First person | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

First person

Growing up, I was idealistic. Like a typical kid in the 1990s, I had big dreams. I ultimately wanted to be a lawyer, never a doctor. I believed that by being a lawyer, I would be able, in my own way, to make possible my mission to make a change in the lives of others. And as time passed, I unconsciously aligned my goals in life toward this direction.

My social consciousness was raised when I was in high school, it being a period of political turmoil—the impeachment of then President Joseph Estrada and the hullabaloo that came with it. Grateful for the opportunity to immerse myself in Edsa II, which removed Estrada from the presidency—and which is now a part of our history—I made a promise that I would not allow myself to be a mere bystander. From then on, my role was to be a first person.


In English classes, using the first person in narrative mode means that the character is speaking in his/her point of view, thus using the pronoun “I” or “we.” In my mind, it means that if I want to learn how I can contribute to my community, I have to act on that desire.

I loved learning about people and communities, their culture and behavior, in my social sciences and education course in college. Theories, history and current events enabled me discover the dynamics of society. However, these are not sufficient for one to make an impact. The key is experience, to immerse oneself in the realities of life by actually participating in opportunities for change in our society.


Being a volunteer allowed me to do this.

It’s been more than a decade since I first started to volunteer, and the passion and that wonderful feeling of fulfillment have never ceased. The causes I was involved in varied from helping in the psychosocial support program of children afflicted by cancer (with Kythe Foundation) to housing and community development projects (with Habitat for Humanity Philippines), from youth and education (with the children of Virlanie) to lolas and lolos under non-family care (with Golden Acres). Though the causes may be different, the experiences these have brought were life-changing, both personally and professionally. As an individual I developed empathy, as well as compassion, the motivational force that encouraged us volunteers to do—and, more importantly, be—more.

When I tell stories about these adventures (yes, I call it an adventure; who says volunteering isn’t fun and exciting?) to my fellow young professionals, I hear them wonder where can one fit these activities in a schedule full of meetings, training sessions and, of course, a busy social life. They ask: Does my presence in these organizations really make an impact? Am I really contributing to the lives of the persons I am interacting with?

One cannot fail to see the interest among my friends; they would want to experience my adventures as well. Sometimes, it is the fear of going beyond one’s comfort zone in, say, the corporate world that hinders the participation of those with the intent and desire to volunteer. Ironic as it may seem, it raises self-doubt among the most confident of professionals. It’s as though one is embarking into a league totally different from one’s own, when in reality it’s not.

But, just like anything  in life, one will never know until one has experienced it, right?

I remember celebrating my 23rd birthday with Kythe Foundation and inviting some of my friends to join me and the kids at the Child Life Center of University of Santo Tomas Hospital. Being first-time volunteers with the organization, some of them were quite apprehensive about interacting with the children. But interest and excitement took over, and it became instinctual for them to realize that the skills they had were enough. My friends, who are professional teachers, conducted the storytelling and games with ease, just like what they did in an ordinary classroom!

At the end of the day, it is commitment that spells the difference. When your heart is in the right place, things will fall where they should. As I gained more experience and knowledge, I came to realize that even with the most promising intent and vision, there are roadblocks beyond my control. But this does not mean that change cannot be made. Because what is great about volunteerism is that it is for free and out of your own free will. It does not really require expertise to share a part of ourselves with others; what is needed is the dedication and time to be of service to those in need. There are a lot of opportunities and activities for volunteers in various nongovernment organizations; the important thing is to reach out and make ourselves available.


At present, I am a realist. Ideals are what guide me to be a better person in the real world and, at the same time, allow myself to be flexible and open to what the journey of life has waiting for me. Like a typical yuppie, I have big dreams: I want to travel (a lot!), help out with the family expenses, and save, save, save. I may not have followed my original goal to go to law school, but this does not mean that I have abandoned my dream to make a positive impact on my community. Some may be skeptical about the actual contribution being a volunteer has brought, and if I would look at it on a grand scale, I may indeed find the output doubtful. But the intangible influence it has brought to my life is something that can never be quantified.

Volunteerism has allowed and continues to allow me to fulfill my dream of truly experiencing the essence of living in the present—and being a first person.

Rose Lauren R. Mariano, 25, works for the external affairs division of a multinational pharmaceutical company.

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