Sometime after I participated in the ASEAN Leaders Programme in 2016, I formulated my re-entry plan for the Tarlac Agricultural University, titled simply, “Smart University Platform for TAU.” The idea behind the platform however, was far from simple. The platform is an educational innovation, suggesting novel, transformative, solutions to bring the university on par with the more advanced institutions of higher education (HEIs) in the Philippines.  It would also give the university a competitive edge; a distinct brand to scale up services; an environment for enhanced learning outcomes; and technology integration in various operational aspects. Successful implementation would help the university qualify for global engagement, and bring it closer towards inclusion in local and regional university rankings.

The proposal won approval for funding for Phase I. I was thrilled by this, and grateful to the ASEAN Leaders Programme, because much of my learnings from the programme were behind the idea, concept, and formulation of the proposal.

The ASEAN Leaders Programme was for me, a prism that broke up leadership into a wide spectrum of its constituent principles. Leadership insights that help empower teams; provide solutions; reach short and long-term goals; build bridges between diverse backgrounds; and connect communities, cultures and nations. I saw examples of leadership that  join the dots between infrastructure, education, information and technology in an unbroken line. The programme provided me with invaluable insights and information on smart cities that use technology; and smart people in cities who innovate to find solutions to issues that confront them, with or without the use of technology.

Next steps are to look for alliances for Phases II and III of my proposal, and I hope to reach out to government agencies to support full realization of the project.

As an alumnus of the ASEAN Leaders Programme, I'm happy to share what I believe true leadership to be – it is actually touching hearts, inspiring lives and bringing more leaders to join you in pursuing a noble purpose – our common purpose.