jong in action.
Ultimately we choose our own path, or
else, others will choose it for us.
Choosing to become a social
development worker has not been an easy one. There were a lot of
realities, both personal and social, that I had to confront, face
and settle. About a year ago, I decided to join the Year of Service
Volunteer Program with much enthusiasm and a thirst to learn things
outside the sheltered environment of the university. After almost a
year, I got more than I expected and was never disappointed.
I was assigned at Balay Mindanaw
Foundation, Inc. and was given the opportunity to explore different
communities and also to explore myself in terms of my character and
the determination to pursue development work. It was not clear to me
at first what the task of a SIADO is, but as events unfolded, things
began to crystallize as I moved along throughout the whole
experience. I realized that while I was engaging social realities, I
was also engaging myself. Facing the realities in the communities I
work with also meant facing the realities of the self.
I was amazed at seeing and witnessing
how the Barangay Development Council works. How it gave people the
venue, the mechanism to discuss, debate and decide on things that
matter and affect their barangay. It is through this venue that you
see ordinary people articulate and expound ideas in order to lobby
and engage local government units. Personally, it was an eye opener.
I realized that there are still unexplored democratic spaces that
need to be maximized and taken before we think of other means of
effecting change in society.
During my first month, I was
brought to the municipality of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte for a
local peace consultation. I had only a very little idea what a local
peace consultation was. Not until I saw how it was being done did I
realize its majesty and how it gives hope to the current peace
talks. It is popularly known as the "the other peace
process." This entirely unique peace process between the GRP
and RPMM, which is mediated by BMFI, has at its core community
participation and involvement as integral part the peace
talks. Through the local peace consultations, I have come face to
face with people who are longing to be heard, who have been waiting
all the time for a long time, for basic services to reach their
barangays. These are things that are unaccounted for when
economists, technocrats and bureaucrats are saying the economy has
grown to this and this percent because the GDP and GNP has increased
to this percent therefore everything is going well.
These are but some of the highlights
that have given me profound realizations and reflections throughout
the year. Parallel with my external experience with the community is
internal experience with the self. Both goes hand in hand.
Personally as a volunteer, right at the very start, people were
asking where is the wisdom behind my choice. Having just graduated
and passed the board exams, people, especially relatives and family,
expected "more" out of me. More meaning a high paying job.
When I decided to be a volunteer and live on "modest
allowance," expectations were overturned and disappointments
over my decision poured in.
Then again, it has always been good to
follow your heart's desire. They say it's where your treasure is.
For me, it has been a source of joy and satisfaction seeing people
win their own fight. Be it in accomplishing bit by bit their
priority projects in their Barangay Development Plans, or be it in
the efforts of the indigenous peoples' efforts to secure their
ancestral domain. There is no debate whether or not to help the
family; it is on the how of it. I believe that as long as I am
contributing in the efforts to build a better society, I am in the
long run helping my family. The experience has also taught me the
value of financial management. Being a volunteer, I have always made
it sure that I set aside a portion of my allowance as contribution
to the family income. They say it's not the amount that matters; it
is how it is given.
There would be times when the internal
conflict would be so overwhelming that you would think it would tear
you apart. Throughout the latter part of my volunteer year, the
pressure of whether to continue in this line of work constantly
hammered me, creating confusions. Those were the times when it
seemed everything is stagnant and devoid of movement. The doubts
cloud up the reason why I have chosen to be a volunteer in the first
place. It's like forgetting the forest for the tree.
Looking back to those gloomy and
confusing moments, I realized that those were just the deep breaths
before the plunge. The plunge towards a deeper journey of the self,
a journey towards creating a more meaningful and peaceful society.
Those where the moments wherein you get wounded and broken so that
more of you can be shared. The times when your intentions are
purified and you will begin to see more clearly the reasons and
directions of where you are heading.
[John Mark Ladaga, fondly
called “Jong Jong” by his peers of volunteers, finished Bachelor
of Science in Agricultural Engineering at the Xavier University in
Cagayan de Oro City. He became the Vice President of the Aggie
Student Council in 2001-2002. He graduated in March 2003 and passed
the Licensure Exam in 2004. Jong jong joined the Year of Service
Volunteer Program of the Xavier Science Foundation in 2005 and was
assigned in Balay Mindanaw as a volunteer community organizer in
Claveria, Misamis Oriental. He is 25 years old.]