by Ponz Mapuyan
For the past two years, she has deliberately lied low from all the pressures of work and other related activities and opted just to take it easy. For so many years, she had been engrossed with achieving things insofar as her professional career is concerned. She had constantly been at the forefront of her Data Centre Projects and Cloud Infrastructure where she had earned recognition as an IT Professional. Her former colleagues at Hewlett Packard-Philippines look up to her and always held her in high regards. Her Project Management skills is something that HP management has grown to appreciate and their respect for her knows no boundary.
She has been a consistent achiever from way back. She was a Math wiz in school and has displayed exceptional ability with figures. Hence, most of her mentors expected that she would eventually choose a career which is going to be very much in line with her expertise.
During those days, however, she discovered that she has another passion – community service! Oftentimes she would join a group in school to visit the slums or even the home for the aged. She would do this without telling her parents specifically where they were going lest she be barred from joining such activities because of the presumable risk it poses on a young girl like her. Her exposure in the field developed in her a genuine desire to work towards alleviating the lives of the less fortunate and to rally behind any cause which sought to address their sad plight.
These and more she took along with her when she enrolled at the De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila where she took up B.S. Computer Science. While studying there, she was actively involved on issues relating to women, the environment, education, and children, to name a few. She is not one who would just sulk in a corner. She would stand up and speak her heart out for others. She has even volunteered with the University’s Centre for Social Concern and Action (COSCA). And because of her active participation in various socio-civic activities, she was presented the Community Leadership Award when she finished her University degree.
As she went on to pursue a career in the IT world, she has never failed to show compassion for others in her workplace.
A classic example would be during the height of a major typhoon which inundated about eighty percent of Metro manila, she called up the company’s top honchos in Singapore to initiate actions geared towards locating and addressing the concerns of affected employees and their family. She went out of her way to encourage the top management of HP to find ways and means to determine the status of their employees who did not make it to work. She took it upon herself to call each one and inquire whatever assistance they might need. She practically became a one-woman disaster coordinating body to the delight of the whole organization.
She seemingly left all these concerns when she migrated to Winnipeg together with her family. She focused more on their new life and hoped for a better life.
They settled, adjusted and integrated to Canadian society quite well. Her kids went to school while both she and her husband found gainful employment. They eventually acquired their own home as each of their dreams came to its fruition.
To her, however, it seems something was missing.
Could it be that she has already been too accustomed to corporate life that she has started to miss the pressure that goes with it? Does she really want to continue with something that seems to drain her energy? She was left in a quandary – a puzzlement! That was when she decided to give up her job, slow down and pursue a more meaningful life.
While at that stage and to avoid boredom, she decided to join hands with a couple of Filipinos to put up 204 Filipino Marketplace, a social group at Fb, whose primordial aim is to help migrants and newcomers find a venue or outlet to exchange views with each other, may it be on consumer goods and/or services. At first, she chose to become a passive observer just reviewing the various interactions among members. However, as the membership grew to a sizeable number, she was compelled by circumstances to participate actively by contributing her thoughts, posting her ideas and communicating with the daily visitors and inquirers at the group page. And in one of the postings of a hacking incident that targeted children, it was also at this stage that she decided to set up the 204 Neighbourhood Watch.
204 Neighbourhood Watch played a pivotal role in making her realize the importance of having such a group to serve as a deterrent to perpetrators of crimes against person and property. But what she started initially as a group of people on the lookout for crime offenders, eventually turned into a cause-oriented group involved in parks, playgrounds, and streets clean-up. This was consequently after noticing the proliferation of drug paraphernalia on the said areas. This has greatly alarmed her to the point that she asked and gained the consensus of the members that patrolling be done on a regular basis in various critical areas.
The effort did not escape the public eye. It has even caught the attention of both the media and the Winnipeg Police. In all of these, she was invited to various safety forum to discuss about the necessity of a community-based program on safety patterned on what the 204 Neighbourhood Watch is doing – taking care of the community, caring for its people and its environs. Volunteers came in trickles at first, some would come to patrol and be out for a while. Somehow, there would regularly be those who would replace those who would go. Single men and women, sometimes couples, husband and wife team. Sometimes there were those who would come just for the sheer experience, the camaraderie and the food after every safety forum. There were personal invitations from other areas with interested individuals joining the walk, aiming to learn a thing or two from it, with firm hope that they could also start something similar within their own community the soonest time possible.
It is at this juncture that Leila realized that doing community service is what makes her happy. It suddenly dawned on her that, perhaps, God has carefully laid-out this plan for her. She, probably, fell ill, or so she thought, to allow her to focus on a much noble purpose, that is to be of greater service to the community, the very place she now calls home. She now recognizes the new avenue that God has directed her to explore!
When asked if she would change anything if given a chance to live her life all over again, her response is NO! She would live it as it is with the unstinted and loving support of her family, with special mention of Rene, her better-half, her children who ceaselessly inspire her, her circle of friends and supporters, together with the outpouring blessings of the Infinite Being.
Just recently, she bagged the Newcomer Volunteer Recognition Award at a Gratitude Gala held at the Hilton Winnipeg Airport Suites. This is in addition to various citations she has already received in the past but hesitates to enumerate. Relatively, both 204 Filipino Marketplace and 204 Neighbourhood Watch were likewise nominated for recognition in the same event. People are all praises for all these recent achievements of hers, but she remains as humble as she is up to today, to the extent of cautioning me not to overdo my description of her nor to blow everything out of proportion because she prefers to be as ordinary as she is, as simple as the person that I’ve known the very first time we’ve met.
In fact, in one of our recent talk over dinner, I asked her what drives her to do such wonderful things. I distinctly remember what she uttered, “What sets us apart from other creatures is the ability to choose what we would like to do in the fulfillment of our dreams as we endeavour to gain knowledge from every experience and apply such learnings for the greater good.”
Indeed, she has come a long way in the pursuit of her dreams and passion. But what she formerly thought was a journey to recovery has now turned into a Journey to Rediscovery!