GENFEST has always been focused on young people and their quest for a more united world. Thus, internationality has always been an essential consideration. In this respect, the choice of Manila as venue for Genfest 2018 was quite valid, but was quite a novelty as well, since all previous Genfests (10 in all!) had been held only in Europe.

African Gen
African Youth in the Genfest 2018 Photo: Aurelio Maria Rodriguez

It meant embracing a new horizon – Asia, the Philippines – and setting up base there from which to carry out an endeavor of global proportions, with many collaborators working at a distance through regular multi-lingual Internet meetings for over an entire year. It meant turning away from more familiar European (Occidental) organizational paradigms, and operating, instead, within Oriental cultural mindsets and interpersonal relationships.
Perhaps it was precisely this

“Oriental culture” – particularly, the aspects of hospitality, flexibility, and skillful improvisation – that rendered possible a unique experience of cultural immersion for the Genfest delegates in Asian cities prior to the “Genfest proper.” The Pre-Genfest was indeed a novelty whose fruits were as overwhelming as unexpected – it was a most tangible experience of “going beyond borders,” both for the visiting delegates (about 500 participated in the Pre-Genfest events in the whole of Asia), as well as for the communities that hosted them!

Gen outside world trade center
Waiting in line to get in the main hall of the World Trade Center Photo: Aurelio Maria Rodriguez

In itself, the Pre-Genfest was a huge commitment – it meant hosting foreign delegates, arranging for their board/lodging/transport, planning and coordinating socio-cultural activities and interaction, and ensuring the security of the delegates. The tremendous effort paid off as the Pre-Genfest experience, in fact, stole the hearts of all those who participated in it, and more than amply set the stage for the Genfest proper!

Then, there was the EXPLO, another feature that provoked soul-searching and awakened profound existential questions in all those who visited, offering a heart-warming and rational perspective from which to seek answers. Parallel to the 3-day Genfest, it was an integral part of it.

Parallel because it was a distinct experience in itself, that could stand alone, and it ran alongside with the activities of the 3 days. Integral because the EXPLO dovetailed beautifully with all the experiences shared and the songs and dances performed, to reinforce the singular message that each one carried.

The completeness of the Genfest program constituted a novelty, whereby we witnessed 3 days packed with:

  • Two concerts (Asian and International) blending national characteristics with youthful creativity,

    The Novelty of Genfest 2018
    The Genfest 2018 participants in one of the various workshops.
  • The wide-ranging scope of the 100 plus workshops, and the interactions fostered therein, an afternoon dedicated to Hands for Humanity, as a concrete outreach experience, (a coastal clean-up project, feeding program for poor children, and visits to social institutions like Bukas Palad Social Centers, etc.
  • The solemn TIME-OUT moment as a universal appeal for peace, together with the presentationof several Focolare youths who had recently concluded their holy journey,
  • Maria Voce and Jesus Moran with Gio Francisco and Ray Asprer
    Maria Voce and Jesus Moran with Gio Francisco and Ray Asprer

    The various experiences of going beyond personal, socio-cultural and political borders, communicated with computer-generated sensory effects, highlighting the role of the digital platform in rendering the presentations/concerts at the WTC dynamic and captivating. Actually, this wasn’t the first time that experiences in various settings throughout the world shared through words, or through music and choreography have come alive through background visuals and a play of lights, rendering everything more vibrant. But, perhaps, the extent to which it was employed this time was a novelty.

The Novelty of Genfest 2018
Genfest 2018 Participants arriving from all over the world Photo: Aurelio Maria Rodriguez

The focus and the fellowship during the Post-Genfest in a program conducted by the Gen themselves, keeping the 1000+ Gen/youth engaged via relevant workshops that challenged their self-awareness and sensibilities during the day, and at night helped foster reciprocal appreciation through modern and traditional cultural numbers from various zones.

The Movement-wide participation of our members and entire local communities in the preparation of the entire Genfest event – this, too, was a real novelty that highlighted efforts towards intergenerational interaction and unity, as well as among branches / movements / communities within the Movement. Still within the context of Movement-wide participation, the numerous local Genfests (thirty-ish… and counting!) have confirmed the worldwide adhesion of our members to a sole “project,” gathering together, perhaps as never before, in a huge visible wave to announce a message (“go beyond all borders!”)… and making a big splash, too, in mainstream national media.

The Novelty of Genfest 2018
Genfest 2018 Participants showing their flags upon arrival in the airport Photo: Aurelio Maria Rodriguez

Last, but not least, the novelty of planning for ‘the day after’… In other words, “after Genfest 2018, what happens?”… A typical post-event question that, perhaps for the first time, the Movement is now attempting to address and plan for.

The Novelty of Genfest 2018The Novelty of Genfest 2018
Photo: Aurelio Maria Rodriguez

In fact, at the conclusion of the program at WTC, the formal announcement of Genfest 2024 in Brazil drew cheers, but underlying the announcement of the next venue, was the explicit confirmation of continuity of the Genfest – for the next 6 years – through various “pathways for a united world.”

Now we shall see if this ‘final novelty’ can be a catalyst to re-activate the United World Project, that, ironically, Genfest initially gave life to, but – for all its dynamism and vitality – needs to be further promoted.

Ray Asprer
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