A fairy-tale come true

A royal spring wedding is coming. The frenzy has just started and articles about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have inundated the internet even before their engagement was officially announced. I am one among millions of fans who eagerly read articles that came my way. Whilst many anticipate the wedding day with much gusto, excited to have a glimpse of the bridal gown and all, I am more excited about what Meghan –an advocate of many good things—can do as a princess.

I am a recent Suits fan. I’ve only watched the series few months ago. I’ve read articles about Prince Harry dating a Meghan Markle but didn’t care one bit until I realised the lady he was dating was Rachel Zane of Suits! I was all eyes since then. Being a law student, Rachel Zane inspired me in several ways which made the person behind the character interesting for me too so I started reading about Meghan and found that she is more amazing than Rachel Zane. My politics is aligned with hers – at least from what I’ve read thus far.

She is a feminist, humanitarian advocate and actively voices out issues facing the marginalized communities. Her experiences growing up as a mixed-race woman, having a black mother, and living in a white supremacist society obviously helped shape her consciousness as an advocate but it was her choice to use her standing in society to raise awareness and take action against social issues that made me admire her. I’d like to believe that her advocacy will not change once she becomes a princess but rather, the new role will provide her with better opportunities to continue her advocacy.

On a side note, the upcoming royal wedding undeniably made me nostalgic of the time I spent in London. I was volunteering with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) for three months in Newham, London in 2008. The experience though short opened my eyes to a different reality. I grew up thinking that rich countries like the UK don’t have to face problems experienced by third-world countries like the Philippines. This notion changed when I saw a beggar sleeping on the street in winter. And I’ve seen the same in Sweden too.

We were also told to not stay at the park late because some African volunteers in another community were assaulted by a ‘white gang’ of young people. I’ve met a refugee from Afghanistan who barely spoke English and was all by himself in London. We may have struggled with language but I did understand that he was missing his family so much.

We had one activity where we were to identify social problems in the UK and our British counterparts shared that neighbours barely talk or know each other; a stark contrast in the Philippines where everybody knows everybody even those from different towns. There was a need to get people to talk and inculcate that sense of community – at least in London. There were various youth centres available in Newham alone that catered to the needs of young people but not many youth came. Instead, you’d read articles about them getting into a fight or involved with drugs.

Every nation face problems unique to its society and culture but in the grand scheme of things, nations have more similarities than differences. Globalization and the increasing technological advances rapidly blur borders. Problems faced by one country likewise pose a set of complex problems to its neighbours and even those at a distance geographically. Now more than ever, there is a need to catalyse global citizenship and encourage cooperation among advocates. And this is the reason I am thrilled that Meghan Markle is going to enter the royal institution –the British monarchy at that. I hope she will become a unifying figure in our continuous battle for a better world. Her love life may be one we can call a fairy-tale come true –a modern Cinderella—but I hope that her story won’t end at the wedding like most fairy tales do but rather open a new chapter of a princess working hard to save lives and the Mother Earth.

Seed of Life

When I applied for Global Xchange, the thoughts I had in mind were learning, fun, travel, opportunities, career jump-start, selfish aims for myself. True enough that GX has everything to offer. But GX does not only ends with giving us allowances, budget for activities and implementing rules and platform for a successful programme. GX has totally changed my life and changed my views and perceptions about issues concerning the humanity.

Every activity and experiences I had is an eye opener for me especially our GCDs on interpretations of poverty, poverty and inequality and poverty in Mindanao. It made me understand how societal problems are connected to each other and that poverty is the root cause. Those topics along with other GCDs made me become aware about a lot of things which I do not know before. It made me value the things which I did not care before.

All my life, I’ve never experienced something like this where at the end of the day I just stay quite as I internalize and reflect on various realities. It breaks my heart to know how some people live in wealth and luxury while others can’t even eat a single bread in a day. While other people lay peacefully in their bed at night, some people cannot sleep worrying if they could still witness another sunrise. While others live in fame and admiration, some are wounded by discrimination. While some do not know the meaning of education and do not value it, others walk miles away each day to be able to finish even just primary. These realities are some things that I didn’t only learn from theory. It is something that I’ve witnessed and experienced first hand.

Since the start of GX, I have come to meet new acquaintances, experienced new things and gained new knowledge. I’ve earned it for the past 6 months of the exchange. But one single moment before GX ends, something was added on the list.

We were evacuated two weeks before debrief from Iligan City due to the conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Since we cannot work with our work placement, we tried to help in the relief operations for the victims. We also allotted one day to meet the members of the government panel who were involved in the controversial Memorandum of Agreement between the government and MILF which is the cause of the present war. This gave us wider understanding of the history of our country and the historical bloody conflict between the two parties.

Although the main cause is self determination among the Muslim Filipinos, I’m quite certain that poverty is still one of the great causes. But the speakers and efforts of Balay Mindanao Foundation Inc. taught me how to be a part of the solution and contribute to the country’s battle against poverty and war. Learning and realizations would not suffice without action. I was reminded of those people from our work placements and few individuals that I’ve met who gave their life in the service of our countrymen to promote lasting peace and development. The determination and encouragement implanted by these people is something that I haven’t learned from school. It is through immersion and involvement that I got to feel what it’s like to be an ambassador of social change.

I may be just one volunteer who aspires to do something in this troubled world, but I believe it only takes one seed to produce bountiful fruits.

Online volunteering makes a difference

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Even when I was a kid, my heart always breaks every time I see a beggar on the streets. My young mind can’t help but wonder why people could afford to ignore those street children when what they asked for is just a single peso to buy a piece of bread.

As I got older, I realized that there are so much frustrations in the world other than the sight of a hungry child. My attempt to contribute was through being an active student leader. After I graduated and having volunteered in Newham and Iligan, I became passionate to work on areas in line with community development.

However, fate brought me into the corporate world. T’was just a matter of priority though as for now, my goal is to help my family. I need to stick with my job to do that which means giving up my desire to serve the people.

No matter how I tried to be positive with my job in the business sector, there were just times when I just found myself ranting over the same paradox. Thanks to Ms. Jennifer Domingo, she introduced to me the world of online volunteering. I registered and browse on some tasks which I am capable of doing to maximize my contribution to the organization.

Indeed, we will never run out of ways to do something if we only have that strong determination and will in our heart. I am now very excited to start applying and hopefully get accepted by one of the organizations I am keen to work with.