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Finding Yourself and Others: Life Advice from Filipino Youth Advocacy Leaders

The youth leaders of Collab: Pitch Day’s advocacy panel

Reposted from our Medium account.

The youth are building the future.

This is the belief that guides Developh in all their projects, especially Collab: a by-students, for-students accelerator creating technology with mission-based organizations. It was launched last August 24 with Pitch Day, a one-day event where both students and advocates explore the intersection of technology and social good through ideation, community dialogues, hacking, and capacity-building.

One of Pitch Day’s events was an advocacy panel, where five youth leaders from various sectors were invited to speak about how they’re leading innovation and different movements. With added questions from the audience, the discussion included not only their advocacies, but also their life advice as well.

Below is a list of the panelists’ biographies, along with a summary of their answers.

The Panelists

Tia Narciso, Girl Power International

Advocacies: Women’s Rights, Education

Tia Narciso is a co-facilitator of Girl Power International Philippines. She is currently a student (taking up BS Psychology) at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Apart from this, she is a leader who is deeply passionate in the fields of medicine, literacy, and digital minimalism. With this, she has led numerous projects including the UP Psychology Society’s DIWA: Children’s Fair for Children with Special Needs and Soldier On: A holistically educational campaign for military orphans.

Macy Lee, Talang Dalisay

Advocacies: Mental Health

Macy Lee is a 17 year old speaker, writer, and activist. She founded Talang Dalisay, an accredited mental health non-profit here in the Philippines by the National Youth Commission and Mental Health Innovation Network based in London & Geneva. The organization has over 200+ members and 20+ partnerships with other NGO’s and schools. Currently, she is an incoming freshman at UC Davis this fall taking up international relations & economics.

Qjiel Mariano, Streets to Schools

Advocacies: Education, Children’s Rights

Qjiel founded Streets to Schools (STS) when he was only 15 years old. STS is a youth-led initiative actively advocating the children and youth’s role in fulfilling the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Change takes a long time, which is why it is important to start young, more so for the underprivileged. He believes that everyone should be included in protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all by year 2030 and beyond.

Bianca Aguilar, Developh

Advocacies: Youth innovation, Technology, Design

Bianca Aguilar is an artist and designer passionate about the intersection of technology + humanity. As a creative, she develops visuals to empower inclusive advocacies, such as feminism (Woman, Create) and mental health (Likha, Liwanag). She is also the Chief Marketing Officer of Developh: a global non-profit investing in student-led innovation to break the technology gap. Currently, she’s taking up AB Interdisciplinary Studies (CS Programming & Information Design) at Ateneo de Manila University.

Nicole Melisse, Redefy Philippines

Advocacies: Teen social justice management, Children’s rights, Education

Nicole Melisse A. Campos is the Pioneer and Chapter Director of Redefy Philippines. She grew up at the foot of the majestic Mt. Makiling, at the age of 17 she flew to New York to pursue her career of becoming a diplomat. Earlier this year, she has been to Yale University and Harvard University where she won the championship in the Social Impact Challenge of the Model United Nations, which led to the founding of “Redefy Philippines.” Currently, she is a freshman at the University of the Philippines Los Banos, Laguna under the College of Development Communication. Her passion for social justice and equity is ignited by the protest culture of the community she grew up in.

The Discussion

For those who haven’t found their advocacy, how do you pick the “one”?

  • Find an issue that resonates with you. Note the word resonate. An advocacy is a commitment; if you want to work on it, you must care about it, to the point that you spend most of your time on it. “How can you lead an organization when you don’t understand it completely?” Nicole said. If you still can’t find an issue you’re passionate about, she recommends volunteering. Try it out; you may discover your calling through serendipity.
  • Consider your past and future. In order to find your advocacy, Macy emphasized the importance of introspection. The people around you can be an inspiration. For example, she started caring about mental health because of her past: her autistic brother. In her future, she aims to understand how social media works alongside mental health. Both her past and future is integrated into her work for Talang Dalisay, whose services include autism scholarships and online campaigns.
  • Ask the right questions. As an advocate of quality education, Qjiel recommends learning about ikigai, the Japanese concept that means “reason for being”. When answering the 4-circle venn diagram, you have to ask yourself questions like “What are you good at?” and “What does the world need?”. When you learn about yourself and the world, you’ll find your raison d’être.
  • Follow your gut feeling. If you feel like you don’t know yourself well enough to find your own advocacy, Bianca advised to not take your hobbies and likes for granted; there could be advocacies hidden in them. For instance, she discovered her interest in mental health through true-crime documentaries. The way you spend your spare time defines who you are as a person.

How to win your friends/build a community?

  • Start out with volunteer work. Nicole said it was demanding at first, but it eventually became fun. Because of this, she told others she knew about her experience since there weren’t a lot of opportunities available in their area. They ended up joining her as well. Now, she has friends to talk to about advocacy in general.
  • Be a good storyteller. Speaking from his experience heading the non-profit Streets to Schools, Qjiel stated that gaining fame is near impossible. To get people’s attention, he had to prioritize them; this was the basis of planning the org’s activities. When people feel like they’re part of a bigger picture, they’ll get involved for sure.
  • Network through the use of schools and social media. Thanks to student ambassadors in numerous high schools around the Philippines, Talang Dalisay’s recruitment process was able to get a widespread reach. Macy also stressed the importance of checking who’s viewing your business profile (i.e. Linkedin); one of those people can be your next collaborator. Whenever Talang Dalisay got to collaborate with other nonprofits (like Developh!), she got to update them with the org’s advocacy (and vice versa).
  • Pay attention to every human connection you meet. Whether classmate or stranger, everyone has potential; Tia said that you’ll never know when you’ll collaborate with them on future projects. Make yourself easily findable online so that they can reach out to you anytime.

Raw piece of advice/call to action for the audience?

  • Keep going. It’s painful to reach out to multiple people only to get no response (like in cold emailing). Bianca said that there’ll always be someone who’ll say yes; you just have to find them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Consistency is the key to everything. No matter how little it is, what you do each day will build up to something big. If something happens, Nicole’s advice was to not let anything slow you down. Through consistency, goals are achieved.
  • Utilize your influence for good. You have more influence than you think. So instead of confusing people, educate them. Qjiel summarized this into the word “eduACTION”: using knowledge to persuade people to take action.
  • Tap on the unconventional. “It may be scary, but just go for it,” Macy said. If she didn’t take the leap of faith to turn her blog into an organization, Talang Dalisay wouldn’t have been able to help many people. So go for what scares you, because it will for sure change you.
  • Be self-aware. Know what you value and what you envision the world to be. According to Tia, that knowledge is the start of your influence as a person. When you know yourself well, you’ll be able to attract like-minded people.

Want to learn more?

To learn more about the panelists’ organizations, check out the links below:

Special thanks to the following people: 1.) Aryan Arora and Harvey Jay Sison for moderating the advocacy panel 2.) Glen Dellera and Angelica Casuela for documentation 3.) Gwen Ang, Benjamin Amper IV, and Rafael Maderazo for taking notes

Collab’s Pitch Day brings the Filipino youth at the front of innovation

August 5, 2019 ⁠— We’re rethinking the way technology is used to solve problems, putting purpose first: building tech-enabled projects with young people driven by mission.

Developh is kicking off Collab with Pitch Day on August 24 (Saturday), 2019 at the Amazon Philippines Office in Taguig, City. At the intersection of technology & design, entrepreneurship, activism, and creation for impact – we’re gathering over eighty diverse participants to explore what it means to tangibly build initiatives for social good powered by technology; and listen this generation of people making change who need help.

Collab is a by-students, for-students accelerator that works on impactful collaborations with mission-based organizations, working to scale their impact with technology; focusing on working with underrepresented Filipinos to build for good and upskill with technology. After Pitch Day, Developh is hosting a virtual incubator to directly build on the pitched projects with the organization providing capital, mentorship, technical guidance, and more.

The first youth-driven event of its kind in the Philippines, Collab aims to use technology as a bridge to solving problems. Developh recognizes that technology has given us the potential to change the world from our bedrooms; we believe that capacity can make a difference in the Philippines. We’re not just conceptualizing or talking: we’re here to build directly with technology and change the world. Through multimedia that tells stories, websites that engage and inform, AI-driven apps that reach the masses: young people can disrupt healthcare, start cross-cultural dialogues for social justice and equality, or tangibly make change in reducing some of our nation’s greatest problems. We know this can happen, and we want more students to be a part of solving these problems.

One social good initiative that Developh supported was, a voter education project for the Philippine 2019 midterms. Launched in just a few days, the coverage project and informative website gained over 70,000 hits in its first week of launch; and later on engaged over five million Filipinos across all its platforms throughout election day and the vote count. ( In 2017, Developh hosted Mental Health Hacks: an online creation jam that welcomed over 70 projects tackling mental health and wellness from all over the world. Projects included animated videos, poetry books, web applications, 3D gear prototypes, and more.

In three years of operations, Developh found that the most meaningful projects begin with a vision and cause – and that every student wants to learn and change the world. Run and powered by students, we’ve understood gaps in our industries that can be filled by the potential of the youth – especially when magnified with tech. However, opportunities and programs in the technology sector frequently focus on technical people, and only few opportunities exist to directly upskill and work with students. This leads to 1.) people solving problems that don’t exist or are poorly-defined, or 2.) technology that does not serve the masses. Collab looks to solve that by investing in students, their passions, and directly engaging young people to change the world not just tomorrow – but today.

On Pitch Day, we’re hosting a one-day event for people to come together, ideate, dialogue, and build social initiatives sparked by technology. Workshops and panels featuring speakers from local doers with global impact will give our participants the foundations on how to found or scale their own projects. Our cohort of eight advocacy partners will pitch their background, causes, and proposals at the event.

Whether participants join these presented groups or start their own – participants find the foundations to make an impact.

After Pitch Day, online applications will be released to join these partner organization’s projects before they embark on the 2-month virtual incubator. After prototyping, building, and testing, these groups and more will return for a Demo Day focused on industry leaders by the end of 2019. Learn more at

The Collab incubator will begin on September 14.

Global Action Climate Summit

About Developh:

Developh is an international nonprofit investing in youth-led innovation for social good across the developing world. We run education and accelerator programs to build the student founder community, making technology more equitable. By uplifting and upskilling students to access technology to build meaningful things today, we can shift the technology pipeline to work for all. Since its founding in 2016, Developh has been recognized by (the largest women in tech conference in the world), We Are Family Foundation, and more.

For more information on participating organizations or Developh, reach out to us at or Chiara Amisola at / +639176314588

PayMongo is putting payments in the hands of Pinoys

For the first time since 2013 and for only the second time ever, the Philippines has produced a startup entering the world’s premier accelerator, Y Combinator. From Manila to Mountain View, PayMongo is a FinTech startup looking to help local entrepreneurs and merchants to better their payment infrastructure — modernizing payments for the Philippines in a rapidly transforming digital economy. Founded in March of 2019, the quickly growing start-up has no shortage of all-star founders: starting with MIT-educated, Leyte born-and-raised CEO Francis Plaza to co-founder and lawyer Edwin Lacierda, a former Presidential Spokesperson under President Benigno Aquino.

The Philippines has no shortage of company after company looking to revolutionize the payments sphere. FinTech is booming with its ability for rapid adoption amongst the growing digital economy that Filipinos from every social background are seeking to partake in. With mobile and internet penetration at over two-thirds of the population with no signs of stopping: virtually every Filipino is part of the market. However, financial access still remains a challenge for many — which is why many are turning to financial digitization to head towards a space for equitable access and inclusion.

According to the World Bank, the potential local output rise if the financial inclusion gap were closed nears to over 14 percent. Meanwhile, a majority of Filipino merchants – over 87 percent – prefer selling and running their businesses from social media platforms; a long-running driver of digital economies in several countries across the Asia-Pacific, no surprise with the seemingly never-ending social media boom. However, despite the massive amounts of digital populations – it remains undeniable that social media e-commerce is frustratingly difficult to scale. Nevertheless, the same survey conducted by PayPal reports that over 32% of Filipinos with internet access have already transacted through social media – and plan to continue to do so.

According to co-founder Lacierda, PayMongo has its eyes on enabling Filipino entrepreneurs. Like the e-commerce boom that was furthered by the rise of Stripe, PayMongo aims to unify payment systems to help “sellers accept payments in minutes.” The national landscape has no shortage of social sellers laying out their entire business and brand in Instagram accounts and shoddily-embedded Google Form and personal mobile numbers. The upcoming FinTech startup seeks to solve that by streamlining payment processing — aggregating various payment methods into a single platform, and doing away with buyers taking snaps of deposit slips.

“People who sell online or who plan to sell on FB or IG often find accepting payments a pain point,” Lacierda shared on his Twitter. There’s no doubt that along with the continuous rise of emerging digital technologies and economies, that it’s time to ease our social media culture into something more well-founded and viable — PayMongo plans to do that beginning with the social media seller to the big business; with no doubt that a financially inclusive Filipino society begins from the very Filipinos that make this digital boom possible.

By targeting the untapped yet massive ecosystem of social sellers — mostly small and medium businesses that are locally-owned and operated — PayMongo seeks to further edge the market out to the online, cashless economy. Merchants have the option to provide payment options by sharing links on Messenger, Viber, email, SMS, or any other form of communication they use with their customers — no integrations or difficulties needed. The API is easy to use, fast, and seamless; it’s scalable while also serving the regular Juan seller – and is easy enough to understand for the local consumer. At the moment, there are no fees to setup or begin exploring the platform, unlike existing providers.

YCombinator four months in

After Kalibrr, PayMongo is the second startup from the Philippines to have made it into Y Combinator (YC).

YC is known for several successes in the startup world — significantly more than other accelerators and incubators that have followed suit. It specializes in investments towards early-stage companies; offering $150,000 dollars as their standard deal. This $150k is delivered in the form of a “post-money safe” that converts to YC owning 7% of the company.

YC is known as the “world’s most powerful start-up incubator”, and they’re known for that for good reason.

The Silicon Valley accelerator’s support extends beyond the huge cash deal. These startups enter cohorts (PayMongo made it into the Summer 2019 batch, which you will see flaunted on the co-founders’ Twitter profiles as “YC S19” or “@ycombinator S19” and the like) that are run twice a year. Founders move to Silicon Valley for a three-month intensive alongside YC’s head and leaderships where their model, product, team, and pitch are closely refined and developed. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day: a thrilling end to the cohort where an invite-only audience of investors and industry leaders hear the startups’ pitches.

When the cohort ends, YC startups are followed by the constant prestige of their programs. Although not all YC-backed products succeed (they’re just as unstable as any other startup) – their founders can be considered as an investment just as big as the initial product idea. These people go on to found more successful companies – knowing when to fail and when to fail fast, leading to their success in building. Since 2005, YC boasts over 2,000 funded startups under their belt comprised of a community of over 4,000 founders – with a combined valuation of over $100B. The portfolio extends to companies such as Airbnb, Stripe (what many are labeling PayMongo as the Philippine version of), coinbase, Gitlab, and many other household names.

The Y Combinator program boasts of an acceptance rate of less than two percent. It’s harder to get into than Harvard or Stanford.

Although PayMongo’s founders are no stranger to the startup world; the backing of YC mentorship, connections, and general resources are surely nothing to scoff at. Following Kalibrr’s continuous growth since their acceptance to the same accelerator in 2013, we have hopes in PayMongo following similar – if not stronger – successes as the FinTech industry seems to have paved the way for their continued boom.

By Demo Day, PayMongo seeks to further capitalize on their successes by raising more funding in its seed round, building its product and engineering, as well as acquiring more partners and merchants to get on the platform’s private beta.

Looking at PayMongo’s future

Currently based in Manila, PayMongo is Francis Plaza (CEO), Luis Sia (COO), Jaime Hing (CTO), and Edwin Lacierda.

You can sign up for early-access to the platform on the PayMongo website.