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December 18, 2009

USA Here We Go!

Until now I am still in the state of shock. Even if it has been a day since I received that unforgettable call in my life.Even if it has been 12 hours since I had my first dinner meeting with the friendly folks from the U.S. Embassy. I am literally still in a state of shock. Perhaps it is because I was not expecting it. Sure, there is this "want" to go but then again I was facing one side of reality that I was not qualified to go. I am referring to the ASEAN Youth Leadership Program sponsored by the U.S. Government. What the program does is to select qualified young people plus one adult leader, bring them stateside, train them for a month on American perspectives about leadership, then send them back to their home countries and expect them to make a difference. Everything will be paid for by the U.S. Embassy: travel to Manila for Visa processing, accommodations, international airfare, everything. When Mr. John Maguire, the American Cultural Affairs Officer of the Embassy, called me personally to tell me that I was the adult leader who will accompany 6 other young people to represent the entire Philippines, I still could not believe it.

I saw the post about their search for applicants and nominees almost 2 months ago and at first I was hesitant to apply. The program talks about leadership and how they are choosing potential leaders and help them develop their potentials. Although in some sense I see myself as a leader, I am also fully aware that there are far better leaders out there who might be more deserving than me to have this opportunity. But I decided what the heck. So I told my wife about it and she was already excited for me. I told her that there was a screening process that was in place and I had to imagine the competition. There is only one slot for the adult leader who will represent the entire Philippines along with the 6 other youth participants.

I took care of the requirements, submitted them at the American Studies Center in the University, which is actually under the Library's administration. The University Librarian is the mother of a close friend in high school. Ms. Hinie Gonzales has always been a great supporter. Her son, Romeo, was a co-delegate when we attended the World Futures Studies Federation Conference in Brisbane, Australia more than 10 years ago.

It took a good 1 month until I got a call from Ms. Hinie telling me that of the many applicants, I was one of the five applicants chosen to be included in the short list. Those in the short list would undergo an interview process to be conducted by the people from the U.S. Embassy. I was very happy to say the least that I was included in the short list. I was also curious who the other 4 were. On the day of the interview I was able to meet them. Two of them are my former teachers, one is a current teacher in the University and a very friendly woman. The other is a young male teacher from Bacolod City National High School, teaching History. He turned out to be friendly albeit quite shy at first, which was understandable because the other four, including me were all Lasallians.

I was the second person to be interviewed. The interviewers were Mr. Maguire and Ms. Pong Aureus. I have to admit that I was very nervous. Even before I stepped inside the Lopue Conference Room, I was already thinking that after having met 4 wonderful people who were my co-nominees in the short list, I didn't have a slim chance to be selected as an adult leader. So I decided to use the opportunity to tell them what I do as a Doctor to the Barrios and how leadership has been important to me.

Throughout the interview, the folks from the embassy were very warm, very interested and at the same time very encouraging. It was almost like a casual conversation. They asked me about my most recent involvement with young people and I told them about our It Can Wait program in Candoni, Negros Occidental. I shared to them how we started the planning, how we organized the event, what happened during the event, and even how it was picked up by another school in Silay where we also conducted the same event. I did mention about my other involvements but I could not help but talk about the things that have happened in the area where I work. Somehow, my desire was to expose to them the work of a Doctor to the Barrios. I told them that being a doctor is more than just being a clinician. As a DTTB, I became a teacher, formator, lobbyist, counselor and program manager: all of which are different faces of a leader. I shared also with them my own vision of leadership, that is more than just leading but really empowering other people to become leaders themselves. During our dinner meeting yesterday John and I had this engrossed discussion on leadership (over cakes at Calea) and I was able to mention again how we Filipinos are so Messianic-looking people, that we look for leaders elsewhere (which is fine) but we fail to look into ourselves and realize that we can be the leaders that we are searching for.

Anyway, after my interview I went back to the holding room, talked with the other nominees and later joined the rest of the group for cocktails, this time with the youth nominees. Some of them were familiar. Three of the NOHS students were once a part of my audience during my Med Week lecture on Adolescent Health. Two are kids of doctors whom I look up to (1 is from the I.S. and the other from St. Scholastica). The son of former governor Lito Coscolluela was also in the room. One student from Bacolod City National High School is the brother of Celna Tejare, also a doctor to the barrios assigned in Balete, Aklan and a good friend as well. I was able to talk with them during the cocktails but it was mostly casual conversation.

The following day I went back to Candoni thinking that I have done my part in "marketing" my area and my work. It was a busy day for me at the RHU. I was almost in every place. I had to rush to Brgy. Haba and Brgy. Banga just to send the donated items for the Buntis Baby Bag. I then went up to Brgy. Agboy to congratulate the folks for putting up a new Barangay health station through the engineering team of the Philippine Army. I also gave away some Buntis Baby Bags to two mothers who brought their kids for immunization. After having lunch at Agboy, I went back to the Main Health Center for an important meeting. We discussed our plans for 2010 and prepared our annual health plan. I also received Mr. and Mrs. Abaja, parents of another close high school friend, Rommel, who is now married and settled in Ireland. They brought with them Rommel's contribution to the Buntis Baby Bag Project: 1 sack of rice and 2 boxes of grocery items. Of course, I had to do my consultation with the waiting patients (It was Pedia Day during that Day).

It was at 6 o clock when I received the call. I was about to do something on the computer when the phone rang. It was I have said Mr. Maguire and he told me the great and unexpected news. I could not contain myself. I was screaming, jumping and running back and forth inside the Main Health Center. Some of the Night Staff were asking, "ano natabo Doc? (what happened)" and I told them the good news. They were quite confused at first because they were more sad than happy. They were thinking that I was leaving them for good. I had to explain.

Anyway, after the Christmas party of the BHW's, I had to rush back to Bacolod to meet up with the people from the US Embassy. They give me the profiles of the 6 other youth leaders who will be going with me. I was supposed to take charge of the delegation being the only responsible adult leader. I was already excited to meet them in person.

When my wife heard about the news she was also screaming with delight. She told me that she knew that I was going to be accepted without a doubt. Of course, my wife is my no. 1 fan.

I am happy and honored to be chosen and I am looking forward to this once in a lifetime opportunity next year. I am thankful to the Lord for giving me this grace to represent my family, myself and my country. I am also looking forward to making linkages with other adult leaders from other SEA nations.

3 violent reactions. React Here.:

Anonymous said...

Dear Bien,

Congratulations! Keep up the good work.

Dr. Greg Medalla

Bayen said...

Hey doc greg, thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I'm a newly licensed physician from Bacolod. I came across your name in a newspaper. I am impressed that someone has been able do so much at such a young age. Keep it up. You are inspiring

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