It was a conversation which led me into realization that good men still do exist. It was a conversation which I wanted you to personally experience. It was more than love. It was deeper and more meaningful. It tickled my humanity. It suppressed my urges, obliterated my prejudices and absorbed my biases.
His name is Warren Flores. He started the conversation by saying; “I’ve known love at the worst of times. I’ve known love at most painful experience.” I looked at him in the eye.
He continued: “What I’m going to share to you is about my love story. It’s a story of how I came to love and why I remained in love.”
“It started when we visited a public school at a remote area of Carcar City, Cebu. Doon kami unang nagkatagpo. Doon namin nakilala ang isa’t isa.”
“The school lacked access to water, and the students had very poor hygiene practices. The students were known to openly defecate, nagtatae lang sa labas (sa damuhan). And they suffered from skin-related diseases and diarrheal infection.”
“And it’s disturbing to know that such miserable things were experienced by these children when in fact sa edad nila dapat nag-aaral lang sila at naglalaro. And what’s worse is that this pain is not just a pain of the children of our community but this pain is shared by thousands of children across the Philippines. Ang daming batang naghihirap sa bansa.”
I questioned myself, “I thought he was going to propose to me.” Anyways, I continued listening to his story.
And with the many visits we had in the community, I knew her even more. I fall deeper, even with the darkest and most painful experiences she had, taught me to love her. I knew I’m in love because of pain. And you will know you’re in love when you desire everything to make her happy.
I asked him. “So Warren, how will you know that you love someone?”
“Yung parati mo syang naiisip. Yung hindi ka mapakali. Yung gusto mong palaging nasa tabi nya. Yung sabihin mo sa sarili mo na gagawin ko ang lahat maging maayos ka lang, maging masaya ka lang.”, he answered.
He continued. He hugged me while whispering the following words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs.
“So I and my friends formed a team and we joined Ideas Positive Run 4 last 2013 to help the community, and pitched our idea of putting up a conventional water system. But it was so unsustainable and costly. It was a big failure. We didn’t make it.”
“Things didn’t work out between us. So we left the community. And I broke up with her. I guess it was the right love but just at the wrong time. Ang sakit ng mga nangyari sa amin. At pilit ko na syang kinalimutan.”
Ako’y napatanong noon, tama pa bang manatili kami sa isa’t-isa? Who am I to love her?
“Who are we to help the community? Ano ba ang magagawa namin para sa kanila eh studyante lang kami? Sino ka ba? Kahit nga assignments mo ay hirap na hirap mo ng tapusin, pati nga mga exams mo ay hirap na hirap mong maipasa. Bata ka pa! Oo nga. Bata pa ako. Bata pa kami.”
I hugged him back. He continued speaking.
“Pero marami kaming magagawa eh. Bata ka pa! Bata pa kayo! Pero ang dami mong kayang gawin! So we joined again Ideas Positive in its 5th run, last year. We made it and got our funding. And here’s what we did to make our relationship work out.”
Warren told me that they constructed water storage and a rain catchment tank using PET Bottles. It was made of about 2000 bottles. And what made it different and better, was that it is cheaper than conventional tanks – like steel or cement tanks. It is more durable. It can even withstand a 7.2 magnitude earthquake since it’s not brittle like that of cement. They also taught the students about hygiene and sanitation through playing, which is more creative and interactive than the usual classroom discussion. And they conducted medical missions and health talks to address the skin-related diseases and diarrheal infections of the students.
I was impressed. Warren did everything he can. He thought of new ways, new approaches to solve problems. He didn’t settle for less. Why? Because when he loves someone, he gives all his best.
He held my hands and said: “Sabi namin, THIS IS IT! Ito na ang #Forever!”
“Oo, naging masaya kami. We had a lot of happy moments together. Pero we’ve been through hard times din that made me quit in the team just few weeks before the finals.”
“Actually, there’s nothing wrong in quitting if it’s no longer worth fighting for. But if you quit for something that really matters to you, for something that you really love…that’s stupidity. Katangahan yan! At naging tanga ako nung iniwan ko ang mahal ko. I was so tired and frustrated, yung puntong binigay mo na ang lahat-lahat, pero parang kulang pa rin – kulang ka pa rin.”
“Warren hindi ka kulang.”, I said to him.
“Actually, when we did our project, I was in Manila working fulltime na, while the team is in Cebu as well as our community. Eka nga LDR. Long Distance Relationship. Mahirap ang communication, mahirap magkaroon ng time for each other. Ang hirap. Ang sakit, bes.”, he replied.
“But again, I was just only tired and frustrated. I realized, I’m still in love with what I did. I still love the children. I still love the community. I still love my team. At mahal ko pa rin sya.” He continued.
I said “Ouch!”
He held my back.
“There’s more to our country. There’s more to us, Filipinos. And I can’t give up on us.” We are not poor, because we have a lot to give. We may lack so many things, but we are not poor.”
I wasn’t able to hold my tears. I sat down on the floor. He sat down with me.
“So you see, all we need is a different set of sight, to view from a different lens, to see beyond poverty and acknowledge the power of the youth, the power of every Filipino!”
“Dahil kung tanging kakulangan lang ng tao ang tinitignan natin, ay di tayo magbabago. Walang pagbabagong mangyayari sa bansang ito.”
“We need to see the greatness in each one of us more than the poverty we are in – to see greatness beyond poverty!”
“Oo Warren, pero paano ako?”, I asked him.
“And with all these things that I have experienced, I learned that love is sacrificing but without losing oneself. Yung gusto mong ibigay ang lahat lahat pero di ka nauubos at di nawawala ang tunay na ikaw, yung mas nakikilala mo pa ang iyong sarili. Yung mas nanaisin mong maging mabuti at mas magaling pa para sa kanya. Yan ang tunay na pagmamahal.”
“Because of this, I wanted to be with her. The relationship I have with her is what I wanted for the rest of life.”
“And so about 2 weeks ago, I quitted my job as an Engineer so I can be with my passion of building a healthier Philippines; I gave up a very huge opportunity in the company. But. It was the best decision that I made. Because there’s nothing more fulfilling than to fight for the one that you love. If you love someone, fight for her, be with her.”
Mahalin po natin ang ating bansa not just because of the pain she has, but because there is more to us, Filipinos. Because the Philippines is worth loving and worth living for.
Warren, despite the short period of time, I learned to appreciate him. During his confession, I prayed to God to guide him. I also asked the Divine Providence to create more persons like him, because his heart is what our country needs—it bleeds with deep humility, selfless service and genuine love to country; these are characteristics which are rare to find nowadays.
Warren is a treasure of his own kind.