Batch 2 (June 3-5, 2011)

Last June 3-5, 2011, 30 exceptional students were selected by the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF) to participate in the second run of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey held in the Loyola Retreat House, Angono, Rizal.

The NCA Leadership Journey aims to build the nucleus of a new generation of leaders that are grounded on their spirituality who can eventually transform Philippine society. Using Ninoy and Cory Aquino as role models, the program seeks to reintroduce spirituality as a major foundation for Filipino leadership. Harnessing their innate values systems, the participants take part in a process of self-reflection that will ultimately lead to self-transformation and self-commitment for others and country.

Below are reflections written by participants about the experiences and insights they gained from the program.


God loves us FIRST.
Thoughts on the Ninoy and Cory Aqunio Leadership Journey 2011
By: Ernesto B. Neri

In its most profound sense, the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey weaved my anxiety, excitement, doubts, hopes and fears into one understandable and appreciable picture of my life. I brought with me  so much anxiety into this retreat. Friends are leaving, going separate paths; college comfort has ended and the prospect of Law School still stings with fear and uncertainty. In all the rich inputs given to us, I want to share a simple highlight.According to Henri Nouwen, we oftentimes miss the whole point about the nature of our relationship with God. Our common mentality is we keep on doing good so we can merit God’s love. We operate in that one-way relationship which simply spells we should please Him – period. Nouwen opens up this new thought that affirms the fundamental truth that God loves us FIRST.

The question is not “how am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?”, but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?”.

TRUE LOVE: As I feel it
By: Coco Chanel Garcia

I have never known love as strong and deep as this, until I finally met you… AGAIN.

I was raised in a home with overflowing love from my parents and friends. I spent my happy childhood days being so loved. I could still remember how happy I was when I passed on this love to others. I could still clearly picture the smiles of the kids I shared my toys and chocolates with. I could still remember the laughter of the elders in our church when I first had my talk as the speaker there at age 7 as I kept on getting lost in the middle of my talk, calling them Mr. and Mrs. when it is a practice in our church to call each other brothers and sisters. I could still feel the tears running down my cheeks the first time I cried in the church at age 12 while talking about my friends who left the church and got lost in the world. I could still remember the joy in my heart whenever I’d sing a song of praise to God. I could still feel the shared pain the whole community felt when someone was in deep pain.

“Chanel”: the person I used to be.

Time passed by and I graduated grade school with flying colors. That fed my ego so much that during my high school days, I became known as Coco, the achiever. I dominated every contest I joined and became the president of almost all organizations. I worked really hard to make a name for myself. You have no idea how much I loved the spotlight. I literally walked around our school with my chin up, thinking that I was the biggest fish. I took pleasure in all this, and as a result I made myself so busy that I didn’t even allot time to go to church. “Coco” always got what she wanted all on her own.

One day, Coco the achiever qualified for a national leadership seminar attended by more or less 6,000 student-leaders. But I was not just a participant – I was the regional president of student governments, and therefore stood as the representative of our region. I met the brightest and most awesome student-leaders in the country. There was one person I met in particular, and that individual managed both to bring out the best in me while making me feel so inadequate. Being in the company of these student-leaders made me feel like I was in the wrong place. I thought I was too “small” to be part of the group. For the first time in my life, I hated being in the spotlight. No one wants to be in the spotlight if you’re just going to melt under the light.

I worked really hard to fit in the group so I could proudly say that I belong. I won some contests and even became an ambassador of peace and goodwill to Japan. I spent my days trying to impress them and make them proud that I am part of their group. Despite of all these, I wasn’t able to please them. I wasn’t even noticed in the first place, which really hurt my self-esteem. To make things worse, I wasn’t able to graduate as the valedictorian in my high school. I badly wanted that V! I was left wondering how to break the news to my parents. For days, I feel so inadequate and alone. Without me even noticing it, I found myself in the arms of my Tatay crying. Without me saying a word, he understood what had happened, and tears fell from his eyes too.

All of those events greatly affected me in college. Out of the fear of not being good enough for others (especially to the great man who brought out the best in me yet made me feel so inadequate at the same time), I decided to just focus on my studies instead of joining contests. That great man is unaware of what he means to me. Frankly, I chose my undergraduate course partly because I want to help him someday. However, I felt like my “inferiority complex” was getting in the way of going for what I love to do. I was so afraid to be too small, to be not good enough. I didn’t even have the nerve to show myself to those who believe in me because I don’t believe in myself. I didn’t have the face to go back to church because of too many self-doubts. I ended up questioning the existence of a loving God.

After some time, I received an invitation to speak before high school student-leaders. I was very hesitant at first, but I decided to accept the offer. Preparing for that talk forced me to muster enough courage to believe in myself again. In the end, it proved to be a good decision. My drive shifted from pleasing others to making others believe in themselves as well. I suddenly felt that I was back with a new and greater sense of passion. Yes! Chanel is heading back to the right track. I guess the spotlight is the most beautiful when others are there because you have inspired them. Inspired by the positive turn in my life, I was able to qualify for the Ayala Young Leaders Congress (AYLC). The event fueled me to fulfill my vision of multiplying the passion I had. However, AYLC reasonably disturbed me as well. I realized that the Coco who is so used to getting what she wants doesn’t really know what she wants now. There was something missing… there was something or maybe someone I left behind.

As I was browsing the internet one day, something caught my attention. I came across the Ninoy & Cory Aquino Leadership Journey (NCALJ). I badly wanted to join, but I was so shocked when I saw the deadline. I had only 5 days to fulfill all the application forms. The following day, I told my friend about it and we immediately went to the registrar’s office to get our transcript. However, they informed us that we could get our transcript the following week. Nanghina talaga kami upon hearing this! We literally begged the registrar to process our transcripts. Fortunately, they agreed to release it after 3 days. The day before the deadline, we found out that our mentors were not able to accomplish our recommendation letters. Kailangan pa namin ng 1 day allowance for LBC at ayaw na talaga namin, suko na kami!. It seemed as if the whole world was conspiring against us. But for some reason, I really wanted to join the NCA Leadership Journey terribly. (Baka dun ko makita si Mr. Right. LOL). So I begged one of my teachers and my adviser to make a recommendation letter for me (good thing they were not annoyed over the super rushed request of mine). It was 7 o’clock in the evening when we finished our forms and headed to the LBC branch to send the requirements out. Unfortunately, sign we were fearing the most was posted on the door: “Sorry, we’re closed”. Good thing, with my charms (kapal! LOL), we were able to convince the LBC crew to accept our forms for delivery. And the rest is history.

That proved to be the best decision I’ve made so far. It was all worth it. True enough, I found my Mr. Right (and he’s so right talaga, or better yet, he’s perfect! Di ka niya sasaktan di tulad ng iba. Hahaha. Bitter?). June 3, 2011, I met my true love… AGAIN. His name is God. Because of NCALJ, we are back together and I have appreciated and embraced all my experiences (even the worst pain ever) as I reflected on them.  Experience is not the best teacher, unless you reflect and learn from them. Here are some of my realizations:

  • God loves us first. We need not please him. All we have to do is to show ourselves to him and embraced His love. Because of this, I’ll never feel that I’m inadequate and not good enough.
  • -Learn how to fall and fail. I’ll never be afraid to fall all over again and to fail a million times because only when I take risks to fall and to fail will I learn how to commit unconditionally.
  • I will never take for granted those people who love me.  “I love you forever, I like you for always and as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be (this reminded me of my Tatay who calls me “baby” until now that I’m 19. I love you Tay!).
  • Learn how to mourn then forgive yourself, forgive others and receive God’s forgiveness. I will never ignore or suppress the pain I’m feeling because the more I suppress it, the more it hurts. I’ll embraced pain because I don’t want love to be mistaken as hatred. Pain=Love. Coco and Chanel are one again because they have forgiven each other (I don’t have multiple personality, huh? LOL).
  • LOVE. LOVE. LOVE.  I am loved by God, my family and friends and because of this I now accept that I loved, I love and will always give love no matter how it hurts. Love is the most real “thing” in the world.

There is no guarantee that I will be loved back by people, but I have decided to just love and love. I am the co-author of my life. I decide on what to write on my novel — be it a comma, a question mark or a period. I can’t erase anything, can’t correct expressions or grammars but I’m always given the chance to write a new chapter and I’m the only one who can write the ending. The end story may affect the people around me. Some will smile and some will cry. I am writing this novel not to get an award at the end of the day or to be remembered by people. I now know what I want. When I’m done with this novel, I only want God to sign it “Well done faithful servant!”

So, this is true love. I’m finally HOME.

Note: Sorry for the very long post. Hope you understand that I really miss writing… it’s been 5 years. Thank you for all the palanca letters and to everyone I love and loved me back, and even to those who didn’t. I LOVE YOU ALL. Thanks NCALJ. Thank you Father. I miss everyone.