In light of Typhoon Yolanda, I want to share an excerpt from an assignment I did months ago on “My Professional Philosophy.” I have no doubt that the power of “bayanihan” is being practiced all over the islands of the Philippines at this moment. And as I presently scramble to think of how I can help from all the way here in Vermont, USA,
what I can offer for now is my story and how “bayanihan” (and also “aloha”) has changed my life. I will always proudly claim my Filipina identity, and what I know about us is that we are resilient. And we are most resilient together.
My love, prayers, and tears for all in the Philippines
and our families affected all over the world.
My desire is to be a game changer.
I believe in the power of storytelling and using those stories to influence changes in policy that affect hundreds, thousands, millions of people. When creating systems that influence the wellbeing of families all over the world, I believe in abundance and providing for the “whole person.” I want to be known as someone who “made it” but still stays in touch with the people from my communities. While I aspire to have student affairs as my educational foundation, I am energized at the hope of bringing all that I learn into other fields and industries, such as politics, mainstream media, or businesses. My goals are deeply seeded with the desire to be an executive level leader whom people trust. By entering the field of higher education and student affairs, my goal is to be an agent for change for the next generation—to advocate on behalf of underrepresented groups and facilitate access to higher education through strategic channels. I envision myself, not only working with highly influential leaders, but also being one of them.
“Bayanihan” is a Filipino word meaning “the spirit of community”. To possess a bayanihan spirit is to fully acknowledge the need for other people in order to thrive, or even survive. The image that is often associated with bayanihan is a group of people carrying a house supported by bamboo sticks. It is to see dependency, not as a weakness, but as a means of empowering the entire community to create noticeable changes. The bayanihan spirit plays a role in my professional philosophy through my need for community and a team of people. I desire colleagues who want to work with me, not compete against me. While I desire to be an executive level leader, I envision being closely connected to the needs of students through regular interaction and leading in a hands-on style.
I build teams by investing in individuals. When participating in social justice work with underrepresented groups, there is power in numbers. Based on my life experiences, I witnessed communities of people uplift and amplify voices that are often too soft to be heard. Working with marginalized groups, such as students of color and first generation students, is the driving force in my life and career. The ability to do work in support of these groups gives me meaning and life purpose. It energizes me.
And while doing this work rips me apart and tears me down regularly, it also builds me again and again, because I know I am not fighting alone.
People of the Filipino culture celebrate and mourn together. When one person graduates from college, we all feel this joy. When a friend of a friend drops out of college because they can’t pay their tuition, we all feel the sting of that struggle—there is a deep care and sensitivity to each other’s life experiences. With this strong sense of community weaved into my professional philosophy, I recognize that many of my accomplishments are not mine alone. I share my accomplishments with my community, and whatever I do inevitably represents them, too.
The level of professionalism I aspire to reach can be defined in one word: aloha. It is my truth that people do their best work when they enjoy what they are doing and when they are empowered with responsibility— this belief holds true when I work with students. I believe that in order for all people to have meaningful experiences, they must feel appreciated, empowered, and useful. For me, the joy that arises from this is rooted in an aloha spirit. My understanding and personal definition of aloha is to live and act with goodness while paying close attention to treating everyone you encounter with the utmost respect and compassion. Dr. Lori Ideta, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa once told me, “Never forget that you can be a gentle and kind person and still get things done.” This is professionalism. Infusing the spirit of aloha into my definition of professionalism means having a willingness to engage with people—for the good conversations and the difficult ones, too. It means to treat people with kindness and respect their boundaries. It means to speak with humility and the understanding that people are much more complex than they are convenient. Professionalism with aloha means remembering that you are speaking to someone’s son or daughter or brother or sister. This is a type of professionalism that understands that people have lives outside of work.
Practicing gratitude is intertwined into my aloha-infused professional philosophy. Living with thanksgiving in every aspect of my life is vital in my work, spiritual life, social circles, and relationships. A significant aspect of my professional philosophy is to be an active participant in showing appreciation for others. When student affairs and social justice work becomes exhausting and irritatingly motionless, my first line of defense is rooted in gratitude. It is important for me to be in an environment that expresses thankfulness in some way—whether through vocalizing it, writing small notes, or an act of service. I write in a “Daily Gratitude” journal, and I challenge myself to, not just think of how much I appreciate someone but to also tell that person directly. I see this as a driving force in nurturing relationships, and I believe that healthy relationships parallel with retention. In my experiences, people not only stay when they feel useful and appreciated, but they produce work they are proud to bring to the table. And this is how people can thrive.