s thought pieces on Medium. You can email her at mikasaronoyu@revoltmagazineph.ink.