23 May 2023

Nandito kami, nandiyan kayo. Mararating ninyo ang narating namin.

These hopeful and optimistic words, which came from AZN Global Services Operations Manila, Inc. Senior Manager Mark Morada, echoed around the halls of the Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City last May 3, 2023 during the onset of the Scholars Leadership Camp (SLC) 2023 for the first batch of scholar-leaders in the National Capital Region (NCR), courtesy of the Department of Science and Technology - Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI).

The SLC combines the Institute’s former Values Formation Program and Leadership Training, which allowed for modules that combine the two’s objectives to be tackled in a single event. It eventually became an avenue not only for knowledge and skills enhancement but as well as for self-reflection and active retrospection.

Mr. Morada, in his message of support, assured the youth that their SLC journeys would surely be filled with new experiences and learnings, which would lead them to the place they are meant to be — a bright future filled with so many possibilities. This was the resounding theme for the event, which mostly welcomed scholars from the various state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the region.

During the graduation and pinning ceremonies, the NCR scholar-leaders lit their candles, which symbolized their burning passion to give back to the country and their hope to make a change for the betterment of Filipino society.

Welcoming the first cohort

The SLC for the first batch of scholar-leaders in NCR was held from May 2 to 5, 2023. It was attended by 140 participants from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), Technological University of the Philippines-Taguig (TUP-Taguig) and -Manila (TUP-Manila), Rizal Technological University (RTU), Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP), Trinity University of Asia (TUA), Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), De La Salle University-Manila (DLSU-M), Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU), and Centro Escolar University (CEU).

Welcoming the participants were DOST-SEI Director Dr. Josette Biyo and TUP President Engr. Reynaldo Ramos who gave an inspirational message for the scholar-leaders during the opening ceremonies.

Esteemed resource persons including Central Philippine University Professor Engr. Bernie Cangrejo, Accenture Instructor Analyst Rosejelynn Bulante, DLSU-M Assistant Professor Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, and Ateneo de Manila Associate Dean for Research and Creative Work Dr. Jayeel Cornelio were also among those who graced the event to witness the momentous beginning of the camp and give the scholar-leaders motivational talks.

Scholar-graduates Engr. John Leur Labrador of the Philippine Space Agency and Engr. Gerald Mirano of the Technical First Gen/Pi Energy Corp also shared their experiences with the participants.
The modules of the SLC 2023 focused on the youth’s participation in nation building, communication, and leadership, and the scholar-leaders were given the opportunity to hear valuable insights from all the invited guests/resource persons on the said modules.

Conquering harsh realities

Being a student entails a number of responsibilities, with most of them having to keep up with the academic demands of the educational institutions they are in. This seems to be daunting already, but there are those who have to put in more effort to continue their education — the scholars.

For Craig Julienne Navalta, a junior student taking up Bachelor of Chemistry Education, Minor in Mathematics in UPD, there are instances wherein it is hard for him to stay afloat. Juggling many duties such as having to excel in academics, taking care of his younger siblings, and attending to his two jobs, Navalta has his plate full most of, if not all the time.

“I have no family anymore; I’m only living by myself. I need to make ends meet. I’m working as a call center agent, I’m also working as a freelancer…[because] I need to find ways,” he shared. When asked how he manages his time, he replied, “I have to scour for every cent, for every penny so that I can survive each day.”

These are certain realities that some participating scholar-leaders were made aware of and have grown more concerned with. For Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering and Management sophomore Mae Pia Flor Cawaling from DLSU-M, dialogues with students like Navalta was an “eye-opener” to say the least.

While Cawaling and others who came from private universities participating in the camp recognize the privileged disposition they have, they are also eager to spread such awareness to their peers. Diana Rae Alejandrino, also a sophomore from DLSU-M taking up Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, was proud of their batch after seeing each other’s dedication and passion to help others. “Ayaw namin na maranasan ng iba [‘yung paghihirap]...‘Yun talaga ‘yung isa sa mga pinakanatutunan namin sa event na ‘to: to empathize with one another,” she expressed.

Through various activities, scholar-leaders were able to show camaraderie and to build friendship in the Scholars Leadership Camp.

Finding sources of light

Scholar-leaders are capable of journeying by themselves, but there are individuals who recognize that these youth may need guidance and assistance along the way. One of them is Dr. Leila Ramos, Student Affairs and DOST-SEI Coordinator of TUP-Taguig, who aims to equip, to empower, and to educate the students about the different ways to be a good leader who has the strength and the ability to train future scholars as well.

To this, Engr. Ramos commented, “Whatever they have learned from this camp, I think it’s more of self-realization. I think it’s more of an awakening of camaraderie among [each other].” He also encouraged The Filipino Patriot Scholars Project team to “do these camps on a regular basis in order for scholars to establish linkages and networks” on top of their formation as scholar-leaders.

The next batch of SLC 2023 will be held at the same venue, mainly for private universities and colleges in NCR, from May 23 to 27 this year.