Monday Musings: A Hero’s Journey

How does one become a hero? All of us grew up watching all the superheroes, from Mighty Mouse to Spider Woman. We always saw their strenghts and their kryptonites. Those shows always remind us that those heroes were also human (except for Biker Mice).

When I was a child, my biggest ambition was to be a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I remember the imaginary game with my cousin and sisters ( I think I was 6 years old) where we pretended to be in a beauty pageant. My sister then asked me what I would do if I was given a lot of money. I told her that I would use the money to help the poor (yes such a cliche but I was young and seious about it).  I wanted to help save the world (I still want to up until now). The only problem, the change I dream of was just a dream. I never did anything to reach it. I partially blame living in a small city. It did not help in empowering my childhood dreams (centralization only helps big cities get more opportunities). I grew up thinking and feeling that I was a powerless nobody filled with frustrations of wanting to do more and that the only audience that I will ever get will be my schoolmates who pretty much had no choice.

It was not until I had my first heartbreak that I realised that I could do more and that I had a blind spot. I did not need to find a hero to save me, I needed to save myself, I was 22 years old then. At such a late age, I started to accept who I was. I accepted my physique and all my quirks. I never wore shorts and sleeveless tops before thinking that I looked ugly and fat. I always hid. I avoided opportunities thinking I was not smart enough or that I was incapable. I was nowhere near perfect but I knew I had more to offer to the world. More than complaining on social media, more than wishing that people did things differently, more than hoping others start caring for the poor and the environment.

I discovered my skill in public speaking when I accidentally won in a impromptu speaking competition in highschool ( I was just trying to escape boredom at a class, joining competitions gave me a valid excuse to miss it). When I knew that I could talk and that it could get people’s attention, I decided to push myself further. For two years, I would constantly put myself under the spotlight (not that I loved being the center of attention). Being comfortable in public was my biggest enemy (All my highschool and college friends and professors can attest). The awkward teenager in me started dying, I became more confident in public speaking. From a kid who could barely order food in Jollibee, I have found that my words have more impact on a bigger crowd and that I had the power to bring out confidence on others as well.

At 24, I decided to try my luck by moving to Manila. I was a stranger to a big city but I knew the city welcomed risk takers and dreamers. After meeting an influential guy who was never scared in innovating (he ended up being one of the country’s richest man), I broke free from my little safety box. I would go to Couchsurfing meet-ups and talk to people that I have never met before. I took different routes and found my way around the metropolis (I got robbed by a guy with a knife but it never stopped me). From being anonymous, I started making a name for myself, using my height and my Filipina features to get attention through beauty pageants, I was able to spread the word on worthy causes that I believed in. I worked diligently and professionally for people to make friends in different industry. Although the Manila journey ended up with a failure, I managed to bounce back into the journey once again.

I do not consider myself a hero to others (I am trying to be a hero to those without voices and power), I was and still a hero to myself. Real life heroes are no different from you and me, however they possess two traits that make them extraordinary, courage and commitment. It is not easy to take a stand and to stay your grounds. People will break you down and try to kill your spirit but they will not succeed unless you give them that power.

My journey is still far from over and I do not know how many failures are waiting for me ahead but I continue to walk farther into the unknown.

How about you? How far are you into the hero’s journey?

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Rabbit Nightmare and Turtle Dream : How I Became A Licensed SCUBA Diver

Little lines of rabbits tied up on top of a huge conveyor belt, all heading to a machine where they would go out lifeless, I was panicking, trying to find where the switch was to stop the killing machine. As a hit the stop button, I realized my footprints were blood imprints. I looked around to see all the lifeless animals surrounding me, crying heavily with the horrendous sight, then I woke up. It was my one of the first nightmares that I’ve had as a 4-year-old kid.

Playing around at school
Playing around at school

I grew up with animals always near me, I had 3 dogs, couple of fishes, cats and white mice. Every afternoon, I would spend time to feed them and would even talk to them. Meanwhile my parents raised chickens, quails and pigs in our backyard. My dad loved joining cock fights. There were times I would try to skip meals after my father killed one of the chicken for our dinner. I would beg them not to kill animals but they always explained that it is natural for humans to eat them. I played with my dogs most of my time after school. I was always fascinated by animals that there was one time I asked my mother to buy me a horse for my grandparents’ farm, which she of course immediately declined. I even dreamed of becoming a veterinarian and would play pretend as doctor to our sick pets. All throughout childhood, I would endlessly browse over my grandfather’s old hardbound coffee table which had a lot of photos about different creatures. It was there when I first read about the Nautilus and the Portuguese Man-of-War.

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It was when I got over my fear of the deep (someone pushed me into a 6 feet deep pool when I was about 6 years old) that I started appreciating marine life and by the end of high school, I wanted to take up marine biology but for a country where practicality wins, it was not an option. The course needed expensive dive equipment and my parents were not well off. I took up nursing instead and moved to another city, leaving my pets behind. Up until graduation, my dream of becoming a marine biologist never left my mind. Just when I though all hopes were lost that I saw one competition posted in Facebook that would include free diving lessons for the grand winner. Without anyone to help me, I went alone to screen and qualified. It was during the discovery dive when I met my scuba diving instructor. Finals day came and I finished second place. I was sad knowing that the opportunity to have sponsored dive lessons slipped through my fingers.

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The year after, the founder appointed me to compete internationally where I eventually had my sponsored dive lessons plus new dive equipment. Just when you think things will never go right, it did for me. To top it off I almost won the competition, I finished right after UK. I got to dive in amazing sites and talk to different people about marine conservation. Not everyone is lucky enough and each day I do my best to prove that I earned it. They teased me as Pawikan (Filipino term for green sea turtle) when I was young. In a way, I am a turtle. I had to fight through a lot of things to make it into the waters. It took time for me to reach my nesting grounds and now I am back to lay new dreams. Whatever it is you dream of, have tremendous passion and perseverance, and everything will fall in the right place.

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Here are some of the sites where I already done some dives:

Malapascua, Cebu

Subic, Zambales

Anilao, Batangas

Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte

Napantao, Southern Leyte

Sipadan, Malaysia

White Island, Camiguin

El Nido, Palawan

Panglao, Bohol