Monday, March 21, 2011

An Ambassador: The Child I Was

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA— Each day brings its own set of actions and problems to deal with. The only thing common is the thought that boggles each and every individual at the end of the day. ‘It’s 2011 already?!’ There’s always so much to do and so little time. But it’s exhilarating. Life is a myriad of explorations. I guess to define it would be to say that we are a conduit for an easy way out to every problem. We not only struggle for survival. We also interact, mingle and harmonize with the people within this living world and thus, what now comes in is our task as social-beings. That’s what we do every day. What we can do, how we do it and what we can accomplish in a day, however, will vary, depending on what or whom we are dealing with.

After two decades and a half of moving up the ladder of life’s twist and turns, I consider myself as one of the SURVIVORS. Hailing not from a well-off family and born to Mr. Dionisio Villagonzalo and Segundina Tilos, I am the fruit of love from a religiously-inclined couple, having to name their five siblings after saints. The eldest Salvador, named in honor of the patron saint of the country El Salvador, soon followed by Michael-after the archangel St. Michael, the third son christened after St. Francis, then a daughter Catherine, baptized after the Dumaguete City (Philippines) Parish Church’s patron saint, Santa Catalina (Catherine in English) de Alejandria and finally me, after St. Francis Xavier—a Catholic missionary.

On 13 April, 1994, came the unexpected and most-feared about thing every child believes in, losing a parent. My mother, a public school teacher in the municipality of Siaton, happened to be one of the passengers of the RD jeepney (a popular means of public transportation) bound for Dumaguete from the community school where she taught. The said jeepney fell off a mini-cliff in the zigzag roads of Bondo, Siaton, Negros Oriental, and while about 20 passengers were critically injured, she was the only one who died.

For I was a nine-year old mama’s boy then, it was the lowest point in my life and I felt it shattered all my dreams to pieces. Never seemed to see the light of day, it took me two long and arduous years. And unfortunately, came to the extent that living without her was mere impossibility. However, what kept me holding on was what my mom told me: “Life has lots of twists and turns. If you stumble and fall, don’t ever give up! Hold on to your dreams and believe in yourself. What matters most is your faith that you can always do it no matter how hard it is!” With these words, I realized that the flame of courage was still burning. Of course, with the aid of the Divine Providence, still I managed to hang on.

Meanwhile, the year 2000 came, six years after mom passed away. Here is when I was in the deepest trenches of my soul. My sister Cathy, whom I looked up to as my mother after those long dreadful years, had to leave for Australia. I really didn’t know the reason why but one thing was for certain I believe—to look for greener pastures. Again, it was really hard for me to cope with life’s new challenges without my sister. Then it took me another two months to recover.

To the readers, let this story of my life be enough lessons that would serve as instruments to wake up the hearts and minds of the youth of today not to take for granted their loved ones especially their parents. For we do not know, when they will be taken away from us, let’s give a time to at least appreciate the simple things they offer us!

Reunion with my sister in Brisbane, Australia has definitely led us to somewhat regain some strength from what was lost after our father died of diabetes complications last June 2007. Growing up in my sister's care after the earlier death of our mom in the summer of ‘94, served as an eye-opener for me that there is still hope that I can sail smoothly knowing that someone's there to make sure my ship does just exactly that.

Brisbane International Student Ambassador

Yet another quaint twist of the wheel, March 2011, I was appointed as a Brisbane International Student Ambassador for my home country, the Philippines. Although this appointment is somehow what my idea for seeking new ways to expand my line of sight is, I did not pretty much get to impress with myself that I am an ambassador.

So I asked, “What is an ambassador?” To my modest understanding, an ambassador is someone who lives in a foreign country, showing everyone who lives there how amazing his home country is. I tried looking back on my past, and figured how I could best position myself to even fit for this title. Well I told myself, in order for me to be an ambassador I need to know the person I am representing. Just like if you take a job as an ambassador of a country, if you knew nothing about and had never been to, you wouldn’t be able to do a very good job of representing it.

Consequently, I just feel like—to be quite honest—a very small part of a young and new Brisbane tradition of extending a helping hand to international students in the country. But then somehow I managed to grab a dictionary and found the Hebrew word “tsiyr” (tseer), from which the term ambassador is translated from. Tsiyr also means an envoy or a messenger. Now to help fine tune my adjustment in this new title I convinced myself to go back to the story of my childhood, how I was orphaned at an early age.

Only then that I have come to realize one thing I ought to do, and that is to bring out my innate passion for me to be able to share the child I was—I now reckon—is the ambassador I want to be. Having said that, it’s never a good excuse then to mess up your life because you come from a broken family or you’re parents have passed away. All the more reasons that you need to twist the fate of your life to your advantage. Just how the floods of Brisbane devastated some of the areas and families affected in January 2011, still life has to move on. I have to move on. Lucky for the city it recovered fast, but in the same manner whenever we are drenched with life situations still we keep going mate, and still we keep going.

For someone has said (who I am hoping to be a real messenger of), “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matt. 5:15). So here I am from the child that I was, now being an ambassador is what I have been called to do.

"Challenging will life always be!” according to my high school English teacher, Madame Florita Paralejas at St. Louis School-Don Bosco back in the Philippines. That idea clearly left an indelible imprint in my mind that I need to develop a resilient character to address such. But it will not be LIFE after all, if it isn't challenging. And as Soren Kierkegaard adds, “Life can only be understood BACKWARDS, but it must be lived FORWARDS!”

As for me, while I say hello to BRISBANE, for so long a time I have understood those challenges were not the end of everything but rather a beginning of a bright NEW LIFE!

Brisbane City Lord Mayor Campbell Newman awarding the Certificate of appointment to Xavier Villagonzalo who was appointed as Brisbane International Student Ambassador.

Brisbane City Lord Mayor Campbell Newman of Australia announcing the 29 Brisbane International Student Ambassadors from 24 countries, one of whom is Negrense's own and Silliman University Bachelor of Mass Communication alumnus Xavier Tilos Villagonzalo.

At Brisbane's Lone Pine Sanctuary—Xavier Villagonzalo and Deiter Dizon (Brisbane International Student Ambassadors 2011-Philippines).

The 2 Student Ambassadors (Xavier & Deiter) taking the initiative to mount the first gathering of Filipino students in the city, which attracted a large turnout higher than expected.

We share the same PASSION, We share the same BRISBANE!

Read as published on the MetroPost Newspaper 27March-2April 2011, Negrense named youth ambassador to Australia
Philippine Information Agency (Negros Oriental): Negrense named youth ambassador to Australia

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At 8:54 AM, Blogger Earnesthope said...

Wow... international relations! hehehehe! I'll see you around...the world. hehe

At 8:14 AM, Blogger reivax84 said...

Thank you Earnest Hope! Indeed, see you around... Good luck to your new recordings!


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