How It All Started

As much as I would want to write in third-person ­­perspective in regard to the anonymity of the page admin, it would not sound sincere and personal.

It all started after I acquired my engineering degree and being employed in a large IT industry. I was earning enough for a single person to survive the daily hustle and bustle of life. I did work my butt off and complied with what I thought was the right track for me. I was all about my career. I came in office almost always early. I was never late. I always meet deadlines, and perhaps did exceed some of my immediate supervisor’s expectations. I can say I was an upright employee. Yes, I was.

Ever consistent with what I was doing, I was able to pass up my first year… but less eager. Although I did still have that fresh-grad work enthusiasm, I noticed I was bearing only half of it now. I did not have the faintest idea what exactly happened to me. I grew more tired just as immediate as my acceptance of an employment. I started feeling the routine, started cursing my alarm clock every morning. Was swaying away to the path of my seemingly dream job. Then just when I was about to burst off of work depression, I delivered my resignation – that was the most liberating feeling I have ever felt my entire life. Funny but I can compare it to finally going out of jail after serving a prison sentence for a crime you did not commit. Yes, I felt free.

Saving sufficient money to justify my unemployment, I told my parents that I needed to rest for a couple of months or so before finding my new dream job. I was being optimistic about it despite the fact that I was not feeling of finding new employment soon enough. Too cliché of a reason, but I think I need to discover myself and do some kind of soul-searching. And so I did…

The first plan was to join as many volunteer activities as possible while traveling places I have never been before. That was the time when I was introduced to “voluntourism.” I always wanted to do things with purpose and so I applied it to my travels. I went out there and enjoyed myself with nature while practicing altruism all at the same time. Although I did some volunteer works back in my university, all of it was motivated by the usual course requirement, so seeing the pure joy of the children of Itogon, Benguet after handing over complete set of school supplies, was very exhilarating to me. It was followed then by environmental activities such as mangrove planting in Quezon, and other mountain hiking adventures and immersions. That was the point of my illumination, the kind to say that I could probably do all these for the rest of my life – the main reason why I finally acquired the courage to apply for a career in Greenpeace and/or United Nations.

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The very initial step I did was Googling about them. I did find career paths I wanted to apply for so I sent them emails with all the experiences I thought were enough to qualify. I waited for a couple of weeks, and then weeks turned months. The first month of being unemployed was kind of dragging me down already. I always wanted to do something real, something of significance where I would feel relevant… so I was not ready to give up on the idea and patiently waited for their response. Third month was the moment I have been waiting for. I received an email from Greenpeace inviting me for an interview in their office located at Quezon City, so I went in and got the job being at the frontline. Direct Dialogue Campaigner was not an easy task to do. It was a very humbling job. You get to talk to strangers and convince them to donate a portion of their money every month. I was able to experience the joy of being an extremist for the environment (what most people call environmental warriors), walking outside dressed in costumes holding placards to promote our campaigns. It was totally different from what an entry level engineer should do, and I get to do it for almost quarter of what I earn from industries. But I was not really looking for something to earn back then. The feeling of being whole was not attained through large amount of salaries but rather to the people I was able to help despite how small of a contribution I made every program. I was able to fully understand myself and realize that hedonistic lifestyle was not the way for me. My transformation from being a Greenpeace DDC was very evident both physical and spiritual. I lost tremendous amount of weight but gained more valuable knowledge about the universe and consciousness. A spiritual journey I will never forget and will be incessantly part of me now.

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By the time I have exhausted my entire savings, Greenpeace decided to take down DDC position. I was already a part time instructor at the College of Engineering at De La Salle Lipa doing the one thing I love, teaching. But I always take it to save money for voluntourism which brought me to a life-changing adventure, and that was finally meeting the humble Apo Whang-od and her tribe up in the mountains of Kalinga.

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I just could not believe that despite the progress we are privileged to experience here in the metro, the convenience of getting almost everything with just a push of a button, there exist a very modest tribe away from all the advancement of civilization. Living in tranquilly and surprisingly satisfied in the blissfulness of nature surrounding them, even without electricity. They get their source of income from farming but farming is seasonal especially in high altitude areas. Tourism is likewise another source of revenue, but is mainly dependent on the existence of the Kalinga traditional tattooing done by the head of the tribe herself, Apo Whang-od who is almost a century old. They get supplies from the nearest town of Bontoc which is practically around 2 hours by land and 6 hours on foot. Just imagine if they ran out of kerosene for their lamps at night. Evening chores are usually done at 5 in the afternoon, dinner preparation at 6. And zero activity when the clock strikes 7. I could not even imagine myself living there for months, honestly speaking. The nights are even longer if there was no light coming from the moon – total darkness.

After my trip to Kalinga, upon my way home, I just had this meaningful realization of a scientific project I have been doing for the past few years in my Environmental Engineering class. I was not expecting to get anything out of it nor making it into a business as well. That was not at all part of the plan not until we were invited to host the IdeaSpace Competition which led me to decide of entering this project. I did mention it in my very first pitch (I did not know what the purpose of “pitch” was until bootcamp) that it was purely an advocacy to give light to the rest of the Philippines. But if this could get my way through to help the people who just need a decent light to survive the night over, then why not give it a shot?!

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