Today marks the 42nd Asean Day a non-Holiday for a region struggling to get recognized by its own peoples. I said it before, time and again, to make August 8th a special non-working Holiday so that people will talk about it - increase awareness.
If people are working, their minds are set on their jobs. But if they don't have work, or they'll receive premium or double pay, they will ask about "the Holiday". What is it about? Why August 8th? Where are we now? Is it really working?
I can't help but think that this Asean Day is just another regular day because they do not want the Asean peoples to be aware of it, once we the public are, then questions like "Is it effective?" and "Are they really doing their jobs?" and "Do our country need Asean?" will be asked. Are there things to hide from the Asean people?
Let's leave it at that, for today we are going to take a tour... so let's go to Asean City.
"Welcome to Asean City", the tour guide said, as the bus carrying you enters the city. "This city is home to 100,000 people from across the region, living together as one united neighborhood sharing their cultures with each other."
People are walking doing their own business as the the bus continues to roll on. Some will stop and wave to you, while some put their hands on their chest. "On your right is the Asean University. This is a dream come true after long years of being just a collection of State Universities across the region.", the tour guide proudly declares.
"I graduated from this University, with a Major in Asean Cultures, which enables me to work in any Asean member states in different culture-related fields," she continued.
Elementary school children are lining up waving the Asean flags as the tourist bus passes by. There are also the High School and College students, themselves wearing their respective national dress.
You were also shown the Asean Museum of Arts and Culture where each member States history are displayed (both in traditional means and virtual reality). There was also the Asean Religions block where different churches, mosques, and temples of the various faiths in the region are located - and co-existing peacefully with each other. The the Asean Hospital, the Asean City Hall, the Asean Sports Center, the Asean Police and Fire Stations, and the Asean Cyber Exchange Center.
"This is the Asean Cyber Exchange Center where each Asean City across the region can exchange information and knowledge with each other," Babysher said, which you just remembered. She showed you a virtual representation of the Asean Region (formerly known as South-East Asia) with each Asean City marked. Babysher moves her hand and the virtual scene moves accordingly, "this is where we are 'Asean City #7' in Bataan, Philippines, or 'Asean City Mabuhay' as it is officially named.
"These cities are villages with some privileges and restrictions. For example, Asean Cities have some autonomousity when it comes to the management of the village. And an example of restriction, the city have to exemplify the ideals of the ASEAN Organization - non-interference. In simplest of terms, these cities are meant for cultural exchanges, for you and me, as well as to serve as an ideal example of how we, as a region, can live together in spite of our diversity.
"And this ends today's tour my fellow Aseans. You are free to roam the city and learn more about Asean and its peoples. You can also visit the City Hall and ask for information of how you can become part of an Asean City. We will meet back here 4 hours from now. Mabuhay!" Babysher smiles and bows down.
Is this possible? Asean City? I hope so. This is, in my opinion, one way of spreading the Asean integration in the grassroots level. A huge project and will take maybe ten years to materialize. But how about choosing a village or a city and giving them the title "Asean City" if they pass a set of rigid tests and criteria?
The main purpose and objective of an Asean City is for cultural and information exchange. There is no better way to learn of each other's cultures but by establishing each cultures in each regional hub in the region. As someone hailing from the Philippines, we can have at least four Asean Cities - Northern Luzon, Megapolitan Manila, Visayas Region, and Mindanao Region.
Each Asean City will first and foremost, focus on its national culture. In this case the Philippine culture. Next, its local culture - for example in Mega Manila, the Tagalog culture. Then third and the most important of all, the culture of the other Asean Nations.
We're not just talking about Museums here, there's little cultural exchange in that, but rather making this Asean City a real village (or a city if one believes they can pull it out). A village where real people, real families are living. I am thinking that each Asean City should have 2 to 4 families of each member Nations.
These Asean Cities will be for cultural purposes only, they won't be allowed to have a say on politics specially the State in which it is located lest we invite unnecessary criticisms and possible collapse of the project. Leave the politics to the ASEAN Organization itself, and leave the cultural aspects to the people, after all it you and me that matters in this "Asean Integration".
I really hope this is possible. Feel free to expound on this idea.
Happy Asean Day everyone!!