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