By the Shore in San Vicente, Daanbantayan

Last Saturday at this time, we were just arriving at the venue of our Children’s Fair in Daanbantayan. After close to five hours on the road (some traffic + pistops for food and supplies included), we set foot in a coastal community of fisherfolk. The helpful Vice-Mayor, our direct contact to the community,  led us to the venue, waving directions to us on foot, as our van manoeuvred the small path to the community. It was a simple place, very basic. Houses surrounded the area. Off to the side, we had a view of the water. Fishing boats parked along the shore. The sun beat down. A lot of people – kids and adults – were sitting, standing or walking around, many of them curious about our arrival. We were in San Vicente Poblacion.

In a paved clearing among the houses was where we were to gather the children for the afternoon. It seemed to be their community basketball court, on which stood one tent, a stretched out tarp for extra shade, and an unfinished stage. Next to the court was a small chapel, basically a room with a couple of tables inside. In addition to the area, 100 chairs and a sound system, all we had for the big event were sacks and boxes of supplies in our van, our eagerly supportive driver for the day, Ariel, and the hope of three travellers – my Mom, Milan and me.

This was going to be a challenge. And I instantly fell in love with where we stood. I thanked God with a big smile. All this was more than enough! And I knew He was right there with us.

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A wave of excitement rushed over me. We had never brought the Children’s Fair thisclose to the homes of the children we played with. Most of the times the children would have to travel, a bit – by jeep or on foot, to come to our activities. We were never so deep into their community, except during the times we worked at government shelters. But still, this was different. This was their home base, their turf. These kids grow up here, play in these corners, celebrate their town fiesta. This was going to be special. We’ve brought the party to their very homes!

Someone began to pull out plastic chairs. Mom, Milan and I sat with the Vice-Mayor and a local mother. We surveyed the space. In just a few hours, we’d have one hundred children running around, experiencing their first Children’s Fair.

And though we had hours to the start of the activity, our special guests – the children of this community hit hard by the storm last year – were already starting to arrive. It was going to be a beautiful day!


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More on the Children’s Fair in Daanbantayan soon!

 

C is for Coffee

My brain hasn’t taken a break since 8 am today. Even if it’s tried.

I blame it on the caramel macchiato that I started my day with. I haven’t been so relieved to find a Starbucks open on a weekend in an office building. I was running low on sleep, after a busy week and I did something out of character: kickstarted my day with a generous helping of iced coffee.

Har har har. Joke’s on you girl because twelve hours later your brain is still raring to go, but at the same time, blindly seeking the likings of a pause button. Or a break pedal. Or an open field with wild flowers to run my energy off, and cold, soft grass on which to crumple with relief.

Let’s just say I don’t do coffee. In the past it has, for me, only resulted in heart palpitations, feelings similar to that of a panic attack, or lost hours of sleep. I love everything coffee flavored. I love everything coffee scented. It’s coffee that I can quite manage in heavy proportions. Even if it’s poured over ice and drowned in milk. Heck, I can get an energy kick out of a bead of chocolate. Or a drizzle of caramel. Or a glass of water. Or a smile. Seriously.

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Thus, even if I want le brain to stop. It just keeps going.

Which was probably a great thing today. Saturday was non-profit work day! 🙂

From 2006 to 2008, I studied at an incredible school called  the United World College Costa Rica. Those two years changed me. Changed my life. UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. The network is global, as each campus has about 200 students each year, representing more than 100 countries. The exciting part is that the real UWC experience happens after graduation. I have not stopped being surprised with how the movement continues to challenge me, as well as open doors. Not to mention, some of the most interesting and talented people I know, I’ve met through UWC, even in the years since graduation.

Today I worked with the UWC Philippines National Committee, helping facilitate the selection of two new young scholars to be sent out to international campuses. What an exciting process! This being my first year home since I was selected myself, I loved meeting the candidates and connecting with other members of our committee. I helped facilitate round table discussions on loaded debate topics while the formal interviews went on. I had so much fun (especially since I purposefully played devil’s advocate) that I would love to organize conversations like this just for the pure joy of the experience. Conversations like this were a norm at UWC, often without prompting. Would you give cash to the poor to reduce poverty? Should prostitution be legalized? Is bribery sometimes acceptable? Should developing nations place restrictions on rural-urban migration? 

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The second highlight of my day, which took the late afternoon and early evening, was meeting with the Board of Directors of my non-profit organization, the Buhay Makulay Children’s Project. It’s been a long time coming, and I finally had this key meeting. And just like my brain has been foreshadowing all day, I am now raring to go. Might I remind you that I moved back home because I wanted to focus on Buhay Makulay? Wait and see, wait and see. And pray for me. Big changes are brewing, and you can be a part of this story too.

In the meantime, hydrate.

More soon,

T

Oh so you’ve got a career now?? Cute.

So you have seriously started the career path,” he said, “*insert smiley with tongue out hereYou’re one of the lucky ones.” This came from a friend I had met in DC last summer while doing a program in development project management. Interestingly enough, I am applying much of what I learned that summer, today. The quick chat I had with this friend was not only affirming, but it pushed me to look at my present position, not just my work position but my general position in the world today, from a different perspective – one that even more deeply appreciates the incredible spheres of influence I find myself in.

I have never thought of my life or my future from a career-based perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever jumped into an opportunity or a passion with a career as the end goal or next step in mind. Heck, I decided to major in art in college just because I wanted to. I honestly walked in with no plans to pursue art as a profession  I just wanted to be at college doing the things I enjoyed. (Thank God for supportive parents!) I had a little experience with drawing, but barely any with painting, and certainly none in sculpture or film photography, but I jumped excitedly into this fresh field that I had secretly always wanted to be a part of since I was a little girl. I loved it. But never really felt I’d be making a career out of all of it. It wasn’t until a few months ago, close to graduation and with work going up in the college gallery, that the desire to someday be a professional artist, exhibited and selling work internationally, really made itself clear to me. But that is a whole different topic, for a different time in my life!

What I know is this – I have simply stuck to pursuing the things I enjoy and the things that fire me up from deep down. And the things I not only enjoy but discover I am good at, these are the things I don’t give up. In my experience, these are also the things that bring the most joy to the people around me. Like my dancing, my drawing and even my writing.

I understand, however, that it is an incredible privilege to be able to do what I love and to pursue these without judgment, bias or threat of economic instability. Not everyone comes from a  background (familial, socio-economic,  or cultural) that allows them to simply study what they want. And even more, to study without pay — for which I am eternally grateful and will forever pay forward.

I remember feeling quite insulted and defensive when people would ask about what I intend to study (back in the years before college), and then quickly formulate a career path for me, or suggest jobs I might be able to get post-graduation so that I won’t starve. After all, all my interests continuously lie in the category of the world’s 10 lowest paying majors/jobs/careers/fields/etc.

I even felt insulted when a professor of mine tried to push me in the direction of minoring in her subject, because I was good at it but also because it would look good on my CV. Lady, those were the only words I needed to drive me away. In my mind I spat at the notion of doing things so that they could appear on my resume or my CV. I was at college to learn, not to build a resume or jump start a career. That is all I’ve ever wanted to do, learn. Friends, you are reading the blog of someone whose first life aspiration was to be a window washer (and later a lawyer, but for very shallow reasons related to title, attire and office space).

When I think of the word career, it feels so tied down to a title, a job description, a specific placement. A suit, even. I think that the way I like to work and live is a bit more fluid than that. I have never simply been saturated in a single line of work, or study. Instead, I find myself to be happiest when I have at my fingertips, a small, but persuasive selection of activities. Perhaps I have thought of my life in from a career based perspective, but one of a mini-spectrum of careers. And I just never thought to use the word career.

People change careers multiple times in their lives and often wear different hats all at once. Even in my studies, I pursued more than a single passion. I was a Studio Art Major and a Dance Minor, fulfilling some important leadership positions in our college dance community. Towards the end of college, I also identified as a poet.

So now that I have graduated and am working my first full-time job, where do you think my education has sent me?

This little artist/poet/dancer, is now waist deep in the development sector in her home country, the Philippines. My main thrust in the direction home, after having lived away for so long, was to manage the non-profit organization I founded some years back (more about that soon!). We serve children and youth at risk.

I now work full time at a social enterprise that provides livelihood training and jobs for those with very limited opportunities. Among our workers are survivors of abuse, human trafficking and prostitution.

I’ve also been doing math, and brushing up on my economics.

(If you know me well, this when you catch yourself laughing. AT me.)

From the outset, it is a little funny to think that an art major and dance minor who loves to write poetry,  is working in the business and development sector straight out of her undergraduate studies. So far, it seems to be working to my advantage, stepping into the development equation with fresh artsy eyes, but with a substantial bulk of development and leadership experience under my belt. I’m not exactly academically equipped for some things at work, but this also means that I have not been brainwashed or overeducated by this economic theory or that development case study. In fact, somebody I met last weekend told me that he was excited to see how I would integrate art and development, and that he could tell from talking to me that I had lots of experience in both those areas (What affirming words for me to hear!! I cannot wait to share what I’ve got up my sleeve when it comes to development and the creative arts.) The best I can do is to approach my work from a very human perspective, after all, the human element is my most valued element in my workplace – it is why I do what I do. I’m after human development.

So I try to walk in each day with an open mind, a generous heart and a teachable spirit. Every day I live out important lessons I have learned both inside and outside of the classroom – from positions of leadership and responsibility – and those today, as I have always anticipated, are the experiences that really count. Each day I am learning more and more.

Thankfully, I have not been thrown into the dungeons of economic lions, all hungry to devour every creative bone and muscle in my body,  despite working in a substantially economic-y, business-y environment.  Rather, I am learning to be a lithe and friendly panther in a neighboring space.

Okay, so I don’t know where this panther metaphor is going, but I just kind of like panthers… and pigs.

On some days, I am honestly just so overwhelmed by the amount of good that can be done in this world. Earlier this week, I spent some time at the office reading about the big and small moves that individuals are doing to end poverty around the world.  Sigur Ros accompanied my thoughts through my earphones, as the workplace was buzzing with busy women making cards (more about the actual nature of our business soon).

I paused my reading to enjoy the feeling. I was thinking about the future of development, a  field from which I simply cannot keep my heart away.  My insides just filled up, in a way much like goosebumps but in your blood, and with more weight, not just airy elation. With more reality. And more grit.

When I think hard about it, right now there is no other job I want more than mine.

So Thankful This September

Now whoever thought I would be writing up business plans in the shadow of my recent painting experiments, pinned up on the glass windows of our living room? Whoever thought I would be eagerly discussing supply, demand, finance plans and marketing plans by choice, on evening drives with my older brother? Or trying to convince community leaders, with decades and decades of experience over me, over coffee in teeny tiny mugs, sweetened with Bailey’s, in the shelter of a in a nipa hut, that they should engage in business with the social enterprise I represent? Or that a 62 year old priest named Father Boy would teach me how to shoot guns and nickname me Lady Bond after a long day of discussing livelihood initiatives for thousands of families?

Whoever thought?

Well I definitely did not see this coming, and I’m not just talking about this new experience with firearms. I will not write too much yet of specifics about my work, but it is hand down the best job I could’ve been offered straight out of graduation. And just in case your wondering or worrying, this new job does not involve any guns.

My actual Bachelors Degree as a Major in Studio Art (Surprise! Not many people at home have discovered that I love to draw and paint) and a Minor in Dance, does not yet directly connect to my work. But certainly all the experience I have had in the past six years of living, studying and leading away from home, has allowed me not to begin this new journey completely blind and unequipped. Even the experiences I took as on complementary to my education and experience have now become my primary to my performance and involvement today. There is so much room to learn and so much room to grow, and I look ahead with such anticipation! Not to mention, I am surrounded by people that are anxious to support me, cheer me on, mentor me and work alongside me.

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Before I returned to the Philippines, all I had hoped for this soon after arriving (roughly seven weeks now)  was to be slowly plugging myself back into community and investing in new and renewed connections with others. But life is in full swing now and I can barely believe it. As usual, I have to work hard on slowing down. Just as some younger friends back at school begin a new school year, I’ve got a job I love, wonderful people to work with, a weekly Zumba class to teach and the non-profit organization I founded and continually direct is set to jump into a wonderful new phase of service and community engagement.

Whoever thought?