Perks of Being a Jesse M. Robredo Ambassador

The Catalysts

“For this country to succeed, we need to make heroes out of the ordinary people. We need to make heroes out of ourselves.” 
– Mayor /Secretary Jesse M. Robredo 

Speakers and facilitators were kept on saying that out of 300 plus applicants of the Jesse M. Robredo Youth Leaders’ Camp, only 40 were able to make it in the camp. And happy to say that I was one of those. But sorry, can I rephrase it? And happy to say that we were those!

We came from different universities and colleges all over the Philippines but we never had time to make everybody else feel that one was left behind. When someone asked me if where I were studying, I answered with humbility, UP Diliman. When that someone was surprised and said, “ikaw na” I didn’t accept it and say, “sus, wala yun” for that matter. From the fact that we were there in the camp, we should say to each other, “tayo na,” without much anything to add. Aside from UP Diliman, UST, De La Salle System (literally, the system), FEU and other schools in the metro, there were also delegates from University of San Carlos, Ifugao State University, Mindanao State University and so on. With these, as a matter of fact, the school is just a name. We didn’t go there to represent our school but we represented ourselves in our own best way.

Our positions in organizations, student councils and other student-related activities were left behind in the darkest cliff along the way to the camp. We didn’t bring our pride of being a president of something organization or any other position in something councils. That was never used. We didn’t even ask how we manage or lead an organization. We didn’t even ask to tell a story of how we face challenges inside the organization and I was happy about it. It is logical to say that nothing is perfect and that no one is higher than the other. We came in the camp as one, as equal. We came in the camp because we wanted to be trained. We came because we were excited about conquering our fears and seeing our triumphs even in our little way. And that was granted.

From the time we were in Ateneo, waiting for our bus, the perks had started. Or should I say, from the time we were got accepted in to the youth leaders’ camp, the perks started to contribute the feel of excitement and ‘would be’ experiences. Other ambassadors may consider entering the Ateneo campus as a perk. Some even told us that they were surprised to see the campus that clean and that ‘westerned’.


The Dilemma

The dilemma of writing this post never stopped me from thinking. I don’t know if I will use either Filipino because of reasons I will state later or English because of the reason that I don’t want a title written in English with Filipino content. I so much love the way I titled this post (okay, self-proclamation here). Obviously, I followed the latter.

Writing this experience of mine as a Jesse Robredo ambassador in the youth leaders’ camp held at Camp Explore, Antipolo in Filipino is really a dilemma. Two people in the camp somewhat influenced me to do the decision I never chose. First is Jubs who advocates the use of the Filipino language, especially in his school, UST. Jubs is a Philosophy major who is enthusiastic about the Pilosopiyang Pilipino. Hands down to him actually. Oh no, there is a 1.1 dilemma here. It is because I don’t know how to call Jubs – him or her. You know, Jubs is an outspoken member of the LGBT but sad stories about them is really true. He was ranting to me on the first day about UST, a Catholic university, which never had the time to give freedom to the LGBT students. The first night, I said to Jubs that I hate labelling just to make his feeling better. That night, Jubs told me about his experiences in high school until college, with another person around named, Jose. I met Jubs because he was the person who seated beside me while in Ateneo and in the bus.

Second person that influenced me was JP. He is a Filipino major, supported by his shirt he was wearing on the first day. JP spoke so much of the Filipino language and even used words that Filipinos don’t normally used every day. JP was my teammate for the good governance project and he had contributed much to the conceptualization process. JP studies in Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina.

So, Jubs and JP, they can come together. These two guys were only two of the people I met in the camp. These are perks, guys! These are already perks!


The Perks

  • We all met Jubs

This may sound funny but one of the perks of being an ambassador is meeting and laughing with each other because of Jubs. Okay, if you are not an ambassador, you won’t understand. Jubs is a very funny person and the entertainer of all entertainers out there. Jubs brought the magic with him in the camp. He made everyone laugh from the ‘most’ simplest jokes to the most surprising one. There were no instances of dead air or awkward silence. Let Jubs speaks, dance, sing, throw a joke and the world will rock literally with laughter. Jubs can manage to make a sad situation fun. He is probably the friend of all the ambassadors. By the way, Jubs is a proud member of LGBT. I remembered when the group was still in Ateneo, he came around and seated beside me. I didn’t know how to call him because I thought he was a girl just like everybody else when they didn’t know who Jubs was. He was my seatmate on the bus. When I said, out of nowhere, that I was hungry, Jubs take out his biscuit and gave one to me. That was so sweet, by the way.

  • Being at the Camp Explore and meeting the grand grand grand child of Gen. Miguel Malvar

Camp Explore, Antipolo is one and a half hour drive from Katipunan but the long journey is worth to be travelled of. This camp is not your typical camp that has cottages or swimming pool or a place for bonfire activity. What is so special about this camp is that it is owned by one of the members of Kaya Natin! Movement, Toto Malvar and that he is the grand grand child of Gen. Miguel Malvar, a revolutionary leader. I don’t know how far he was from the general.

On the first day, Mr. Malvar welcomed us with his warmest smile. During lunch time, he kept on greeting us and we, of course, greeted back. He also delivered inspirational messages to us. What we cannot forget from him is value for the care of the environment. This even results for everyone to be mindful of any trash around.

“Lagot tayo kay Sir Toto” or “Naku, bilang ni Sir Toto ‘tong mga dahon” were some of the reminders from each one of us.

  • Eating the best food

When we woke up in the morning, there was a heavy breakfast. When lunch came in, there was a heavy meal, complete with salad dressings, fish and meat. When it was merienda time, tasteful delicacies were served in the table. Then dinner, then breakfast, then lunch, then merienda and so on. This means that we ate and ate in the camp. But, the thing is it is not the simplest food you can get. The foods were taken so much preparation and the cooks were like guided by nutritionists at the back with all the nutritional value guide and serving spoons on the other hand. Basta, it’s so much delicious and energy-giving. Thanks to the cooks!

While eating, we did not forget to laugh. The bonding continues among teammates and everyone. There were random questions from each other and everyone would answer. Of course, Jubs was always there.

  • Hearing words from people we didn’t imagine talking in front of us

The eldest niece of Jesse M. Robredo, the main proponent of FOI Bill, the caretaker and eventually the lone district representative of Dinagat Islands, the champions of the urban poor and PWDS and so on.

These are some of the respected people whom we met during the camp. We learned from them many aspects of things such as leadership, dealing with problems and about Jesse M. Robredo. We really didn’t imagine them speaking to us and inspired us with all their experiences. These people really gave us inspiration to continue the legacy of Jesse M. Robredo.

Among those people who inspired us were Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Rep. Bolet Banal, Rep. Erin Tanada, Atty. Arnel Casanova of BCDA, Inc., former governors and mayor such as ex-Gov. Josie Dela Cruz and ex-Mayor Mary Jane Ortega. Of course, there were the families of Jesse M. Robredo: Rep. Leni Robredo and sister, Josefina Robredo.

Each one of us brought home not just the quotes we learned from each of the speakers but also the inspiration to do the things they are doing and to strive more for anything that God is giving.

  • Meeting Harvey Keh

When Mr. Keh arrived in the camp, we were star struck. When he started to give his short lecture about the situations of the Philippines and how corruption make us poor, all of us were wowed and no words came out. This was why when raising of questions came, no one wanted to ask but eventually things changed. We were so proud meeting Mr. Harvey Keh because of the fact that he is the mysterious guy whom we addressed our letter of intent.

  • Seeing Tricia, Aika and Mrs. Robredo

We were so lucky enough to have met the family of Jesse M. Robredo. There was this feeling that we saw Jesse M. Robredo in their eyes. Mrs. Robredo gave an inspirational talk to us. She also told her memories about Jesse and she was even had teary eyes. We, the ambassadors, felt sympathy and some of us had teary eyes, too.

And by the way, boys did not waste the time staring at Tricia.

  • Feeling the companion of friends

The three days of leadership camp is just like a month or a year. Many of us established friendships and had network of friends. We left ourselves in Manila but our co-ambassadors were successful to bring ourselves back in Antipolo and this time, it was different. We felt the full presence and support of people who we have just met for three days. We helped out each other and cooperation was present all the time.

But it is good to know that we don’t just gain friends but also love. Ehemm LOTI ABAD, JUBS, ERICKA, MP and JP. LOL.

  • The Leadership Training

We were in the camp because of our ultimate goal – to be trained as a leader and follower just like Jesse M. Robredo. During the leadership camp, all of us learned something very new and that those can be applied in real life. We really enjoyed every single minute in the camp and as far as I observed, we liked the pressure that Ate Missy or Ate Shy put to us.

The leadership training or the amazing race activity sort of really helped us to bring the best in ourselves. Everyone thought of strategies for the group and cooperation was still there cheering for us.

  • Instilling the life lessons and examples of Jesse M.  Robredo

I don’t know what to say about the life lessons that Jesse M. Robredo left. It was just so overwhelming and the hair on my skin was standing on its own giving me so much feels. I will just quote what Rep. Kaka Bag-ao said when she was asked if she misses Jesse M. Robredo. And what she said? “Sa totoo lang, hindi ko siya namimiss. Paano mo ba mamimiss yung isang taong laging nasa puso mo?” (Honestly, I never missed him. Why would I miss someone who is always in my heart?)

But surely it is that we will continue the legacy that Jesse M. Robredo left and taught.

  • Going back home with long lasting memories and lessons

Our last night in the camp was so memorable and full of laughter. Jubs and Ram entertained us. The next day, we were shouting for another night in the camp. We really had a hangover in the camp. I cannot describe my feeling and I cannot speak for the others.

 In the bus back to Ateneo, the laughter continued and again, it was Jubs who was in the limelight. Jubs never get tired.


30 days have passed but The Catalysts never forget to pass by on the Facebook group, personal meetings and hangout. The Jesse M. Robredo Leaders’ Camp built not just the life lessons but most importantly, friends. And we know that everyone of us did not just make friends with our co-ambassadors but also with Jesse M. Robredo!


(Waiting for Vberni Regalado for photos) 


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