Last September 9-11, 2011, 24 exceptional Lasalian student-leaders were selected to participate in the third run of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey held in the St. Paul de Chartres Vigil House, Taytay, 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 is a reflection written by an NCA Leadership Journey Batch 3 participant about the experiences and insights she gained from the program.
I AM BLESSED… I AM LOVED… I AM SO GRATEFUL…
by: Jodi Herrera, De La Salle University – Manila
Before undergoing the NCA Leadership Journey program, my 18 years of existence was a roller coaster ride. I have had my fair share of ups and downs, and I have struggled with a number of challenges that seemed impossible to overcome. I used to be this girl who always did things to please everyone around her in order to feel appreciated and accepted. In the process, I easily stressed over instances when I did not get the attention and the approval of my peers. I tried to boost my morale by focusing on earning academic recognition. However, even this was frowned upon by my peers at times. I felt as if they judged me without even knowing the extent of the personal issues I was dealing with. Even though I tried to divert my attention to my academic performance, it did not really improve my level of self-esteem.
A lot of questions raced through my mind. Who am I? Why am I plagued with all of these problems? Why is it that people still misunderstand me despite all my efforts to live up to their expectations? I felt the need to leave the busy and stressful environment I was in in order to reflect on all that was happening in my life.
Luckily, heaven sent news. The Ninoy & Cory Aquino Center for Leadership (NCACL) was screening applicants for the 3rd run of the NCA Leadership Journey. Fortunately, I was accepted into the program. Journey gave me the opportunity to personally evaluate myself, know myself, and be myself. It allowed me to reconnect with God, my Almighty Father, my Creator and my Savior. For me, the Journey weekend was a brief respite, a much-needed deep reflection, a very enriching experience, and a significant turning point in my life. My learnings and realizations during those eventful three days can be summarized in four keynotes:
“God Loves us Unconditionally” – This is the most important realization I had. I was too busy focusing on how to please and how to be accepted by everyone around me that I didn’t realize that there was one person who did not require me to do anything to earn His acceptance and love. God has loved me from the start unconditionally. At times I have ignored and have even forgotten His existence because of hectic work schedules and worldly pleasures. My Journey experience came at the most opportune time in my life because it made me see the error in focusing on worldly gratification to attain self-love. The program reminded me that God loves us a lot. I know feel safe and secure knowing that God will always be there for us no matter what happens – we simply have to call and lift our hands to Him. I learned that in life, we should not do things just so others will love us back. Instead, we should do things simply because it is the right thing to do, for all the right reasons – a purpose-driven life.
“Everything Happens for a Reason” – This is the 2nd key insight I learned. I used to view problems as a form of punishment from God, or karma from not doing the right things. But after going through the Journey program, I realized that most of the time, God allows us to fall in order to for us to learn. Henceforth, I promised to view problems as part of my development as a Child of God. I will never get tired of falling and standing right back up again because I know it will make me a better person, so long as I learn from the mistakes of the past. No matter how hard and how scary it may be to fall, I will not be afraid anymore to take risks and to move forward. When things don’t go according to plan, I will just smile and remind myself that everything happens for a reason and in God’s time. As they say, when a door closes, windows of opportunity open. Most blessings in disguise come our way when we need it most, just like my being an NCA Leadership Journey participant because it came at the lowest point in my life. Now, my commitment is to give my best and to have enough courage to face problems because it is in times like these that we are in the best position to create positive changes in our lives by letting go and faithfully surrendering to the Lord’s will. In our lives, there will also be certain wants that will never be satisfied and questions that will remain unanswered. All we need to do is TRUST in the Lord for there is a Divine Reason for everything.
“Know yourself” – This is very important in order to handle challenges that will come your way. You need to know how to keep your emotions in check to maintain a positive outlook and attitude in spite of difficulties. We should always have a big heart to love and care for people.
“Live to Love, Love to Live” – The last insight I took with me, but certainly not the least. We should live out our life’s mission: to share and give love to others. I consider myself very fortunate because I have been blessed with a comfortable life, with a good education from a reputable university, and with love from God, my family, and my friends. The best way to pay it forward is to share whatever skills, talents and blessings I possess with others – particularly with those who are most in need. Loving and sharing will make this world a better place to live in. The happiness that Love generates is immeasurable to any material thing.
Now, the four-letter word I always keep close to my heart is PUSH: Pray Until Something good Happens. God is always there, waiting and listening. Once we call on Him, blessings come our way and miracles happen. We just need to believe…
At the end of the Journey weekend, I can very well say that “I am Blessed… I am Loved… I am so Grateful…” I hope everyone may experience the same feeling and acquire the same enlightenment in their lives.