ESEAP Conference 2024 Experience

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This should have been my second time attending the ESEAP conference if not for the circumstances when I was about to board a plane for Australia in 2023. That event may have devastated me at first. Still, after a year of working again with my affiliate and with some of my regular functions as one of the grants committees for the ESEAP region and also a Let’s Connect Liaison for the ESEAP, I have thought that occasions such as this are the best time to build linkages among other Wikimedians.

The ESEAP conference 2024 took place in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, on May 10-12, 2024, with a theme of Collaboration beyond the horizon. It was made possible through the efforts of Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia, the volunteers of the ESEAP Community and the Wikimedia Foundation.

Program Presentations

Introducing Let’s Connect in the ESEAP Region

Checking the number of registered participants from the ESEAP Region on the Let’s Connect database, I have noticed a low number of Wikimedians from our region. I have conducted several outreach campaigns through mailing lists, telegram, and other channels to invite participants, but the numbers haven’t improved. Let’s Connect was one of the most active peer-learning sessions conducted by the movement. As the years passed, more and more Wikimedians became involved in learning clinics and attending live sessions. I would not want to waste any of this opportunity, and the best way to re-introduce this program is through a talk at the conference. It should have been a lightning talk at first, considering that I am not really into speaking in front of a crowd, but one of my colleagues suggested that it should be longer than that, so I’ve opted for it to be a discussion. Seeing the session results, I was glad that I considered lengthening the session. At the last minute, before I was about to start, I was also informed that there would be a 15-minute additional time to talk about Let’s Connect, giving me a total of 45 minutes for the session. I took advantage of it as it would also benefit me since I am a low-pace speaker and had ample time to engage the participants in giving their feedback. There were a variety of nationalities inside the room, and I was lucky enough to have my Filipino friends, even not from my affiliate, to support me during the entire duration. I would want the session to be as informal as possible and avoid too many technicalities since I am looking at it as if I’m marketing the program to Wikimedians who haven’t heard about it. With the number of learning clinic draft submissions given to me, I can say that the session went well. Also, I have received emails inquiring more about our Let’s Connect program.

Hatch-A-Wikimedian Leadership Program

Our affiliate has started a program to use the Leadership Development Plan that the Leadership Development Working Group produced to develop new leaders for our group. This project is being funded by the Movement Strategy Implementation Grant and is expected to run until December 2024. During the session, I discussed the background of the project, its objectives, and the support it has received through funding, coaching, and resources. Currently, it is being implemented in three ways: in-person meetings, activities on the website, and online sessions. The session was more about inviting the participants and members of affiliates to use the LDP in their leadership training initiatives.

Wiki Advocates Philippines User Group Presentations

Four members of our affiliate have attended the conference, and each of us has a role to play in presenting our programs to our fellow ESEAP Wikimedians. Angelica Mirras presented our education initiative, the WikiDunong program. Bianca Brazal has showcased our works in human rights through storytelling about what happened during our community outreach during the Human Rights Day celebration. Imelda Brazal has tackled our gender initiatives through the Women@Work Program. It was a memorable experience when we witnessed a female taxi driver take us to a local park in Kota Kinabalu. This is rare in the Philippines, as drivers of utility vehicles are expected to be male. For our leadership initiative, I have also presented the Hatch-A-Wikimedian program. We are grateful that all our submissions were accepted at the conference, finding ways to amplify our work in the region. We always see to it that we maintain the transparency of our work and make it visible throughout the ESEAP countries to inspire other communities and learn from our strategies, how we conduct successful campaigns, and how we adapt to the needs of our local communities.

Regional Grants Committee Member Tasks

As part of this ESEAP Grants committee for three years now, I was glad to see several of the affiliate members who I happened to review grants either on the General Community Fund or the Rapid Fund. Seeing how their projects have been implemented and even surpassed their targets is a proud moment for me, as I always see that each of these grant requests will be supported through funding and our recommendations. It wasn’t easy to divide myself between handling our affiliate while we were at the conference, inviting people to participate in Let’s Connect, and doing my job on the committee. It was fulfilling that once I was just a simple editor in our local wiki, I now partake in one of the most significant decisions for the betterment of the movement and all the wiki projects. Being part of this committee is not limited to deciding the allocation of resources but also sharing our skills with several affiliates. It also shares each member’s expertise since we have distinct skills in affiliate management, campaign organizing, finance, partnerships, and others. The conference allowed us to meet with our program officer and share tips and updates on grant-related matters with the ESEAP community.

ESEAP Regional Grants Committee, Kunokuno, CC BY-SA 4.0

Mari-Mari Cultural Village Trip

We were the last group to arrive at the Mari-Mari cultural village, riding a grab car. Our tour guide defined “Mari” as come, similar to the word we used in Central Bikol. “Mari” means “Come here”. It was interesting to see different house structures among the various tribes in Malaysia, taste delicacies, and even try out the rice wine. What I enjoyed the most was the last native house, which had a wooden trampoline. Most of the structures are similar to how native Filipinos created their houses. We call it here “Bahay Kubo”. This is made of bamboo sticks, nipa, or anahaw as roofing, and for walls, we use “sawali”. It’s also bamboo, but only the outer layer is used and intertwined to achieve stability and lock each piece together. Dinner was served at the end of the tour, and our group was invited to join other Philipine-based affiliates such as the Pilipinas Panorama and Wiki Society, other unaffiliated Filipino Wikimedians were also present at the table, including Butch and Chlod. The ride back to the hotel was faster than going to Mari-Mari. I remember listening to karaoke, a Tagalog song, and all the while, I wondered if one of my friends from the Philippines was singing. Later on, I discovered that it was an Indonesian Wikimedian. Music is indeed a universal language.


Before our trip to Kuala Lumpur on May 9, we’d already stayed in Manila the night before. Manila itself is an 8-12 hour drive from our location. We met Ralff, a member of the Pilipinas Panorama Community, at the airport, and it was a fruitful encounter. We came to befriend him and later joined as regular members of their thematic affiliate. The Navan app benefited the scholars, and it was a good thing this was introduced. I was attentive to each announcement on the plane, not just because of the updates and safety reminders but also because I looked at the language compatibility between Malay and the Philippines. I remembered Selamat, which means thank you, and Salamat here in the Philippines. The word formation of their language is also somewhat similar to ours; in the airplane backseat, I saw this reminder: “Simpan pemegang peranti semasa di landasan, berlepas dan mendarat,” which translates to stow device holder during taxi, takeoff, and landing.

Upon arrival on May 9th, we were joined by some Wikimedians I already knew online and some I met during Wikimania in Singapore: Eugene Ormandy, Bijay from Timor-Leste, Johnny Alegre, and Belinda Spry from Australia. Going home on May 13th, we take the hotel van as early as 4:00 a.m., and with us are Mr. Murakami from Japan and Taufik Rosman from Wikimedia Malaysia.

The flight back to Manila on May 13 was not as smooth as the flight to Malaysia. It was a rainy day in Manila, with several thick cloud formations just above the airport. The pilot was advised to take a few moments to clear the landing area. We encountered a few turbulences as we circled five times above the Manila area.

Encounters and other experiences

We arrived on May 9th at 10:00 p.m. and searched for our dinner outside the Le Meridien Hotel. There is a lot of seafood at the market: shrimps, squid, varieties of fish, crabs, lobsters, and even seaweeds. Each is offered at an affordable rate and grilled on hot charcoal right before you. We have paid for 67 ringgit for four types of dishes, and this already comes with rice and fresh fruit juices. It may have been because of how I’ve spoken English that the lady who owns the stall recognized me as a Filipino, and then we continued to communicate using Tagalog. She told me she came from Jolo, Philippines, but started her family in Kota Kinabalu. This was not the only time I’ve met a resident there who speaks Tagalog. There’s a fruit juice store beside the sidewalk outside the hotel, and I happened to meet Rina, who also has roots from Jolo, and Adriana, from Zamboanga. They’ve told me that they master Tagalog because what they usually watch online are movies in the Philippines. It’s also interesting that even those who are not pure-blooded Filipinos can speak our language. One was an Indonesian I talked with while buying roasted chicken, and the other was a Malaysian in a retail store.

Every time I visit a different place, I want to check for a store that sells beer. Mostly, it was 7/11, and we strolled around during the first night at the hotel and couldn’t locate any after our dinner. Probably because we only searched in the nearest area. The next evening, there was ample time to check the streets for stores, and at that time, we located a 7/11 store, and there was also the Orange store, which sells beer. That’s also where I’ve encountered another Malaysian language that is very similar to ours, Tolak, which probably means push. The Tagalog equivalent of it is Tulak. But the opposite of it is Tarik, which perhaps means Pull. Tarik in Tagalog is defined as high or steep, particularly describing a mountain.

On May 12th, I joined Eugene Ormandy and two other Japanese Wikimedians for lunch. I’ve read Eugene’s Diff Blog posts, and it interests me how consistent he was in his writing and his motivations. I should’ve been recording our conversation since I wanted to write about the writer himself. It was not an effort put to waste, as I’ve learned from the Japanese community, their existing projects, and some problems they encountered. I’ve also talked with Yuriko Kadokura, who has worked as a librarian before and was able to publish a book of essays entitled “A 70-Year-Old Wikipedian“. Our conversation led to our commitment to translate each other’s posts to reach our local communities. Knowing the situations in different countries in the ESEAP Region also helps me in my task in the regional grants committee, as I can assess and evaluate the needs of each.

As we are far from the capital, meeting other Filipino Wikimedians takes too much effort, funds, and time. The conference has made it possible for us to reach out to each other, talk about plans, clear up some issues from the past, and, more importantly, know more about ourselves even outside of our Wikimedia work. Eugene Villar of WikiSoc has donated two Central Bikol Dictionaries we could use in our work. Johnny and Ralff from Pilipinas Panorama have been too welcoming for future collaborations between our groups. One of the most fruitful things was that Filipino communities are working for the next ESEAP Summit in Manila in 2025.

Learnings from the Sessions

Funding and Resources: The WMF has provided several pipelines for affiliates and individuals interested in improving wiki projects and community organizing. There is already an established structure for the process, from requesting, fund allocation, approval, and declining the request. Program Officers and the Regional Grants Committee of each region always welcome feedback from their grantees on further improving this process, making it more equitable and easy to access, especially for newbies.

Bridging the Gender Gap: Several campaigns across the community are being conducted in line with this advocacy, including SheSaid, Art+Feminism, WikiGap, and VisibleWikiWomen, among others. While we pursue adding more content about this objective, we opt to know that there are also other aspects of it. We may need to review the demography of participants and the access to devices of newbie editors who happen to be housewives who would need child support. Feminism also has many faces, and it’s always moving forward to equity among the population that we can consider most oppressed or lacking direct support: people with special needs, prisoners, senior citizens, and even illiterates.

Exploring untapped Wikiprojects: Each country and affiliate has its specific scope of focus regarding Wiki editing. We may have been working on Wikipedia or Wiktionary for years and neglecting other projects. A review among our users can help determine what our local community needs. Would they need access to old manuscripts? Would they need a bulk of free data? Aligning our work with the particular needs of the community we are working in makes our movement more beneficial.

Plans after the conference

ESEAP Summit 2025: Filipino Wikimedians have agreed to host the upcoming ESEAP Summit, and we will also apply what we see as best practices from the recently ended ESEAP Conference 2024.

Doing follow-ups: Several people have expressed interest in conducting learning clinics for Let’s Connect. I will continue communicating with them to further amplify our work in the ESEAP region for the broader WMF community.

Partnership with other ESEAP Affiliates: During the presentations, we encountered some projects that align with our affiliate work, and we envision partnering with these groups to strengthen our campaigns and outreach further.

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