Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

4/16/2008

Answering A Call

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |


Text by Carren Jao

Copy Editing by Nina Terol
Photos courtesy of Raph Doval-Santos and Anna Rojas
Published online at Ateneo Alumni Association website (www.ateneoalumni.org) April 16, 2008


“GOD, what am I doing here?”

Anna Rojas posed this fateful question one day in December 2006. Little did she know that God was in the process of answering her question as she walked along the lonely road in Guimaras coming from Sta. Teresa National High School. There was no cellular phone signal from both her Globe and Sun phones for about an hour. There was only Anna, the bluest of skies, and her Maker. She was answering a different kind of call.

Double life

Most people would know Anna Rojas as the strict and exacting School of Management teacher in Ateneo de Manila University. Her salt and pepper hair might fool some into thinking her older than her 42 years, yet one look at the light about her makes one begin to doubt the original estimate.

What most of her students do not know is that this tough teacher is also a force to be reckoned with outside of the classroom. It is because of her that, after more than 30 years of existence, the Sta. Teresa National High School in Guimaras can now boast its very own library. Anna overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles and, with a little luck, gave the students on this island a boost in their education.

A series of fortunate events

She did not set out to do something monumental. But, somehow that is what Anna ended up doing.

It started as a side trip from Iloilo to visit her former nanny, Manang Emma, in Guimaras. After a heartwarming reunion with her nanny, Anna was welcomed into the home of her current helper, Ipang.

She woke up one morning fully intending to ride a carabao with Tatay, Ipang’s father. But to her surprise, Tatay had unfortunately already left much earlier. With nothing to do, she decided to accompany Sarah, Ipang’s niece, to school. There she was able to witness the surprisingly high quality of education in a school sorely lacking in resources such as photocopy machines, sports equipment, and library books.

When Anna got home to Manila, she put up a simple box outside the library with the full support of Mrs. Lourdes David, Director of the Rizal Library. She supplemented this with aAnna with Guimaras School principal Mrs. Tanaleon. few materials on the bulletin boards and sent an email to her friends and family. To her surprise, books came pouring in from unexpected sources; emails and texts came flying into her inbox from Cebu, Davao, and even the U.K. On her 41st birthday, she was just as busy answering greetings as scheduling pick-ups for books.


Amazingly, she filled not just one—but 60—boxes full of books. The only problem was that there was no way to ship all those boxes to Guimaras. This time, Fr. Asandas Balchand, S.J., Anna’s spiritual director, pointed her to the direction of a batchmate from Ateneo, Willy Chiongbian, who found a way to transport the books to Iloilo just short of Guimaras.

Anna’s cousin became her next angel, giving her the much-needed way to get the books from Iloilo to Guimaras. Coincidentally, her cousin plays golf with a member of the Iloilo Police Force. After hearing of her cause, the Iloilo Police force member happily volunteered to chaperone those boxes of books to the little island.

In the course of few months, seemingly impossible things became possible. Doors opened one after the other as if to affirm Anna’s path. People appeared on time to usher those books to Guimaras.

In December 2007, the library was inaugurated with Anna as an honored guest. Uncomfortable in the limelight, she sat beside the governor, who instantly put her at ease by sharing that his wife and children were all coincidentally named Anna as well.

Anna (center) with the PTA during the inauguration of a new library.

After happily ever after

When credited for this feat, Anna would gracefully protest saying, “I was just the coordinator.” And while others would rest on their laurels, Anna is just beginning. This January, a propitious email looking for a Program Officer for AHON landed in her inbox.

AHON (Acts of Hope for the Nation) is a non-profit organization that has taken on the mission of developing public elementary libraries all over the Philippines. It aims to foster the love of reading among Filipino children and uplift the quality of education in the country by refurbishing and developing libraries in the Philippines. Here it was, another confluence of events that brought Anna and her calling together.

“It is really so uncanny,” admits Anna while recalling all the events that lead her to her present state. We could not agree more.

Being a Program Coordinator for AHON for only around two months, Anna is faced with new challenges of marketing this cause. While her corporate background has enabled her to critique Marketing plans, she was never before undertaken to mobilize one. But she is undaunted. In fact, she wakes up in the middle of the night filling a small notebook with ideas. She talks endlessly about the many ideas brimming in her head for AHON.


Finally, after years of her journey, Anna has found her corner of the sky. “Siguro ito na nga (Maybe this is it)—the passion that everyone talks about.” She goes onto say, “What was happening is really the answer to the question posed walking in Guimaras: Why am I here?”

Certainly, this is not the last we will hear of Anna as she continues to thrive in the field she loves: education. While she works for the future generation of this country, she asks the people of today just “to do something, whether or not it is in AHON.”

She ends by saying, “Wherever you are, you can help our country… It’s in your hands.” True enough, if one woman can make a library where there was just empty space, then what can each one of us working together do?

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You too can help. AHON is continually looking for partners, donors, and volunteers. You many contact the AHON Foundation at (02) 683-0262 loc 106/109 or email them at ahonfoundation@gmail.com. Additional information may be found at http://ahonfoundation.multiply.com.

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