I came to Iraq in 2017 for my first humanitarian mission.
I was 28 then and had never lived nor worked abroad. My parents weren’t happy. But they’ve always been supportive. I knew enough to understand why they thought it was a tough pick for a first-timer. Adapting to cultural differences is difficult enough let alone in an insecure environment.
I started working in the aid industry in the Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda and have never thought about doing anything else since. It’s been a rewarding job. It gave me a sense of purpose and inspired me to be better. Moving to Iraq seemed off the wall but I knew the experience and learning would be worth it.
I lived in Kurdistan for a year. I used to tell foreigner friends that the Philippines is a beautiful country not only because of its beaches but also because of its people. Filipinos are warm and friendly, diligent and resourceful problem-solvers. Although gentle and compassionate, they also stand their ground when needed. It is for these characteristics that I am proud to be a Filipino. Living abroad helped me develop a stronger sense of self. It improved my perspective on life.
I often found myself in a room full of people who spoke in different accents and I learned the importance of listening mindfully. Not everyone understood the Filipino accent either and that taught me to be more patient and precise in words. I learned to appreciate other cultures and the uniqueness of each, including our very own.
I realized that while our ethnicities make us who we are, it doesn’t define what we can become. We are so much more than the color of our skin, acquired food preferences, and political leanings. We are what we value. Compassion. Respect. Diligence. Faith. Being responsible for our actions and protecting our country’s honor wherever we may be.
My greatest dream is to establish in the Philippines my own foundation for less fortunate women and children. I hope to bring honor to our nation by serving the Filipino people.