COOL AND NOT SO COOL
On July 7, 2019, twenty alumni scholars from different batches gathered to reconnect and attend the first PJPS Alumni Recollection facilitated by Fr. Jun-G Bargayo Jr., SJ. Also present in the event were Fr. Eli Rowdy Y. Lumbo, SJ, Precy Miranda, Gwen Llano, and Jason Inlayo. The gathering started with a Sunday mass followed by the recollection proper. Fr. Jun-G instructed us, participants, to share with the group what’s “Cool” and “Not Cool” in our lives. As an alumna, I am used to sharing my ups and downs with my co-scholars and volunteers during the monthly formation. Being in the same situation with the rest of the group, I always felt like the circle we formed in the PJPS office was my safe place to lay my baggage down and be vulnerable without fear of being judged, criticized or rejected. With them, I didn't have to filter what I said or be mindful of what I shared. I was my true self. More than the financial assistance, we loved to be with these people who understood us on a deeper level. We looked forward to the activities, sharing, and learnings given by our Ates and Kuyas, as well as the bond we made with our fellow scholars who had become our truest friends even after we graduated. During the recollection, I saw familiar faces of previous co-scholars and new faces of those who recently graduated. I found myself looking back to the days when we were still students: confused and unsure about our future, striving and trying our best to plan our goals which were mostly for our families. But more than anything, I remembered how PJPS was always there, guiding us and making sure that we were walking in the right path. When we formed a circle at the PJPS Multipurpose Hall that Sunday, I heard, once again, stories of struggles and battles won. I heard stories of failure and success. We wept with each other as we narrated our sufferings, and we laughed at each other's good and happy memories. I couldn't help but feel proud of being a part of the PJPS family. I was surrounded by people who have endured a lot in their lives at a very young age, but these people have overcome life's worst hardships. Most of us were still facing difficult situations, but you will see the positivity and hope radiating from their faces despite the tears. I can truly say that PJPS played a big role in getting us to where we are today. In each of the participant’s stories, you will hear the learnings and advice they cherished through the years. Everyone expressed their gratefulness for being a part of a community who accepted them and cared for them like family. Indeed, PJPS gave hope not just to our incarcerated fathers, but also to us and our families. I believe each of us is a “wounded soul.” Some might be still in the process of healing, but a big part of ourselves are healed, nonetheless. And PJPS was a constant presence in the process of our healing. We, the Alumni, are the living proof of how PJPS rebuild lives and rekindle hope.