Story by: Daniel Deacon, Photos by: Joe Gans
Influence Outgoing PIKO president
Residence Quezon City, the Philippines
With multiculturalism set to grow in Korea, the government is encouraging more students to come here to strengthen Philippine-Korean relations. Pinoy Iskolars sa Korea looks after them when they arrive. Founded in 2006, PIKO works closely with the Philippine Embassy to promote cooperation and strengthen ties between Korea and the Philippines by ensuring student welfare and promoting the benefits of multiculturalism and the exchange of science and technology.
Ronel Laranjo, 25, first came to Korea from Quezon City as an exchange student in 2008. Returning in 2011 to pursue a master’s degree in applied linguistics at Korea University, he heard about PIKO from fellow Filipino students. “I actively participated as a member,” he says, “especially in activities related to Filipino culture and language, because it was my major back home.” In 2012, he became its public relations officer, and was elected president in 2014.
Since last year, five new chapters have been added to the organization. “I think Filipino-Korean diplomatic relations (have become) stronger and stronger,” Loranjo says, pointing to the Philippine president Benigno Aquino III’s official state visit to Korea in 2014. “Hopefully we will be able to form chapters in other regions as well.”
Last year, PIKO organized a multiculturalism class for kids at the Children’s Folk Museum in central Seoul to share their Filipino heritage through language. Laranjo, who taught Filipino culture in the program, told the Korea Times that he was disheartened when he met a Filipino-Korean child who had rejected his Filipino roots. “It was really touching when the child finally called me brother in the Filipino language,” he told the newspaper. “It motivated me to start my advocacy for Korean-Filipino children.”
Loranjo is now an instructor at the University of the Philippines Diliman, where he plans to teach Filipino language, linguistics and Philippine studies as well as do research related to the Filipino and Korean languages. He says he will also give lectures about Korean society to Filipino students.
“Filipino students are actually ambassadors of the Philippines to Korea,” says Laranjo. “As we graduate from universities and institutions here in Korea … the students’ role in Philippine-Korea relations becomes more vital in bridging the two countries, especially in knowledge exchange and technology transfer in the future.”
More info www.filipinoscholars.org