I come from a small country of big thinkers. In this small country, most big thinkers can be found at the top state university – the University of the Philippines. And in this small country’s top university, the biggest thinkers can be found at the campus I attended: UP Diliman. Here, students are referred to as iskolar ng bayan – the nation’s scholars. Every year, UP selects the top 1% of the nation’s best and brightest and welcomes them to the Diliman campus.
I have the privilege and terror of being in my generation’s 1%. In this big-thinking circle we are so very aware that this privilege comes with great responsibility–we do not take any of it lightly. Mine has been a charmed life of learning, activism and exploration. My story involves wonderful twists and and turns, from a people’s peaceful ouster of a dictator, to breaking into the elusive world of caucasian male corporate leadership in Asia and creating fire in New York city with my poetry. My exploits have led me to uplift girls from the slums of the Philippines, to co-founding a Paris-based non-profit whose sole focus is the empowerment of the world’s women and fund-raising on my birthday for the safe delivery of 500 babies whose impoverished mothers fell into the world’s fringes.
Here’s the thing, if I am the 1% then so are you. If you’ve ever chosen a poetry reading over The Voice, you are the 1%. If you actively choose a local coffee shop over a corporate machine, you are the 1%. If you’ve signed a petition, joined a movement, fed the hungry, written a pantoum, published a magazine, created your dream job, then you are the 1%.
It isn’t rocket science, although the rocket scientists are most likely in the 1%. Open the door, heed the call, pave the way, offer your shoulders, build ladders and bridges. Every time you do this, you are the 1%. Many are called, few are chosen and even fewer take the cup.
Will you take the cup? Will you be the 1%?