THIS week we celebrated National Heroes’ Day. For me, it was a week to remember the people who engrained my deep love for the Philippines. I believe it can also be a time for all of us to remember mentors who have somehow, one way or another, taught us something that led us to the person we are today.
Although my blood is not Filipino, I have always felt lucky to have been born and raised here. I grew up in a household of highly successful overseas professionals. I thought that was the life for me as well. However, this tendency was heavily tilted toward staying in our country by my nanny and my dad. My nanny, Manang Eyang, inspired me, despite her small income, to do more to make the lives of people around us better. I became a licensed teacher, so I could continue her work in inspiring children to be successful professionals, as she did for her relatives and kids in her barangay then. My dad instilled in us to show gratitude to the Philippines. He continues to inspire me with the scholars and the school projects he supports under his ASYAO Foundation.
As a parent, I have always hoped my children to be blessed with great mentors like I was. From all my beloved teachers who believed in me, and to people outside of school who gave me such timely guidance, I would always tell my children to be open to people who genuinely care to teach them lessons in both skill and especially character.
When people ask me how I developed strong traits they admire, I would always say I was lucky to be guided well. I think it would be 30 percent from my nature, but 70 percent from good and caring people who saw how much I wanted to learn. I learned my diligence in school though my Grand Aunt. I learned to be adaptable and bold early by being the best Girl Scout I could be through my Scoutmaster and now priest-friend, Fr. Peterson Tieng. Even today, I am continuously blessed with mentors I work with in business and colleagues in organizations like the Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA).
Last November 25, our family attended the very intimate and beautiful wedding ceremony of Eric Brando II and Kim Rose Sia at the Manila Cathedral. It was followed by a garden reception at Baluarte de San Diego. Although it was raining harder than usual in an outdoor setting, all the guests focused more on how they could celebrate with the couple in the most fun way possible. It is a testament to the deep relationships the couple has fostered through the years.
Eric Brando II has been Meagan’s fencing coach for close to 5 years now. Meagan would train with coach straight days during the week, even longer hours during school breaks. He would be ultra-tough during trainings but also showed Meagan that there was more to life than the sport. Coach has been like Meagan’s second dad who protects and guides her especially in gaining confidence in and out of the sport. Their best bonding moments would be during their travels together for international fencing competitions. Coach has been with Meagan to places, like Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, to as far as Kuwait and Uzbekistan. When Meagan was having emotional problems in her first Asian Juniors, I was truly grateful that coach and her Kuya Sandro were there to patiently listen and get her through it.
I have seen how much faith and effort coach has put in Meagan as he drives her to gain skills and maturity beyond her age group. This allowed Meagan to be No. 1 in Juniors (U20) at age 16, and now at 17, she just recently earned a solid spot in the Women’s Sabre National Team after all the rankings.
On our way home from the wedding, Meagan shared how happy she felt for her coach Eric on his wedding day. She also shared how lucky she feels to have all her “ates and kuyas” (big sisters and brothers) in fencing.
Beyond all the medals, her relationships with each of them individually and as a group have been truly priceless. They have set a formidable bar for her on the meaning of true mentorship and friendship. She joined the long months of Ormoc, Leyte trainings with the national team during the pandemic.
The thrice a day training was grueling but all her ates and kuyas were there to teach her how to overcome her frustrations. The hard work would be all worthwhile with a weekend feast where her coach Don and coach Michael would cook her favorite lechon kawali. Her part was to wash the dishes after, while bonding with her Tita Sarah, Kuya CJ, Kuya Daniel, Kuya Dayro, Kuya Sandro, Ate Jylyn and other fencers.
I cannot forget the last Asian Fencing Championships Women’s Sabre team event in China, where Meagan was the 4th man. I saw her teammates—Ate Jylyn, Ate Coy and Ate Queen—rally to coach for her to be put in. Coach put her in twice. They cheered for her both as she scored good points, and even when she didn’t. They won versus India even with an Olympian in the India team.
Here’s to you, Meagan’s “heroic mentors.” And again, super best wishes to the newlyweds, coach Eric and Ate Kim.