MY RECENT visit to Thailand has allowed me to experience not just how it is to travel outside the Philippines for the first time.
More than this, it has opened my mind, and allowed me to acquire deeper understanding of the Asean media and communication landscape. As a journalist, this journey is something worth treasuring.
There were 10 of us Master in Mass Communication students of the College of Communication of the West Visayas State University in Iloilo City, along with our professor Dr. Walter Yudelmo, who went to Bangkok, Thailand for the 2018 Media and Communication Solidarity Conference.
The three-day conference, which is part of our Cross-Cultural Communication subject, is aimed at allowing us to exchange views on changes, and challenges confronting media and communication landscape in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Through which, we could be able to examine the role of media and communication in creating and re-creating solidarity among the people living in Asean countries.
Also, it is positioned to be a venue for us, communications scholars, to understand the importance of education in the creative and critical thinking of students using media and communication as tools in embracing Asean initiatives.
Having these learning objectives in mind paired with excitement to explore Thailand - its people, food, destinations, history, and culture, among others - we hoped to acquire worth sharing knowledge while creating another worth keeping experience.
First stop, the Philippine Embassy in Thailand for a courtesy visit to Ambassador Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon. Her Excellency, along with Deputy Chief of Mission Mary Anne Padua, has given us warm Filipino welcome at our embassy in Bangkok.
The two officials have given us a glimpse of what media there looks like, and responded to our questions on many other things concerning Thailand and the Philippines, mainly politics, and economic aspects of the two Asean countries.
Bernardo-Aragon, who has roots in Negros Occidental, said Thai media is very supportive to its government. Such relationship, in fact, has been contributing positively to the growth of Thailand, which remains a good benchmark for the Philippines especially in terms of agriculture industry development.
“Maltreatment of overseas Filipino workers, unlike of other countries, is not a problem in Thailand,” Bernardo-Aragon said, adding that Thai people like Filipino workers for one, we have the ability to speak English well.
Our second day in Thailand was another exciting day for we have visited two of its top communication universities – the Mahidol University International College (MUIC), and Chulalongkorn University.
Dr. Jerimiah Morris, communication theorist, and university professor, shared the Communication and Media Curriculum of MUIC’s Bachelor of Communication Arts.
In his presentation, Morris underscored that Media and Communication major is the first-degree program in Thailand specifically designed to prepare students for emerging Asean markets.
In teaching their students, the university is banking on the principle: “It is not about the techniques, it is about the content.
We want content to move the media. Content would enable us to generate more platforms.”
For Chulalongkorn University, its Faculty of Communication Arts assistant professor Dr. Smith Boonchutima conducted the lecture on Thailand’s Media Landscape, which has allowed us to realize that media landscape in Thailand is far different to that in the Philippines.
Boonchutima, also the vice president of Asian Congress for Media and Communication, said Thai media, most of the time, do not criticize the monarch. They only report the positive side of the government, the King in particular.
“If the news agency reports something that might put the country in a less secure situation or disrespects the monarchy, it can be the reason for it to be closed down,” he said, adding that Thailand government may filter, and censor the news to prevent any criticism by the media.
“Control” over the media is really evident in Thailand unlike of other countries including the Philippines, according to Universiti Sains Malaysia Penang School of Communication professor Dr. Mark Stephan Felix, who discussed lessons learned on the Asean Cross-Cultural Communication during our third day in Thailand.
Felix, on the other hand, stressed that since careers in communication are very competitive, it is important for the students to have critical thinking skills, develop resilience, and have more depth.
During our visit to Chulalongkorn University, professor Yudelmo also presented his paper on “Communication and Use of the New Media en Route to HIV Awareness in the Philippines”.
We also toured some of the university’s facilities including its television studio, newsroom, and radio booth, among others. Indeed, they are really advanced in terms of technology, way ahead than some schools in the Philippines offering communication courses.
Moreover, we made sure not to go home without exploring some of the best offerings of Bangkok. Of course, we savored mouth-watering Thai cuisines including its wide-variety of spicy street food.
We joined thousands of other tourists in tracing back the rich history of Thailand by visiting the famous landmarks Wat Mahathat, and Watyaichaimongkhol as well as the reclining Buddha in Wat Pho, buying some of its products for souvenirs and “pasalubong” in Chatuchak Market, and feeling the nightlife ambiance in Patpong.
Thailand has never failed us. Our short stay there has, indeed, satisfied our desire to gain additional knowledge while collecting new worthwhile experiences. In fact, it has given us so much than we expected. We hope to see and know more of you Thailand, soon!