I have always been fascinated by the industrial revolution that began in Manchester. Imagine yourself standing in the middle of a beautiful tumult – new way of doing things, new way of thinking, new world order. Commerce and trade bustled more in Manchester than in any part of the world. The Guardian once wrote. “What Manchester does today, the world does tomorrow.” Indeed, Manchester was the epicenter that rocked the world.
Now, imagine my exhilaration when in the autumn of 2010, I finally set foot on Manchester’s soil to pursue a long-awaited dream. That bohemian Britannic mood was palpable in the air and I can almost feel the metallic vibe of Manchester’s historical importance as the birthplace of the industrial revolution. And yet, the urban blight and pollution that characterized that era is no longer visible. Forward-looking architecture punctuates the skyline with environmentally designed buildings that are made even more stunning with their bizarre structure. What I saw is a city moving forward in a sustainable manner. The spirit of sustainability is evident in the University of Manchester where I spent a year to pursue further education under the auspices of the Foreign Commonwealth Office as one of the three Filipino Chevening scholars that year.
Leaving an Indelible Mark
The university’s business school is the only academic institution in the world to offer a Master of Science degree in corporate communications and reputation management. The business school encourages the application of original thinking. The historical role of business and its relationship with society produces quite different articulations of the sustainable development agenda. A credible business reputation does influence the interpretation of sustainability and therefore, the appropriation (or non-appropriation) of resources to make it happen (or not). My dissertation pursued a research topic that showcased a sustainable business model in the Philippines.
Booth Street West became my second home in Manchester. It houses the business school where I attended classes. A month after I joined the university, professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the grapheme, which at just one atom thick is the strongest material known to man. The university now has 25 Nobel laureates under its belt. For the first time in living memory, this red brick university has more Nobel Prize winners on its staff than either Oxford (which has none) or Cambridge (which has two). Nobel winners who teach at the university are former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz and Sir John Sulston who cracked the DNA sequence of the nematode.
There is joy to be found in working in an interdisciplinary environment, much more in a multi-cultural mix. In my course, the Brits are the minorities and we Asians are the majority. The coursework expanded my understanding of the different facets of the sustainability paradigm and provided new skills that I can definitely use when I go back to work.
Seasons and Lessons
Like the changing of the seasons, Manchester is a continuing transformation. It may no longer be the workshop of the world but it certainly influenced modern-day capitalism and politics. To experience its culture, to learn more its history and to take inspiration on what it is doing for its future – all these motivate me to be an influencer of change in my own right, to be able to tell the world our story and how Filipinos are perfecting a renewable energy technology as a solution to the climate change problem. Today, I work for a renewable energy company where its impact reaches 18,000 households and 9 million customers. Unlike too many companies today, it does not use sustainability to greenwash bad practices. I am proud to be part of an organization that leads the business sector in this way of thinking.
With the many exciting things that the Chevening scholarship has brought me, I know that my journey is just beginning. Manchester is demonstrating that a toxic past can be washed away and replaced with a cleaner future. Its future is green and bright and I see no reason why ours here in the country should not be.
This blog post is a re-print from the alumni story in the webpage of the UK Embassy in Manila.