“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I was only eleven when I saw our driver shot in the face, and I witnessed the bad guys kidnap my dad for ransom.

It all happened in an instant, but it felt like forever. A van intercepted our car, and armed men jumped out. A shot was fired. The doors flung wide open and the gunman's eyes met mine. He was fearless; I was fearful... and in that moment I knew. They were going to take Dad away.

They released Dad eventually but for months I could not walk in open spaces. I frequently woke up in the middle of the night, trembling. I was terrified of being in the Philippines, my home.

So I ran away. At sixteen, I left my family, friends and country in search of peace. But as safe as I felt, leaving was not the answer I was looking for. My time away made me realize I could not stop loving my country. Sometimes taking a step back clarifies what matters most and nothing, not even violence, could change that.

My dream is to transform the Philippines into a place where economic opportunity comes from hard work, not the barrel of a gun – a place that no one needs to run away from. It was my commitment to making my country a better place that gave me the courage to step onto that plane back home.

Sometimes a vivid flashback makes my heart skip a beat... and then I then remind myself that my dream is bigger than my fear.

— Ginarella Pearl Yu