Mark Earl Angelo Antonio has always been a highly self-motivated individual, proactively seeking out opportunities for personal growth and constantly encouraging others to do the same. Beyond a background in accountancy, he has also a keen interest in international affairs, particularly ASEAN studies.
His first in-depth encounter with ASEAN was through the Southeast Asian Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP) which was aimed at promoting friendships and mutual understanding among youths of Japan and ASEAN. The positive experience eventually spurred Mark to be involved in other ASEAN related activities to enhance his knowledge on ASEAN, ASEAN Foundation’s Model ASEAN Meeting (AFMAM) being one of them. Leveraging on his prior experiences as a participant in the Model United Nations, he first joined the AFMAM in 2018 as an adviser to one of the student teams from the Philippines.
Figure 1: Mark with his teammates in the 4th AFMAM who also helped him in strategizing how AFMAMs can be conducted in the Philippines
After attending his first AFMAM in the capacity of an adviser, Mark shared that “I wanted to improve myself in terms of the proper conduct of Model ASEAN Meetings (MAM) so that I can better lead students who are interested in joining AFMAM”. This is indeed the spirit every educator should strive to have, the desire to hone one’s skills to be a greater mentor and inspiration to others. Hence when the email invitation to apply for AFMAM Training of Trainers (TOT) arrived, he simply applied without hesitation.
The AFMAM TOT was certainly an enriching experience for Mark. He mentioned how the intensive trainings in diplomacy and international relations skills have “enabled me to engage with a network of people and deepened my understanding on current world issues”. Moreover, in performing tasks now, “I believe I can better negotiate and communicate.” In three words, he described the training as “Insightful”, “Experiential” and “Fun”. He recalled that his most memorable experience was “actually one of the smallest segment of the program, which is to discuss how to translate our knowledge into actions, conducting our own AFMAM in our respective countries.”
Indefinitely, the discussion on translating knowledge into actions to effectively spread the joy of learning about ASEAN enabled Mark to accomplish two trainings for the conduct of MAM in the Philippines (Figure 2 & 3). They were conducted in two of the largest universities – Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and University of St. Thomas (UST). He provided a one-day training to the organising team and supervised the accompanying three-day MAM simulation. Although overseeing a MAM was a challenging experience, Mark was still greatly encouraged, “I feel my efforts will be worthwhile with the hope that MAM will be a yearly recurring activity training generations of students.” This is further supported by the fact that UST has already conduced MAM for three years, while ADMU was a first timer.
Figure 2: Mark as an invited speaker to introduce the MAM
Finally, Mark sincerely hopes future participants of AFMAN TOT to make the most out of the intensive training. Honestly, he felt that the programme had been largely academic but nonetheless a fun avenue to learn about diplomacy and international relations. Here is his last piece of advice, “The exposure to a network of young leaders across the region could also lead to close friendships in the future, but more so, they might help implement MAMs in your respective countries, so be sure to keep in touch with them after the program!”.
Figure 3: MAM in the Philippines