Empowered Champion: Jerwin Ramos
My 8th APYExPHL Journey
When I first signed up for the 8th APYExPHL program, I didn’t know what to expect. I was worried that my groupmates would not want my help because paper works and proposal making were my weaknesses, and speaking English wasn’t my top suite. However, I believe that God had plans of transforming my weaknesses into strengths. I reminded myself that God has accepted me and loved me completely and absolutely as the person that I am. I realized that didn’t have to be perfect to be able to participate in the program – I just had to surrender all my worries to Him and true enough, those fears became non-existent from the moment I arrived in Cebu.
In our three-day Leadership Development Training at Quest Hotel, I learned a lot from our speakers. One of the speakers was Iking Corpuz and he explained that we were certainly not the saviors in our respective immersion sites. Sustainable tourism is all about the community that we would be helping, and the project that we would be creating should focus on alleviating a specific problem with them in mind. The program also helped me realized that I will not always be a leader. I may be a leader now, but I will not lead forever. Today, I still do not claim the label of being a great leader. The best description that I can say for now is that I’m a leader who has learned lots of things, and continues to learn through life experiences. As Martin Luther have said, “If you cannot fly, run. If you cannot run, walk. If you cannot walk, crawl. Just don’t stop. Keep moving forward.” My experience at APYExPHL made me realize that I could do great things from small actions. My groupmates (Team KALIKOPAN) did not underestimate me, they were so appreciative towards my contribution in our group, even in the small things that I can do.
One of the most inspiring moments for me was during the data gathering in our immersion site, Oslob – it was when I got to know Ate Sally. Ate Sally is a single mom who has three kids, two of them are mute. Her only source of income comes from her job as a helper in one of the small stores at Barangay Tan-awan. Her husband was in the prison for four years because of drugs. They live in a small house with no chairs, tables, electrical equipment – basically an empty house. They don’t eat breakfast because she needs to go to work early in the morning. Her kids are kept inside the house. They don’t go anywhere because according to her, they are prone to accident whenever they go out. She only comes back after work, which is after lunch already just to feed her kids. I asked her questions like how she manages to do all those things, what inspires her to continue in life, and why she isn’t giving up. She just gave me a brief answer, “Ganyan talaga, iyan ang binigay ng Diyos” (Such is life, this is what God has provided). Hearing her answer left me speechless. I got goosebumps and couldn’t help but hug her. I didn’t see any hopelessness in her face. I only saw a person with a strong faith and perseverance to pursue life. Ate Sally made me understand the importance of not complaining with the problems in life. My own problems are just nothing compared to what other people are experiencing – no food to eat, no place to live, and no family to lean on. I am now GRATEFUL ENOUGH in all the things that I have and I am BLESSED because I can see, talk, hear, and breath. My life may not be perfect but I am blessed in so many ways. I remembered what Fr. Dave have said to us during the Kerygma Conference last 2018, “Every day is not always good but you can always find something good in every day.”
I describe this 8th APYE experience as "life-changing” and “transformational.” It seems cliché to say that my two weeks in Cebu, specifically in Barangay Tan-awan, Oslob, has changed me for the better, but it actually did. Being able to stand in other people’s shoes made me experience the feelings of joy, sorrow, compassion, and love in ways that I never had before. This immersion trip to Barangay Tan-awan, has shaped and given me new perspectives towards the different aspects of my life that I never knew it could touch. It’s important to hear and learn about the issues that the individuals are struggling with, but there is also a need to establish a personal connection with these communities in the cheesiest way possible. I was able to restore my faith in humanity. I was able to overcome my fears with so much love, joy, and compassion. I am grateful for all the people behind the 8th APYExPHL for welcoming me. My APYExperience truly taught me to LOVE, to BE LOVED, to ACCEPT, and to BE ACCEPTED in order for me to build and join a progressive community. Now, in everything that I do, I nothing without the presence of LOVE. In APYE, I didn’t only find new friends for I found my second FAMILY! OSLOOOOOOOVES! I will end this by saying that in everything I do, it is always of the people, by the people and for the people!