Igniting the Passion to Serve the People

The beginning of a leadership journey

Fire, a symbol of passion and desire, has been the mark of Regina Monsayac-Pabalate’s leadership. At a very young age, that fire was ignited by her parents as her father was once a practicing lawyer while her mother became support for her father’s profession as his assistant. The time she spent with them kept her young fire burning. However, it was also her parents that had thrown her into a wildfire — alone and young. She was forced to fend off for herself for a time. Nonetheless, this unfortunate turn of events has taught her unexpected yet most essential lessons in her life. This started when her parents separated so she had to live two lives. When she was with her father, she found it interesting whenever she attended meetings with him. This contributed much to her political awareness as he was politically aware who always had something to say about issues. Meanwhile, her mother, while not having the same intellectual background compared to her father, has taught her the importance of doing good things for someone.

She was further astray to the far side of the wildfire when her mother became dependent on drugs. When she needed to choose between her parents, she chose to be with her mother who needed the most care. This has forced her father to refuse to provide financial support to them because of the fear that it might only be used to finance her mother’s addiction. Consequently, she had to transfer from a private elementary school in an urban place to a public one in a rural area due to the lack of resources. A huge adjustment had to be done but this has taught her the need to socialize — be with people with whom you share experiences — and it opened her eyes to the worsening education system. Eventually, as the fire ablaze further, she became a street child who wandered around knocking on houses asking for scraps to be sold in junk shops. This has kept her and her mother barely surviving the wildfire they were in. 

In high school, the wildfire started to ease out and she started to see the clear path. It was the time when she first heard of Sec. Jesse Robredo from a briefer with her participation at the Regional Schools Press Conference (RSPC). At that time, Naga City would host the national level of the competition. Since then, she started following news and other updates about Sec. Jesse and his works in the city. In an unfortunate accident that led to the untimely death of Sec. Jesse, it was a pain in her despite not knowing him personally. God indeed works in His own ways, He has cleared her path towards joining the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation which eventually leads her to work at Jesse M. Robredo Foundation (JMRF). The inspiration that Sec. Jesse gave and the training from JMRF has boosted and has developed her leadership skills — it is not only enough that you are capable, what is necessary is for you to produce quality works. 

In college, she took Political Science as her undergraduate program because her family expected her to follow the same path as her late father. During her college years, community immersions with farmers and other sectors, her internship in an NGO, and volunteer activities in the Philippine Red Cross have cultivated in her the necessary skills for community development works.

Now, she managed to come out of the wildfire that made her into what she is right now. At an early age, she had to fend off for herself and her mother. Along the way, she met people that helped her to get out of that unfortunate situation. Every experience she had was all because of everything she went through. With that, she is now planning to pay it forward by continuing working in an international non-government organization that helps communities, children, and indigenous people. She also volunteers in an organization for cancer research as part of her personal advocacy brought by her mother’s demise due to cancer.

Merits and challenges of being a leader

Her time in JMRF has taught her many things especially as she experienced working in several areas of development work. She adapted one of the major characteristics of being a leader in the nonprofit sector – flexibility. In the projects she handled, she engaged in being a facilitator of the programs, project assistant, and graphic design artist. This experience has widened her skills and has developed her leadership instincts. 

But the most challenging of all was during her work in Philam Foundation when she was tasked to handle a program on infrastructure and education. It was a tough job because, according to her, it necessitated hard goals and exact numbers, and it was in a corporate setting. It was a difficult experience at first, because of the difference in the culture of working from an NGO to a CSR of a company. Nonetheless, the whole experience in itself paid off the challenges she faced. 

Dealing with burnout and taking care of oneself

Vulnerability to burnout is always a problem for those who pursue the same endeavor with Regina. When this happens, she said that it is important to always look for time to relax and have time to spend with the family. Her circle of friends in the development sector is also a great help because they have been her safe space where she could feel vulnerable and be herself. Meanwhile, she suggested that it will be a relief to look for light or ‘funny’ moments in your work to allow yourself to pause. Finally, when work becomes too stressful, you should reflect from your heart about what are the things that you should be grateful for. 

Ultimately, when she feels that the fire to serve the people is waning, she said that remembering the delightful faces of the children, parents, and teachers during turnover ceremonies helps in reigniting the fire within her. The fulfillment in their faces compensates for all the hardships they encountered in their projects. Lastly, the idea that her contributions to communities, even the smallest ones, would contribute to a better world for her son is one of the many reasons why she continues to do things.

The journey in the LMNP Fellowship Program

The Leadership and Management for Non-Profit Professionals fellowship program afford Regina to be in a safe space with her fellow development workers. This safe space allows her to reflect and remind herself to be grounded in her work.  Through the program, she was able to meet other people who have the same burning passion for improving the quality of life of the Filipinos. This provides her inspiration to continue serving communities.

She believes that learning should be continuous. Because of the lessons of the program, she would always look forward to a new session. The experiences shared by the facilitators were opportunities to learn about the realities of different industry leaders that they could adapt when they face similar situations.

A call to her fellow young leaders

For those young leaders who still navigate their choices, she advised them the following: 

First, follow what your heart desires as it will always get you in the right direction. Second, be firm with your principles because holding on to such will get you far. Third, have a circle of friends from the same path to have a safe space with each other. Next, do everything with a grateful heart because it will give inspiration whenever it is needed. Finally, do everything in the glory of the Lord in the pursuit of serving fellow Filipinos.

Regina Monsayac-Pabalate

When it comes to leadership, working in the nonprofit sector truly helped her to holistically develop through various training and projects. LMNP pushed her to learn more about leadership as she was trained by experienced facilitators and the fellowship became her safe space allowing her to push boundaries without hesitation. Ultimately, it made her realize that whatever she does can always be taken a notch higher, to not settle for good but always strive for the best.

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