Detour 2013

This year, I’ve gone from being an overstaying college kid to a Guidance Counselor–and I won’t lie, even I was surprised that it happened.

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If you asked me in January 2013 what I wanted to be, I would have told you I wanted to be a chef before I’d even pull Guidance Counselor out of thin air but hey, things happen and I know now more than ever that they happen for a reason.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo, I was engrossed with sending relief goods to Davao City en route to Compostela Valley; by the 3rd week of January I was in ComVal delivering relief goods with an incredible group of friends. It was the 2nd year in a row that I found myself in similar situations; I was so sure that’s what I was made for.

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I spent the next three months, so set on starting a career in the development sector (as many of my NGO friends would attest to) but I hit a major detour, I failed what should have been my last college class to complete my degree.

Though devastated and frustrated, I was ready to do everything it took to finish my Bachelor’s degree and that included sitting still in Manila, something I hadn’t done in a long time.

In February, my Ilonggo, Gepana side family from all over the world were in Manila for our 2nd Grand Reunion and we played host to most the festivities in Alabang. I realized that was the reason that I was given a detour. You see, my DLSU graduation would have been on the same day as the Gepana Reunion and I would have had to pick, I would have had to ask my family to pick between two very important events so the Big Guy in the Sky made the decision for me, learn patience and be with your family. I did and it was an incredible weekend!

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I officially completed all my academic requirements in DLSU on April 19, after a term of Philosophy of Man and I was finally FREE! Little did I know that that freedom came with this insane feeling and a nagging obsessive thought that would badger me with WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?!

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Sunset sailing

I had been volunteering with GASFI and doing random projects for the maritime industry for a little over 2 years at this point and I was thinking, I loved that enough to take it seriously as I had imagined I’d do for quite sometime at that point. I believe in the advocacy, I thought I knew what needed to be done and where to go with it, how to get there even but yet again, the Big Guy had other plans for me and soon I was looking beyond my comfort zone and seriously considering relocating to a different city or a different country to go after a dream, to explore the world, to learn, to grow, to live life.

There was a lot of thinking and reflecting to be done so I opened my heart and mind up to the endless possibilities; I prayed for guidance that I be placed where I could make a difference.

By early May, I was back in Davao for a mix of work and leisure, we went all over the place from Sur to Norte, to the islands and everywhere in between. I felt right where I needed to be, doing the things I just loved doing: working with kids, having fun with friends and exploring. Two weeks after arriving in Davao, I skipped on over to Cagayan de Oro for craft workshops with my regular summer group, the KKKK-Childfund kids. Summer Camp is pretty incredible out there! We went to the beach, ziplines, white water rafting—How could I not be so captivated by Mindanao?!

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Mom, Me and Dad at the Philippine International Convention Center for my Graduation

I was back in Manila by late May to be with my family for Mom’s Birthday and to prepare for my  graduation in mid-June. And boy did graduating feel surreal! After 5-long but truly incredible years, it was all over. I was sitting in a plenary hall full of strangers, most of my friends had wrapped things up years before me and I only recognised a handful of those marching with me but I would have never had it any other way.


I may have taken a little longer, or a lot longer than my peers but I was able to experience and learn things in ways that others didn’t. I may have experienced failure and disappointment but each blow made me stronger, as cliche as that may sound.

I opted out of any major celebration in Manila for Grad, we just had a simple dinner with family and I decided to do a joint party with my dear friends in Davao–about 15 of us took the 4-hour road trip from Davao City to Davao del Sur. It was almost like a little fiesta and all the school kids of the Mariano Calungsod Regis Elementary School were invited, all 370 of them and all those involved in making things happen for them.

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Luggage and Donuts

I went home to Manila again after several days in Davao, then my former teacher/mentor/adventure buddy, Ms June asked me to help her with the arrangements for her Dad’s 1st Anniversary so after just 2 weeks in Manila, I was back in Davao again. While we were preparing everything, I was also busy sending my applications out to aid agencies and development organizations and after spending so much time in Davao, I was seriously considering postings for Davao City, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

We were pretty busy there on most days but it was also refreshing to be doing something else somewhere else for a change. We’d be running around the city all day and our nights were set aside for playtime and homework with the kids.

Two weeks in Davao, the last two days out in Davao del Sur were, and always are a treat for me.

1170711_10153161980715515_2044786466_nTowards the end of that trip, I got an invitation from La Salle for a Focus Group Discussion on the Lasallian Mission for our community in DLSZ as an Alumni Representative so I made sure to be back in Manila in time for that but little did I know, more was in store for me.

I arrived in Manila the day before Lasallian Cares, and I can vividly remember walking into the mini-theatre for our pre-program briefing. Old friends welcoming me back to the school that had formed me and opened my eyes to the endless possibilities. It was then that the inevitable was asked: So what do you plan to do now?

I felt like I had just received my freedom and I had this fear of commitment but I also had dreams so I just told them that I was looking for volunteer engagements in the Visayas or Mindanao regions as the baby steps towards joining the United Nations. It wasn’t going to be any long term commitment but it also wasn’t going to be bumming, I wasn’t going to be tied down and I certainly had the freedom to explore different opportunities with contract posts. I thought it was a brilliant idea.

The Universe has this funny way of pulling me back down from the clouds though; not more than an hour later I was chatting with administrators about my brilliant plan, that I had carefully thought out by the way, and I remember being asked if I had ever considered the Lasallian Volunteer Program, I had heard of it and I wanted to join it but I had never heard of recruitment so I was clueless. They told me that if I was willing to give it a shot, they would arrange for my interview and I figured there was nothing to lose so I agreed without hesitation.

My interview was scheduled on the same day as my focus group discussion for Lasallian Cares and I think the LSVP coordinator liked me because he said I was in—the catch was the program starts in April 2014, it was only July 2013 and I had roughly 8 months to wait. What was I going to do for that long?

All of a sudden all my brilliant ideas were up in the air and everything was shifting in mid-air then suddenly another suggestion dropped on me like an airborne bomb: why don’t you work here?

Here was back in De La Salle Zobel. Nothing had ever freaked out and excited me so much at the same time. The idea of returning to serve my Alma Mater was exciting, the idea of working with children like myself was terrifying but I’m not one to back down from a challenge so I filled the form out and gave them my resume.

I had a few other prospects that I explored including a non-profit job next to a bar in Cubao X that actually sounded like a whole lot of fun, a teaching job in a much smaller school, community work in the Visayas and of course the option of working with my Dad so there were many options to be weighed.

Long story short, I got a call for a demo class, an exam, a panel interview, another interview and the next thing I knew I had landed the job; I was a given the position of School Counselor for Athletes and there was no turning back from there.545919_10153315968770515_360152810_n

I’ve been at it for 4 months now and it’s been an incredible experience! I work close to home so I get to spend more time with my family. I don’t have to deal with much traffic so I have more time for the important things in life like sleep. I was given special working hours because I have to be there during training hours so I don’t get up as early in the morning as the rest of the world and they gave me my own office and incredible kids to work with.

I may not have planned to be here when 2013 began but I wouldn’t really want to be anywhere else because right now, it all makes sense and I was put in a position where I can make a difference, it’s different from what I imagined but it’s a fulfilling position nonetheless.

But how about the development sector? What about the dreams? –Well, they didn’t end and they aren’t forgotten.

I read up on requirements for positions that I want and many of the agencies and organizations that could lead me to a UN job require 5 years of work experience in a related field; according the the Millenium Development Goals for 2015 (MGDs), Goal #1 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; I’m continuing my volunteer work in Davao del Sur where we are working to make hunger a thing of the past in MCRES. Goal #2 is to achieve universal primary education, is there a better way to learn about the nitty gritty of education than to work in a school? I may not be teaching but one of my major functions is academic counselling and figuring out how to motivate students to keep going.

The dream lives on and the journey continues. Thank you Universe and Big Guy in the Sky!


Coaching 101

In a recent workshop by Coach Juno Sauler of the DLSU Green Archers with the coaching staff of the DLSZ Baseball Colt Seniors, Coach Juno shared the strategies that helped him lead the Green Archers to victory in the 76th Season of the UAAP Men’s Seniors Basketball Championships.

Coach Juno shared that he spends at least 3 minutes a day simply talking to his players, one on one, but not necessarily about basketball, he says it can be as simple as asking them ‘Kamusta?’ ‘How are your studies?’ ‘How do you think we can improve?” He says he makes sure that communication lines are open with each of his players, being able to discuss how they can work together to build a better team.

He shares a story about a superstar player who had the chance to make a game-winning assist or force a shot against four guards, but opting for the latter option. He ended up missing that shot and costing them team a win. After that game, Coach Juno spoke with the player and asked him how he thought that play could have been improved, helping his superstar understand that he is part of a team. The player, realizing he should have passed the ball and assisted a teammate, now has a clearer understanding of the concept of team work so in succeeding games, you see how he has transformed and learned to work with his team and contribute to critical plays that ultimately lead the team to victory.

He stresses the importance of communicating and making sure that critical situations are addressed and made clear to all those involved.

Beyond his team, communication is also Coach Juno’s solution to managing outside forces: parents, alumni, and supporters. He cites communication is the key to handling situations that would otherwise get in the way of maximizing the potential of his players. When he knows that a parent is difficult, he dialogues with them and explains his strategy and his long-term plans because he says that by making understand, he can bring these parents to his side so that they too can help make that plan happen instead of badgering their children with goals and game strategies that may not be in sync with the strategies of the team.

Honesty and integrity are of utmost importance to Coach Juno, he explains that if someone on his team lies, there will be disciplinary actions: they will not be allowed to train. He shares that if his superstar is absent from training and his reason is that he needs to study but everyone else knows that he isn’t studying, then he will not be allowed to train because even though he is the star player, that teaches the remaining players a very important lesson in integrity and he further stresses that if he gives in, the team gets put under the mercy of that star player when that shouldn’t be the case. As a coach he makes it a point to be in charge and to be in control.

There were only three weeks to go before the UAAP season started when Coach Juno was appointed as Head Coach of the Green Archers and he reveals that there were a lot of things that he wanted to change but that he also understood that he had to prioritize because they simply couldn’t implement everything in time and it would have been at the risk overwhelming his players.

“Are you here to win at all costs or are you here to develop better players?”, Coach Juno asks because as he explains, the team’s goals have to be consistent. He explains that before he meets with his players he first meets with his coaching staff; they might debate and they might disagree but at the end of the day they will all respect the decision of the head coach because while it might not be what everyone thinks is best, it is important to be consistent, and to work together for the same goal using the same plan so as not to confuse the players. To achieve this he suggests, “Determine your purpose; what do we need to do to win the game?” He shares that he never told his players that they had to win the UAAP Championships this year, he just showed them their individual statistics and told them that he wanted them to improve on things like free-throw percentages; if you used to shoot 55% at the line, then your goal is to shoot 60% now and the effect was phenomenal because as each player improved, collectively, the team became stronger.

Coach Juno explains that he makes it a point to set realistic goals and not let his players experience failure in training to ease the pressure on them and help them perform better.

He gave three simple guides for mapping out goals and developing strategies: Why, What and How? Why is defined by your purpose as an individual, as a team and by your goals. What is answered by what we need to do, and what our priorities are. And lastly, How will we achieve these goals and priorities. It all goes back to communication and understanding what the team needs and where the team wants to go.

These lessons we learned from Coach Juno are not just for basketball, they can be adapted for different disciplines and different situations. Communication, Honesty & Integrity, Consistency and Knowing Priorities are just some of the important we lessons we pick up from Coach Juno’s coaching strategies. Now the question is, how do we apply these lessons to our own goals for ourselves and the teams we are a part of.