The Tomorrow People: Meet The International School Manila Class of 2019
The International School Manila may be sending off their newest graduating cohort to the elite cluster of Ivy League universities, but the Class of 2019 strives to stay rooted where they first bloomed. As they looked back on their fondest high school memories and forward to the wonders ahead of them, 13 exceptional young adults reveal how they envision to use their craft in succouring the Philippine society.
Already running a small-scale freelance film company at a young age, there is no surprise that Romualdez decided to take film and media studies. He is set to attend Dartmouth College and wants to one day grow his company into an NGO geared towards platforming the creativity of less privileged Filipinos. “I want the Philippines to realise media as the fourth estate of democracy,” he said. “Lack of education is arguably the precursor of corruption, and the easiest way to educate is through media.” Apart from his early stint in film, he also led the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools Golf Team for three years and have invested most of his free time joining volunteer organisations. Together with other Gifts and Graces volunteers, Romualdez was able to meet the T’boli tribe at their war-stricken community, caught in between the crossfire in Mindanao. The young filmmaker went on to direct a documentary featuring the tribe and their culture.
Driven by her interest in prevalent social issues such as addressing contemporary slavery and human trafficking, Te plans to become a corporate lawyer in the Philippines and dreams of getting appointed as Supreme Court justice one day. Pursuing public policy and sociology in Brown University would be several steps closer to realising this goal, allowing her to “marry the idiosyncrasies of society with practices of government, giving me tools to translate my passion into implementing true change and contributing to the Philippines’ development.” A strong-willed advocate, her earliest contributions to social development date back to when she launched a social media advocacy aimed towards raising awareness about sexual exploitation in the Philippines. She founded the service organisation Save the Kids PH, which gave her a means to “teach impoverished children livelihood projects in the hopes of educating, empowering, and uplifting them.” She also served as president of the Philippine Cultural Club.
More than social and cultural work, Te is also a violinist and violist greatly involved in musical performance: “music was and continues to be a constant component of my life. It is how I perceive the past and present.”
University of Pennsylvania
The former swimming varsity member and squash player hopes to join the ranks of notable businessmen in the country once he receives his finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Gotuaco is no stranger to the field, having undergone an internship with ASA Foundation, one of the country’s largest microfinance organisations. As for how he can contribute his knowledge to the betterment of Philippine society, he shares: “I hope that through studies in finance I am able to uplift the impoverished Filipino and work to the benefit of the Philippine economy.” Excited to meet like-minded folk in the university, he is also eager to experience the freedom and independence that college entails.
Class co-valedictorian and WWF National Youth Council member, Montinola’s immediate goal is continued learning which, as she explained, could mean either taking up graduate school or simply learning through experience. She dreams of landing a profession where she is able to help people, ideally in the field of psychology, although she claimed that she is open to pursuing other professions.
A versatile artist unafraid to try different mediums, she also hopes to keep doing art, professionally or otherwise. With high regard for autonomy over her own time and lifestyle, Montinola revealed that she looks forward to “all the freedom and independence that college offers.” Although her free time would soon grow scarce, she plans to use the time wisely by honing new passions.
“I have always wanted to understand how people think,” Montinola expressed when asked how she can utilise her course of study to aid Philippine society. The to-be Harvard psychology major believes in the field’s ability to offer new solutions to old problems that Filipinos face, along with “a greater understanding of our country’s psychological identity.”
As the youngest member of the Philippine Volcanoes and team captain of the ISM varsity team, Chuidian considers being able to achieve that much while keeping an excellent academic record as one of his best accomplishments. More than sport, the jock also has a passion for service: he participates in outreach programmes where he “builds relationships with younger, less fortunate kids, teaching them English and Math, and making them lead more meaningful lives.”
Fluent in speaking Mandarin Chinese and has background in occasional debates for Model United Nations Assembly, the incoming Dartmouth freshman shared that he would like to become a “global citizen with multilingual skills, working in international finance or economics.”
When asked who inspires him most, he was quick to answer that his lolo Archit Bartolome is his most notable influence. A rags-to-riches story that began in Tondo, Chuidian’s grandfather paved his way toward success through banking and finance, never forgetting where he came from. “His determination to succeed, optimistic outlook in life, and humility inspire me to be the best person that I can be.”
Limcaoco has yet to finalise the course of study she will pursue, but she knows that she wants to be a published author, even sharing early plans to sell book rights and have her words adapted into film. Versed in writing through various styles with her stint as writer at Liham Literary Magazine and editor-in-chief at Bamboo Telegraph, the dream comes rather naturally. A thespian born from an attempt to veer away from fear of performance, she now also aspires to be more involved in the Philippine theatre scene. Aside from this, she also considers teaching as one of her best career options in the future. “I want to help improve English literacy around the country,” the incoming Stanford freshman shared. As a budding litterateur, she plans to use her writing to educate people about existing social issues in the country, “appealing to people’s empathy and emotions, hopefully inspiring them to help make a change as well.”
Family serves as Limcaoco’s biggest role models, noting that her parents imparted some life lessons that she still holds close until now. Raised by a “creative self-starter” and “hard-working, tenacious entrepreneur,” alongside her sister whose determination she admires, Limcaoco knows to celebrate and learn from failure instead of allowing it to overcome her.
When asked what she considers as her biggest achievement in high school, Sy’s answer was simple yet laden: “I learnt how to use my voice for those who have no voice in society.” The Stanford passer actively participated in service organisations, which gave her the opportunity to be introduced to various communities. She takes pride in lending her voice to amplify those of the marginalised, opining that this “nourishes the growth of diverse community around us to create better lives—voices louder together.” Reminiscing her first trip to Bulalo Elementary School with Promoting Rural Education in the Philippines, she shared how joyous she was to have “created a source of wonder” as she taught basic chemistry to awestruck students.
Currently undecided with the course of study she will pursue, Sy’s top picks are computer science, product design, and management science and engineering. Ten years from now, however, she sees herself becoming a social entrepreneur promoting progress and innovation for local industries. While she promises to be back in the Philippines, she plans to stay around in the US for at least two years’ worth of work experience. She looks forward to experiencing Stanford and Silicon Valley’s “entrepreneurial and tech-driven environment, with the unique opportunity to learn from people who work directly in industry on the most advanced upcoming ideas.”
Poblador made it her life’s purpose to advocate for quality education for all. She describes herself as “a firm believer that quality education is the key to unlocking personal and national development,” but also recognises that it is not an attainable reality for every Filipino. Inspired by his father’s integrity which she hopes to have inherited, she is driven to “discover the best ways in which we can harness the collaborative efforts of different sectors of society in order to promote our country’s development by ways of education” by majoring in political science and urban studies. Committed to her advocacy, she co-founded BAYANIHAN, an organisation that seeks to elevate the quality of education in selected public schools. She also interned at Teach for the Philippines and the office of Senator Sonny Angara.
Aside from working towards this noble cause, she led the school’s tennis varsity team to winning gold and silver medals, as its captain and MVP for two consecutive years. Poblador shared that she is most excited to learn from “such a diverse cultural and political centre” as Columbia, and appreciates how the “hustle-andbustle nature” of her second home-to-be New York City is reminiscent of Metro Manila.
A recognised junior programmer and president of ISM’s code club and robotics club, Lopez already has definitive plans for his—and the country’s—future: he aspires to make good use of his newfound interest in artificial intelligence and neural network to improve Philippine society. “In comparison to other well-developed countries, the Philippines still has a long way to go when it comes to scientific development and technological efficiency,” the to-be computer science major explained. “Upon studying economics, I’ve learnt that these things are crucial for long-term economic growth and improved standard of living for the country.”
Lopez hopes to get funding from Princeton to bring his ideas into life. To witness Lopez succeed in this future pursuit should be no surprise. He has already received praise for his work in robotics since freshman year. When asked what his biggest achievement in high school was, he recalled working on the annual Maker Faire as organiser, creator, and mentor. Organised by the robotics club, Maker Faire features creations by other students that he and his peers at code club tutored. He also ranked first place in the multi-processor division of the very event. This year, Lopez flew to Taiwan’s VEX robotics competition where they were able to compete in the semi-finals.
While uncertain of what she wants to achieve in the next 10 years, Lee is motivated to study history and political science. She noted that choosing these as her course of study in Yale would help her get a better grasp of the growing culture of migration and equip her to work towards being able to address systemic inequality.
A writer and debater in high school, she finds inspiration from her favourite authors, most recently Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Lee served as the editor-in- chief of Liham Literary Magazine and worked as a drama and poetry instructor for underprivileged middle schoolers at nonprofit Right Start.
Aside from her literary involvements, she also held leadership positions in her grade’s Student Council and Forensics and Debate club as president and vice-president, respectively. Lee looks forward to representing the country “in a more nuanced way than American mainstream media” as she attends college and immerses herself in service clubs and the local community. With the US presidential elections happening in 2020, she feels most excited as the event will “make [her] study of history and political science feel incredibly visceral and important.”
SIJBREN GALLEGO KRAMER
With interests in sustainable energy and the environment, Kramer considers studying economics and chemistry at Princeton. He opined that countryside development is of utmost importance, believing that “the real potential of this country is outside the big, crowded, polluted cities.” He served as Sustainability Core-Council Nature Head and SPECS president in high school, where he was able to assist disadvantaged and abused street kids. He also spent considerable amount of time working with Stepping Stones, a school for children with intellectual disabilities.
Writing fiction at leisure, he was published in the New Zealand-based Headland journal with his story BASNIG. Inspired by his trips to Mindoro, this piece was named after “local fishing vessels that use light to attract and catch fish.”
Westfall considers Filipino reform “within film and the prison system” as her long-term goal. Enamoured by film as an art form, she opined that independent art-making in the Philippines is not widely supported. “The industry defaults to commercial films that cynically cater to the lowest common denominator. I am interested in revitalising and restoring sincerity within the industry,” Westfall explained, sharing that she plans to someday inspire and collaborate with young filmmakers to redefine how the Philippines is depicted on screen. She believes that taking up Film and Media Studies and Political Science in Yale would equip her to better convey stories that need to be told. “As a Filipino-American, I teeter on the political edge of two populist demagogues—Duterte and Trump. As a self-declared storyteller forged in the developing world, I am exposed to stories unknown to most.” Westfall is especially invested on juvenile justice, which she related to Duterte’s oppressive war on drugs. Visiting the Bahay Pag-Asa in Mandaluyong City and teaching street children through her own organisation Ate Academy helped her “understand how families, out of desperation and the need to survive, might get caught up in crime. I aim to illuminate these challenges to a broad audience and create space for reform.” Besides her family, she is inspired by those she calls “truth seekers,” such filmmakers Kogonda and Paul Thomas Anderson, journalist Maria Ressa, and film critic Bilge Ebiri.
An up-and-coming artist signed under Warner Music and filmmaker, Villanueva dedicates his free time on his creative pursuits, alongside academic responsibilities. Highlighting his experience in short-form content, most notably with Rappler’s and HOOQ’s video production teams, he sees great opportunity in building a career in the fields of marketing, media journalism, or feature filmmaking. “I feel that videography and media journalism through short-form online content can help to proliferate the truth throughout the masses,” he opined, noting further that he believes media censorship is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed, given our existing political climate. By majoring in film studies in Columbia University, he hopes to be able to contribute to this. When asked if he would ever change anything if offered a chance to redo high school, he simply answered with a firm no. Looking back on the sleepless nights spent studying with study partners and fellow confessed procrastinators, he explained, “I now know that such moments of struggle craft who you are as a person and ultimately make you more resilient and willing to face whatever life throws at you.”