Insight: Baguio City latest to join PLDT, Smart conversations series on mental health awareness

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — PLDT and Smart continue its Better Today conversations series on mental health, this time with Baguio City.

Moderated by Smart Assistant Vice President and Head for Government Relations Jose Lukban Rosete, mental health professionals Riyan Portuguez and JP Silvestre join the live Q&A during the Better Today with Baguio conversations series.

Mental health professionals Riyan Portuguez and JP Silvestre, and advocate Claudia Barretto took part in the virtual event. Portuguez and Silvestre discussed suicide, coping mechanisms, prevention, and destigmatizing mental illness, especially among peers and within communities. Meanwhile, Barretto shared her personal experience as a mental health survivor and student.

According to Sangguniang Kabataan Federation President Levy Lloyd Braza Orcales, the Local Government of Baguio aims to create a safe space and platform for the youth to discuss mental health. “We hope that this will help our youth, especially those facing challenges when it comes to school,” Orcales said.


A number of universities in Baguio recently faced an alarming rate of suicide, depression and anxiety cases, especially when it comes to dealing with online classes. The City implemented an academic break to give time for the youth to take care of their mental well-being.

Baguio City Vice Mayor Faustino Atiwag Olowan shared that the City passed its Mental Health Ordinance, which was authored by Orcales, to help ensure people’s well-being. Vice Mayor Olowan recognized PLDT and Smart for bringing the Better Today mental health program to Baguio. “We hope that this will serve as a [mental health] break for our youth. Together with PLDT and Smart, the City of Baguio will continue to create mental health programs that will empower our youth. They are our future and they play a critical role in our country’s nation-building,” Olowan said.

Singer-songwriter and mental health advocate Claudia Barretto shares her personal story as a mental health survivor and student.

The discussion also touched on the importance of digital technology when it comes to opening lines for communication. For PLDT and Smart, and with the youth as today’s digital natives, the Internet becomes a great catalyst of their generation, which enables them to access information and provides more opportunities to learn, to be more informed, and to be better.

PLDT and Smart seek to uplift and improve the overall physical and mental wellness of Filipinos through food security, improving nutrition, and creating awareness online.

These initiatives emphasize the Group’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG #3: Good Health and Well-Being.

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