Strive to be Extraordinary

From just earlier this month, Em-J Pavia wrote a reflection on being consistent, being better, and smiling here. May you rest peacefully among the stars, Em-J.


In Transition

Between work and school and work. It’s been a month since I resigned from my first job at Excel PH. Learning from public school principals while helping in their formation to be better leaders was an enlightening experience, but the reasons I found for leaving are heavier than the combined weight of the reasons I could find to stay.

For the past few weeks, I’ve finally been able to do a number of things: go on a four-day trip with friends to Coron, rekindle more friendships, catch up on Orange is the New Black, hike up Pico de Loro with the HJ team, physically attend team meetings, start reading The Signal and The Noise, submit an abstract to a tobacco control conference in Beijing, attend a jazz night at Mow’s, and take up swimming again. I’m sleeping longer, eating more, and am generally less stressed.

School doesn’t resume until another month, and I’m still considering whether I should work full-time at HJ after working for them part-time for two years, and on what terms. I want to be a full-time student, part-time NGO worker for at least one semester before diving in. Upon receiving my grades for last sem, both Eli and Mama told me, “If that’s the grade you got while working two jobs and studying, you’re more than able to do part-time work and just study.” I think they’re right.

Between apologies. I’ve fought with two important people in my life in the span of three weeks. Resolved one disagreement, unsure about the other. Steffi and I talk only when necessary. I’ve given her her baon for July, and she seemed genuinely thankful. I don’t know how long it’ll be until we’re comfortable talking to each other freely again. I can’t even bring myself to look her in the eye because I’m afraid of what I might see. It’ll be healthier if I stop expecting for an apology.

Eli has forgiven me, but I haven’t forgiven myself yet. The feeling of nearly losing him again served as a reminder, almost as a motivation, to keep me from inadvertently finding another way to hurt him. I told him about this, and he said, “That’s a heavy weight to carry.” He held my hand, and added,

Do good for the good, not to prevent something bad from happening again. It’s more universal.

Pain is not paid back in pain, but in acceptance. I forget to be kind to myself, even when I’m granted the kindness of others. It’s time to remember the more important things.

Dahil po sa inyo

You live out your mission to protect and promote the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based, and complete basic education, sa pagiging maka-Diyos, maka-tao, makakalikasan, at makabansa.

Ang dami po sa inyo nagpapasalamat sa akin para sa mga nabigay po ng Excel PH sa inyo bilang public school head, bilang Leadership Development Program Fellows ng La Union at ng Pampanga, pero kahit ako ang naging Program Associate at dakilang textmate po ninyo, ako po dapat ang magpasalamat sa inyo.



Dahil po sa inyo, hindi ako umalis. All throughout our journey together as partners in public education, since we first met during the LDP panel interviews, your stories and your dedication to your job showed me (and they continue to show me!) that hard work isn’t rewarded only with more work, but also with more love. You were my inspiration to keep going even when I wanted to leave my job earlier than I planned. You showed me love for country and love for others flourish most when you struggle, when you feel like you’ve had enough, because we keep fighting anyway.

I am honored to have learned from you, all of you, that there is always more to give. I am honored to have been of service to you, to serve alongside you. We do it for the children, to safeguard their future, to give them a fighting chance at a good life, a great life. In a concrete way, the work that we do—especially the work that you do as school heads—safeguards the future of our country, too.

Patuloy po tayong magmahal sa ating kapwa, sa isa’t isa. Patuloy po ang ating pagbibigay nang ayon sa nararapat, sa paglilingkod nang walang hinihintay na kapalit. Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyo, aking mga minamahal na public school leaders, sa lahat ng nagawa po ninyo para sa ating kabataan, sa mga ginagawa pa rin po ninyo ngayon, at sa mga gagawin pa ninyo para sa ating inang bayan.

Agyamanak unay, dakal pung salamat.

“Kaya ‘di umuunlad ang Pilipinas” is a mentality that has to stop.

Although its popular use showcases a commendable level of observation skills and provides a lively commentary on various social issues, it propagates an abusive level of negativity. “Anong klaseng irrigation system ang mayro’n natin? Palagi na lang bumabaha nang ganito,” “Bakit kasi nila pinapapara ‘yung dyip sa maling babaan?” “Ginagawa namang negosyo ‘yung pulitika,” are among many examples of statements attached to the phrase, and they are more often than not directed outward, towards a person or a phenomenon outside of oneself.

One must then challenge her/himself to look inward after identifying a problem, and to resist the temptation to solely express dissatisfaction about a certain state of affairs. The issue must be explored: Ano na’ng gagawin natin? Ano’ng puwede kong gawin? Invest in agriculture and technology. Familiarize yourself with the safest and already established loading and unloading areas along a specific route. Exercise your right to suffrage. Always ask.

I want to learn how to ask the right questions, to propose a set of solutions, and to identify which solution will be the most appropriate to an issue at hand and the set of circumstances it works within. That then leads to the question: Paano tayo makatutulong sa kaunlaran ng ating bansa? Or: Paano na tayo tutulong? In other words, and as a priest in our parish said, “Mabuting balita ka ba sa ibang tao?” It is not about telling others what cause to believe in, but showing why it is worth believing in through your everyday choices at work, at home, and everywhere in between. It is not about settling for the best, either, because the best is a specific point in time. It is about continuously doing and aiming for the better, because the comparative keeps us moving, always striving.

Be Kind

Accept that nothing is ever just yours. Accept that no one will ever be just yours.

Not the new laptop you’ll buy with your own money, not the love of your life, not the district you live in, definitely not the country you live in, and most certainly not the world.

Be kind. Know your place. There are many spaces within your own world that you believe must be filled, but they can be left unfilled. Not empty, just open.


in which I thank different people for many things

  1. We didn’t think we’d make it in time. None of the plans we had made in July materialized beyond preliminary related literature research, and we had only officially started writing our thesis early January. But mid-way through February, we presented our defense to two of the least threatening professors of the European Studies department. We all left Bel smiling that morning.
  2. Thank you for almost cutting class for me that day. We both knew then that we should start asking the questions we’d long been meaning to. Sa’n ka na? was a good place to start.
  3. Everyone was telling you what you wanted to hear: He doesn’t deserve you; Ang tanga naman niya; Mas maganda ka talaga kay sa babaeng ‘yun. But after we talked a lot and cried a lot less, we left the office knowing none of that was what we needed.
  4. It was about time we made our paths cross one weekend. Cavite was your home away from home, and for two days and one night, it was also ours. There was more of our family than yours, but your generosity and your parents’ extend beyond numbers. Being counted in was more than enough.
  5. Why, Pam? Why? was probably the first thing you said after you asked me how I am. Shock is a common response, and disappointment is just as common, if not more hidden. But thank you for choosing my happiness over your incredulity for the rest of our dinner date. I never thought a Classic Italian sandwich would taste better with your blatant disapproval, but our conversation was definitely more flavorful than the red wine vinaigrette.
  6. Stop being so motherly. That was one of the reasons I had a small crush on you. Another was admiration. I wondered if my staffers would feel as at home, as comfortable and as valued around me as we were with you, but I left before I could find out.
  7. Thank you for convincing me to stay.
  8. You didn’t change the way I hoped you would. Probably nothing did. But I still believe something might.