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  • Warren Ronell Flores

In Search of my “Seoul-mate” (Part 1)

This is not the kind of love story found in novels or movies, but it is a love story, nonetheless.

This is not the kind of love story found in novels or movies, but it is a love story, nonetheless.

It was in 2013 when we first met.

I was part of a service organization called Rotaract Club of Metro Cebu – CIT University Chapter (RACMC-CIT) back in college. A colleague of mine led us to a public school, high up in the mountains of Carcar City, Cebu.

The school lacked access to water, and had very poor hygiene practices. The students were known to openly defecate, and they suffered from skin-related diseases and diarrheal infection.

It was shallow at first. Before I knew it, I had fallen deeper.

We made several visits to the community. Little by little, their stories made me fall deeper. The encounter left me wondering how such miserable experiences were allowed to plague those children, at an age when they should only be playing and learning.

There was an opportunity to help them through Unilab Foundaton’s Ideas Positive, a nationwide competition that enables the youth to build healthier communities. We formed a group and pitched our idea. To our dismay, we failed to qualify. We broke the children’s hearts – and our own.

Maybe we were not really meant to be. Maybe it was just a passing feeling.

I moved on. I graduated in 2014, took the board exam, got my license as an Engineer, and prepared for my first job. The path to my professional career was set.

Or so I thought. Another colleague, Reina, threw me a curveball when she asked if we could revisit the community and try again. It was already about 10 months since our failure. I didn’t know if I wanted to go through it again, but I gave a doubtful yes.

That was all it took to jumpstart my heart.

Being back in the community made my heart beat abnormally fast. I knew then that no matter what, I would play a part in helping them.

Reina and I formed a team together with four others: El, Niño, Chloe and Meossa. We called ourselves Team Blueprint and led two organizations (RACMC-CIT and an org I co-founded, BUILD PH) in this endeavor. We joined Ideas Positive again, and this time, we made it.

Doubts turned into hope, and ideas became reality.

In February 2015, we qualified as a National Finalist, and got the necessary funding to implement Project WASHEd-UP Can-asujan (Water Adequacy, Sanitation and Hygiene Education to Uplift the People of Brgy. Can-asujan). The project involved the community and various institutions, and included the construction of a Bottle Tank System (a rain catchment made of PET bottles) that gave the students access to clean water for proper hygiene.

It wasn’t a passing feeling after all.

The project surpassed every expectation, and eventually went on to win as Ideas Positive Grand Champion last August 2015. We were meant to help that community, after all, and become part of a bigger family – so big that it went beyond the borders of our country.

We had written a story for the world to hear.

In April, unexpected news came. Rotary International had chosen Project WASHEd-UP as the Asia-Pacific Regional Awardee for the 2015-2016 Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards. Our team was invited to share our story during the annual Rotary International Convention, held in South Korea last May 27-30.

Just like that, we became international delegates representing the Philippines. There are no words to describe the feeling, but “excitement” and “adrenaline” come close. We thank Unilab Foundation for the continued support and sponsorship for the trip to Seoul.

Being part of the International Convention brought priceless insights, more stories, and the experience of a lifetime. I was so grateful to be able to share our story as #healthierPH builders. The community deserved to be heard.

We got a positive response from the crowd. Some delegates personally expressed their gratitude for our story, and others were already seeking collaboration. It was truly an amazing experience. Never did we imagine that we would come this far.

So you see, love can take you places.

Love took a simple mountain community to a healthier future. It took our group to South Korea. And it brought me better perspectives.

Love, in its purest form, is not searched but found. And once you find it, you can never let go of it, no matter how much you try.

I found my ‘Seoul-mate’. I hope you find yours, too!

Warren Flores is a member of Team Blueprint, Grand Champion of Ideas Positive Run 5. He is the current Executive Vice President of the Ideas Positive Alumni Community. He studied Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Cebu Institute of Technology, and now works with the Ideas Positive team. He is also co-founder of BUILD PH, a non-profit organization creating a movement of young nation-builders across the Philippines. Read part 2 of his “love story” here.

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