Batch 1 (November 19-21, 2010)

Last November 19-21 2010, 29 exceptional students were selected by the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF) to participate in the first-ever run of the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey held in the Aquino Center & Museum, Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac City.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.Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: The Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey Experience
By: Maria Angelica O. Reyes

De La Salle Lipa

I have a mole on my right foot. A big one. Because of this birthmark, people always assume that I’m meant to travel. I totally agree with them. I’ve always wanted to travel in order to learn new things, and in turn share my unique experiences to all those I meet along the way.

However, I don’t think that travelling to different places is restricted only to those who possess a mole on their foot. Every person is meant to travel. I believe that each one of us has a unique journey to pursue in this great, wonderful life.

I am Maria Angelica O. Reyes. My friends call me Andel, Andeldal, Andeliciousdep, Andel with care. I’m a Dora aspirant, a captain of the exchange of conversations, a student leader, and an artist by nature. I’m one of the few left-handed people in the world (10% of the world’s total population to be exact). I’m the Batangenya who was seemingly born with a microphone in her vocal cords.

Last November 10, 2010, I was scanning through the list of all those who qualified for the 2010 Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey. Macolor, Maghuyop, Quirino, Ramirez, Raquel, Relloso, Reyes… “Reyes?” Reyes, Maria Angelica O. I saw my name listed among the 29 blessed people to be included in the Journey program, the foremost batch in the history of this country! It was truly an astonishing blessing.

Upon arriving in the Jose Cojuangco & Sons building, we were kept in the dark as to how the program would play out. ODK! (Oh Diyos Ko po!) What will happen to us? Being student leaders who are used to knowing every detail and being on top of schedules and activities, the situation left us all uneasy.

After hours of travel, we finally arrived at the Aquino Center in Tarlac. Trust became our seatbelts.

“We sometimes forget to stop.” The first speaker said. He was so good in reminding us that we needed to pause once in a while. Everyone needs to reflect on what is happening in their lives. This first part of the program moved me. The speaker successfully taught me and the other 28 participants that God is always accessible. He is present anywhere our journey brings us. Now I’d always remind myself, “Andel, whatever happens to you, good or bad, you must always raise it to the Lord. Always seek the Lord through prayer.” We all learned to lessen our worries, and entrust everything to God.

Oh angels from heaven and earth! Those three fruitful days served as a gasoline station; a place where we stopped over, rested, and regained our strength – our fuel – essential in continuing our journey.

Every navigator needs a compass to determine which path to pursue. Our compass for this journey? Love. Love is the most important thing that I got from the 3-day program. Love is the essential thing that gives us direction in our journey.

Love. It’s probably the most over-used word in the whole world. But it will never lose its significance. We all love to love. Love makes the world turn around.

Through the NCA Leadership Journey, I was able to experience the power of Love. I learned how to find Love around me. And during times I feel I do not have much, the organizers pointed out that there are others who have less still.

Love. It is understood by everyone.

I love a lot of people too much, and that is probably why I haven’t committed myself to just one person. (It’s not because of an attitude problem that I haven’t found The One. It’s something we must not rush.) This proves that Love is not limited to romantic partners. We can see it everywhere. We experience this Love through our parents who work hard for us, through our Mother Earth which needs saving, through our enemies who give us the opportunity to see our own mistakes, and through everyone else.

“Sumasarap ang aking umaga, na hindi lang ako basta gumigising, kundi bumabangon ng may dahilan, na tinutulungan kong bumangon ang isang tao, na parang buong bayan na rin ang bumabangon.”  I find more meaning in greeting each new day because I don’t just simply wake up anymore. I get up every morning with a new sense of purpose: to help others get to their feet, and by doing so help our nation rise up as well. We must find our purpose in life and use Love in fulfilling our missions.

Love is always in the air! Let us savour it! Breathe it in! Live with it.

Through the NCA Leadership Journey, I realized that I must fall in love and stay in love. This will serve as my guide in all decisions I will have to make along the way.

Self-reflection is one of the things that servers like us forget. Because of hectic school activities, organization concerns, and highly-advanced technology, we allot only a little time to ourselves. We forget to ask, “Kamusta na nga ba ako?”

The program also focuses on strengthening the values and spiritual faith of the participants – both central in the successful leadership of both Ninoy and Cory Aquino.

Through various activities during the program, we saw how much other people appreciate our service. They see our hardships, cheer us on, and show their never fading support when we’re in trouble. And even if our busy schedule doesn’t permit us to spend time with our loved ones, they will always be proud of us no matter what.

Knowing all this is enough to inspire us Journey participants in continuing our mission of helping this country.

When my high school teacher shared with us a detailed story of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, they became my favorite heroes. During the program in Tarlac, I did not only learn more about their heroism. I was moved to strive to be just like them: selfless leaders who sacrificed their lives because of the Love they had for our country.

Ninoy and Cory drafted the map illustrating the ideal destination that we youth must aspire to arrive at. Through his actions, Ninoy was able to tell us, “I sacrificed because I love you”. Cory, in turn, “made a choice to love”.

They exemplified the true meaning of Love. I, together with my fellow little Ninoys and Corys, will try my best to continue what they had started. I won’t let Ninoy die in vain. I’ll prove to the world that the Filipino is truly worth dying for!  Each and every one of us can be little Ninoys and Corys in our own little ways.

The NCA Leadership Journey program not only endorses two of the country’s modern heroes of democracy, it also allows participants to meet other people who will forever inspire our journey. The program serves as a venue for participants to discover the strong love and faith of the parents of baby Hannah Ysabelle, who gave up their jobs in order to tend to their daughter suffering from Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome or CCHS; the passion of Emmanuel “Kuya M” Bagual in sharing his precious time and effort to advocate children’s rights; the immense love Teacher Lorna Pulalon showed when she willingly sacrificed her life in order to save her students from an escaped convict’s rampage; and the encouraging words of the organizing team.

Wherever my journey brings me, one thing is for sure. I will always be a Filipino. I say this bursting with pride, for through my small veins flow the blood of a lineage of heroes.

To my very compassionate brother, Jesus Christ: no word can spell how grateful I am for Your constant guidance in this journey called life. Please help me, the other 28 participants and all the public servants of this country stay healthy so that we may serve You and this country even more. Let us be reminded that difficulties we encounter in life are actually Your blessings in disguise, and are there not to harm us, but to make us stronger.

To all my loved ones: you inspire me most. And to the future love of my life, (laughs), I will not find you. I will let love find its way for us.

To my country, stricken with poverty and other multifaceted problems:  you are one of the major reasons why I wake up each day. I am hopeful that the time will come when every Filipino will work together for your progress. Today’s youth are taking few, yet sustainable steps toward that goal.

To the organizers of the leadership journey: more power to you! You awakened our spiritual side. Please, never get tired of the advocacy. Rest assured that I, together with my batch mates, will always support you.

I am Maria Angelica O. Reyes. A renewed young leader strengthened by the love of God and of service.

I am Cory – not in name, but by heart. I am Cory – not only in mind, but in action.

With my mole on my right foot, unfading faith, and unconditional love, I will never give up on this journey.

I tried counting my blessings, but I always find that they are countless. They are so immeasurable that I could not ask for more. Sometimes, I think that I am a spoiled brat of the Lord. But I also believe that everyone is a spoiled child of God. We are all loved by the Lord equally. We just need to open our hearts and minds to see these God-given blessings. He loves us not for what we can do. He loves us just by being ourselves. He loves us. He always does.


Charmagne Yerro
University of Sto. Tomas

Students are fond of calling themselves student-leaders
But are they really leaders?
They do this; they do that; they’re busy with this, busy with that,
That they, more often than not
Forget Him – and a leader should never do that.

Every time people, regardless of age, hear about conventions or seminars about student leadership, they often associate it with something huge or something they can boast about. They often use these venues to showcase their skills and talent in order to outshine and outperform the others. But while it is true that being a recognized student-leader is a worth achievement, it should also serve as a reason to observe humility. There will always be hundreds of other students out there who are better than them, and they should instead feel grateful for being selected above any other student their age. Most importantly, most student-leaders nowadays do not see the need to visit the church or offer a mass as gratitude for being blessed with all these achievements.

This kind of mentality of the youth is indeed a great mistake, for from their ranks will rise our country’s next set of leaders. The moment that young Filipinos forget God and forget where they come from, our country would have lost another potentially great leader.

The three days I spent in Tarlac during the NCA Leadership Journey strengthened this belief in me and brought me closer to God more than ever. The Journey weekend reinvented the typical leadership seminar and made it into a program centered on God — the key aspect that made both Ninoy and Cory great leaders. The NCA Leadership Journey instilled in each participant the idea that despite all their noteworthy achievements, Ninoy and Cory were not the ones we should be looking up to– rather, we should really be looking up to God.

Nothing out of the ordinary occurred during the first few hours of the program. One by one students arrived at the venue, each one bearing a semblance to the old Ninoy — ambitious, proud and confident. Even I was one of them. However, inside I felt that I truly belong in this Journey program, and that being a spiritual seminar, I would hopefully release the hatred, pain and negativity from the difficulties I encountered the past year.

The Journey organizers asked only one thing from all of us: to place our trust in them and allow God to run our lives. And so we all did. And despite being away from “real world” for the weekend, I felt that everything was falling into place. I knew that this was it – the exact venue where God wanted me to be. For me, the weekend served as a moment to relax, unwind and renew myself, leaving all  baggages behind, and just hearing God’s voice telling me not to worry because He has my back. Then, the real Journey began.

My fellow participants and I were kept in the dark. We were not given any program whatsoever. All throughout the program, we just went with the follow and obediently followed whatever the organizers told us to do, and I personally enjoyed every minute of it. I believe that this was the real message of the Journey program — allowing God to take us to where we all belong and doing all what He planned for us to do. All the boastful aura of the participants gradually diminished, and was replaced by God’s presence transcending from each and everyone of us. At that moment, it didn’t matter anymore what school we came from and what our backgrounds were — we became a FAMILY. This was the exact same feeling I had when I first received the Sacrament of Reconciliation – a felt as if I was floating on air without any negativity at all. My soul was truly rejoicing. The Journey program woke me up from a deep spell and allowed me to see God leading me to where I belong. During this program, I also learned to accept new ways of praising God. Without any inhibitions, we all voiced out our prayers and our hurts to Him. We knew that we would not be laughed nor judged. It just really felt like HOME — a life-changing home. Through the program, I realized how lucky I really was and that I should be thankful that despite the hardships I encountered, God was always there. No trial is insurmountable with Him on our side. Everything we do, we can do better if we just allow Him to be part of it. Lastly, the program reminded me that loved ones — our parents, families and friends — are always with us no matter what.

Knowing that there could have been other more deserving student-leaders in my place, I believe, is God’s way of telling me that this Journey wouldn’t have been this successful if I wasn’t in it, and that He brought me here for a reason — to continue the Journey and become a catalyst for change not only in the lives of those other potential participants of the program, but in the lives of every person I encounter for hereon.

God has simple ways of showing His love for us
Everyone’s first and no one’s last.
That all of us have our individual love stories with Him;
That we should be proud to tell because no one’s ever greater than Him.

Never in my life have I felt more renewed and more motivated to go out of my comfort zone, for I know that wherever I go, I would be bringing with me a better armor in battle – God’s love and guidance — and an army of people I love — my fellow Journeyers — whom I am willing to offer help to in any way possible. Life is indeed a journey, and anyone can make it worth living. =)

The Journey Continues
By Ryan Ramirez

The yellow flame of the candles gently illuminated the dark and silent room. The cold wind from the air conditioner seemingly whispered some words I could not decipher. The next thing I knew, I was already falling in love with the silence.

There I was, together with 28 top student-leaders, at the Aquino Center, Tarlac for the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Leadership Journey.  I wasn’t sure if it was pure luck or good fate that brought me there. Whatever the reason, it made me blissful beyond my imagination.

The moment I first set my foot on Tarlac, a feeling of comfort and tranquility welcomed me. I stayed motionless for a moment. The tree branches swayed in harmony as they cool breeze blew by. The stillness of the vicinity made me forget about my busy schedule and instead take pleasure in my surroundings.

“I belong here,” I told myself.

However, uneasiness started building up inside me. I kept on thinking that I should have been at school or at home, where I had always been, accomplishing school work and studying my lessons. I felt that I should have gone on with my daily routine: waking up early and staying up late. I felt lost and baffled. But then the unparalleled beauty of the green grass, the refreshing scent of the flowers, the sweet chirping of the birds, and the freshness of the air caught my attention once again. It was then I stopped questioning.

I was there for a special reason. The reason was God.

Prior to the NCA Leadership Journey, I was always busy striving to be the best. It took me a while to realize that I had become too restless, and that I had started to be more conscious of what others see in me. But when I reconnected with God, I learned that the things unseen in this world are the ones that are eternal.

The first day of the Leadership Journey taught me one essential point: God loves me. I should greatly consider this for the rest of my life. He loves me without any hesitations or conditions. He loves me at my best and at my worst, and for my strengths and my flaws. God loves me just for being myself.

I have learned that to be blessed is to find one’s self in the hands of God no matter what. I am both lucky and blessed to be with the people around me. I started to count my blessings, and realized shortly after that those blessings are countless. There are no “small things” in this world. Every little thing is a big blessing that becomes an indispensable element in building a beautiful world. It is just a matter of perspective.

The second day of the Leadership Journey was about presence. It was on this day that I realized that I should be with the ones I love and with the ones who love me. I should be open not only to be touched and be the recipient of graces, but also to touch other people’s lives. I should be concerned with other people’s wants, and also their needs. I should be open, not only to love, but to be loved. Finally, I have contemplated that it is not money, but love that makes the world go round.

I was inspired by Dynamic Teen Company’s Emmanuel “Kuya M” Bagual who is also a Hero of the Year in his own right. His heartfelt stories on spreading the gift of knowledge to kids who were not given proper education without anything in return is truly incomparable. It was from him where I learned the BEST gear for change: Believe that God is the source and author of your talent; Excel in your field and make the most out of it; Share your gifts to the needy; and Think of ways to improve yourself and your craft.

The third day of the Leadership Journey was about sacrifice. As what NCAF President and Executive Director, Mr. Rafael Lopa, said, “The call to leadership is a call to love, and the call to love is a call to sacrifice.” My fellow Journey-mates and I, as future Ninoys and Corys, are more than ready to step up and lead in order to build a better nation. Ninoy and Cory Aquino, the two persons I look up to the most, exhibited leadership in the context of God’s profound love.

To sacrifice is a noble thing to do, and that was what God did for us. He saved us even before we tried saving ourselves.  And now, the least thing we could do is to sacrifice for others.

Day Four has just commenced. The journey continues. It’s just the beginning. +