Arriane Serafico: Supercharged

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Photo by Joseph S. Angan

Sporting bright platform shoes, a yellow skirt and thick bangs, Arriane Serafico looks like she’s headed to a magazine photoshoot. It’s no shoot she’s attending, though; Serafico is off to the Senate.

While many fresh grads scramble to be hired by companies, the corporate world never held much charm for this AB MEco ‘09 graduate. Instead, she chose the government. These days, Serafico is working under Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III on a bill.

As we sit down in the office of co.lab, a creative studio-cum-office in Pasig where she is a brand ambassador, Serafico dispels any notion of governmental stuffiness. Giggling through the whole interview, she shares her thoughts on governance, creativity and her love for Korean pop culture.

With fresh visions

As a high school valedictorian and Ateneo merit scholar, Serafico was offered positions in two large companies after college. So when she turned these down to work for Kaya Natin!, an NGO led by Harvey Keh, it came as a surprise to many—as well as to herself. “At first, I felt I was a martyr,” she admits. “But [then I realized] working for an NGO shouldn’t be seen as an act of charity in the first place.”

Other than working for Kaya Natin!, Serafico also worked for AHON, an organization that develops libraries for public elementary schools. Her involvement in NGOs taught her to merge her interest in art and her passion to serve; now, Serafico uses this to help the country. “Politics is so different from governance. Politics is mostly about the people in power. It’s not really my personality to deal with that. But for me governance is more of the execution part: making things happen, getting things done.”

But while she finds working in government fulfilling, Serafico doesn’t see herself running for a position. Instead, she wants to start her own organization similar to the global design firm IDEO, which helps institutions in the public and private sector innovate. “If in a couple years, I feel I can best serve [my] mission in my own organization,” she says. Serafico rebuffs those who see her career changes as cause for worry, saying,  “It’s so dynamic. I love meeting and collaborating with other people whose eyes sparkle with passion and purpose. You can’t fake that.”

Fashioning solutions

Her choice of career, while unanticipated, has had its fruits. Apart from working as Sen. Guingona’s creative communications consultant, Serafico can proudly claim co-authorship of a bill to create a national design council for the Philippines similar to ones already in place in South Korea, Thailand and Singapore.

The bill envisions design fields cultivating innovation and creating a visual identity for the country. The council’s job is to improve the country using design, with ideas ranging from the ambitious (creating schools with walls made of plastic bottles) to the immediately pragmatic (revising government forms so that the average citizen may understand them more). Through this, they also aim to empower local designers to be recognized worldwide.

While it’s an impressive endeavor, Serafico sometimes asks herself if she is even making a dent in the universe. She admits that with terms like “creative governance,” success is difficult to measure. “What I do is I balance it out by taking on other extra-curricular activities that yield more concrete results and give me avenues to make a difference in individual lives, on a much more micro basis.”

While one would think of her as atypical in the political scene, Serafico is in fact part of a growing number of young professionals now choosing similar career paths. “Interestingly, a lot of [young] people that I’ve talked to are more open to working in the government, which is good,” Serafico notes.

Changing the game

Because of her work in government, people may be surprised to learn that Serafico is also a fashion blogger, photographer and K-Pop dance instructor. In fact, Serafico is a big fan of South Korean culture and makes a yearly visit to the country to admire their design concepts, the city planning, street art and the people. On her latest trip, for example, she bonded with a Korean shop owner over barbecue—with the help of Google Translate—until the wee hours of the morning.

But for Serafico, travel isn’t simply for leisure. She explains, “I really make sure that I squeeze in travel time throughout the year, so I get to see and learn from the rest of the world, and bring those lessons back home.” For example, Serafico believes the Philippines has the ability to be a leader in tourism if we utilize our strengths as cunningly as Korea has. She says that local tourist spots such as Boracay have the potential to match South Korea’s Jeju Island, the volcanic paradise recently included in the New Seven Wonders of the World. “[The difference is that] they’re so organized in Jeju,” she says.

Though her many responsibilities may seem daunting, Serafico’s youth keeps her in touch with her imagination and idealism. She defines herself by what she does and isn’t afraid to branch out. Despite her hectic schedule, Serafico makes time to write for publications like the Philippine Star, Speed Magazine and Sparkling Magazine; she also maintains a blog where she shares her fashion pictorials, cultural excursions and reflections about work and life.

Here we see one of Serafico’s key qualities—the ability to draw connections between seemingly contradictory elements and use that as a springboard for development. While people box themselves into keeping their interests separate, Serafico instead creates her own Venn diagram where all her pursuits coalesce.

“Everything, separately, makes me passionate,” Serafico says, “but it’s at the intersection of all of it that everything supercharges each other—and the real magic happens.”

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