3 Ilonggas earn Professional Fellowships from US State Department

NOREEN, Juby and Ching at the Professional Fellows Congress in Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON D.C. – The United States Department of State awarded on May 30, 2019 Professional Fellowships to three Ilonggas who completed the Spring 2019 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative-Professional Fellows Program (YSEALI-PFP).

Czarinnah “Ching” Araneta, Juvelyn “Juby” Boniba-Pamonag, and Noreen Marian Bautista from Iloilo City were selected out of thousands of applications in Southeast Asia to join over 200 young professionals from all over the world for a fully-funded and individually tailored professional exchange in the US in the themes of Civic Engagement, Environment Sustainability and Economic Empowerment respectively.

Ching, who works with the Zuellig Family Foundation in Manila as Bridging Leadership Formation Manager, was placed in Grand Forks, North Dakota to learn about the civic engagement work of Altru Health System, and how it strives to ensure healthcare access for all.

Juby, a Senior Economic Development Specialist for the National Economic and Development Authority-Region VI, was placed in Albany, Oregon to learn from the City of Albany’s sustainable development practices.

Noreen, who works with the tech company, Connected Women and an active member of Global Shapers Iloilo, was assigned in Salem, Oregon to learn how the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center enables economic empowerment through public-private collaborations.

Here is what they learned and experienced in their fellowship:

FELLOWS (from left) Noreen Bautista, Juby Boniba-Pamonag, and Ching Araneta at the US State Department last May 30, 2019
  1. What are the main insights that you gained during your fellowship in the US?

Ching: As I’m in the healthcare field, I saw how the US is also laboring how to make universal access happen. Healthcare is very expensive in the US and there are sectors that fall into the cracks of the system. I realized that we are not that far from them in making the health system work. The issuance of the Universal Health Care law is a milestone and a good law. It’s just a matter of our leaders (DOH, LGUs, DBM, DILG, among others) working with key stakeholders especially those affecting health such as income, food, sanitation and environment and education, and have commitment to put the patient at the heart of the design and purpose of the health system.

Juby: As a development planner, I saw how effective urban development entails maximizing economic opportunities and enhancing social equity while ensuring environmental sustainability. The combination of built and natural environments creates the best urban development strategies. Development and environmental conservation can go hand-in-hand. We do not need to cut trees or sacrifice the green public spaces to make way for new developments.

The Philippines can learn from the unique Oregon state-wide land use plan which serves as the primary guide and basis for land allocation and development of all counties, cities special districts and agencies in the State. The comprehensive plan recognizes the value of the natural environment in advancing socio-economic development. My participation in the program reinforced my drive to continuously work towards inclusive growth and sustainable development, thus plan for the people and with the people.

Noreen: I’m into entrepreneurship, so I learned how a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) enables local enterprise development. This is a public-private organization that has dedicated services for businesses at any stage — from startups to exits. We have similar organizations like the DTI Negosyo Center and DOST Technology Business Incubators in universities. But what makes all the difference are the entrepreneurial managers who are able to speak the language of government and business to facilitate the most support for entrepreneurs. Because of the SBDC and its entrepreneurial team, many small businesses grew their sales in millions and generated hundreds of jobs within a year.

JUBY Boniba-Pamonag in front of a manmade wetland in Albany, Oregon
  1. How do you think you influenced others while in the US?

Ching: In my conversations with my hosts, especially in terms of maternal care, I shared our Filipino perspective. For us, we consider taking care of babies as a family thing, celebratory in nature and we don’t leave the care solely to health workers. Women in the family readily jump in to helping the young/new moms and their babies. While in the US, moms are left alone to do everything on their own. I shared that health is personal. It made them think how they can design their program for their lactation consultants to establish better relationships with their clients.

Juby: America is known as a “throw-away society”. They use just so much disposable products and generate large amount of food wastes. I influenced others to reduce wastes by taking conscious effort, through small acts, from refusing plastic bags in the supermarket to deliberately saying no to disposable straws in the restaurants; and saving leftovers and actually eating them.

Noreen: I talked a lot about Iloilo, and showed videos about our city and province especially how our young people are involved in the startup scene. People were amazed and are now more interested to visit. As Filipinos, they are also often surprised at how good we speak English. But it’s also helpful to be rooted in our own culture. I had interesting discussions with my US hosts about Philippine culture and history which they learned from. It pays to be rooted in your identity as you can be a better global citizen as you meet other nationalities abroad.

CHING Araneta (left) with Grand Folks City Mayor Dr. Michael Brown
  1. What are the next action steps you will do back home as a result of the experience?

Ching: I will be developing learning materials for Provincial Health Officers and Governors which can help them as they navigate/manage the change they will have to undertake in implementing the UHC law.

Juby: As part of NEDA, I will continue to ensure mainstreaming of environmental sustainability in development planning processes and steward multi-stakeholder partnerships in the development of green public spaces as strategy to create more vibrant, healthier and safer communities.

Noreen: Through my civic work with Global Shapers Iloilo, we are currently collaborating with our local stakeholders for the Innovation Roadmap to promote an innovation ecosystem in the city and province. I am keen on sharing best practices on entrepreneur development I learned with our stakeholders.

NOREEN Bautista (second from right) with the staff of Chemeketa Small Business Development Center.
  1. What has surprised you during your stay in the US?

Ching: Not so much of a surprise but more of an affirmation – that we are all the same. I have met people from various states who were also trying to make a difference, advocate for change and become the change in their communities to contribute to society. It’s not what you see in hollywood films!

Juby: Americans are generally warm, nice and hospitable- far from what the rest of the world perceive them to be as arrogant, discriminatory and distant.

Noreen: The whole state of Oregon was a pleasant surprise! It’s a great place to live in especially if you like the outdoors. From Portland to Salem, the cities of Oregon are just a short drive away from the mountains and river. It very much reminded me of Iloilo too in a way, which made me appreciate our city and province more.

NOREEN Bautista with her professional hosts, Celia Nuñez and Tatyana Sukhodolov at the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center
  1. Any advice for young Ilonggos who want to participate in the same program?

Ching: There are many learning and development opportunities for young leaders, especially for those in development work. Stay engaged, collaborate and expand your professional network. As you do these, many opportunities will be open for you.

Juby:  Keep yourselves updated with opportunities like these. Follow the YSEALI and US Embassy Facebook pages. Sign up to become a YSEALI member and receive regular updates. Just grab every opportunity!

Noreen: Be clear on the vision you want for yourself and your community, and hone the skill of being able to tell a clear and compelling story so institutions can be convinced on supporting your vision.


The Professional Fellows is one of the many programs available through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) of the US Government. For more info about YSEALI, visit yseali.state.gov