What do you really want in life?

Have you ever found yourself lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, and asking: “What do I really want in life?” Maybe some of you have everything planned out, while others are still searching for that spark, that direction.

Life is like the vast Philippine archipelago, made up of over 7,000 islands. Each island represents our dreams, desires, and passions. But how do we navigate these waters? How do we choose which island to dock our boats?

Today, let me share stories – of ordinary people like us, and of some extraordinary ones – who took the time to chart their journey, to find their own islands, their own calling. They teach us that whether we’re young or old, it’s never too late, nor too early, to discover what truly matters to us.


The Journey of Life

There are countless tales of workers who rise with the sun, and even before the roosters crow. They toil day in and day out, giving their best for their families, and sacrificing personal dreams in the pursuit of daily needs.

Take Mang Juan, for instance, a tricycle driver from Manila. For decades, he has navigated the bustling streets of the city, ferrying passengers to their destinations. Rain or shine, his tricycle’s hum is a testament to his dedication. Yet, sometimes, during those rare quiet moments when he’s waiting for a passenger, a distant look can be seen in his eyes—a yearning for something more, a dream left in the recesses of his heart.

Or Aling Maria, a market vendor selling fresh vegetables. Every morning, without fail, she’s at the market, smiling, calling out to customers, her voice a familiar echo. But beyond the fresh produce and the daily haggling, there’s a woman who once dreamt of painting—of colors and canvases, not of tomatoes and cabbages.

Both Mang Juan and Aling Maria have done commendable jobs, providing for their families, and being pillars of their communities. But their stories also remind us of a crucial lesson: Life isn’t just about survival; it’s about living.

And here’s the thing: You don’t have to wait for the wrinkles to set in or your hair to turn gray to realize there’s more to life than the humdrum of daily routines. 

Each one of us has that spark, that passion buried deep within. It’s about digging deep, listening closely, and finding that which makes our hearts sing, no matter our age.

Life’s journey is not just about the paths we take but also about the footprints of dreams and passions we leave behind. So, why not begin today? Why not start discovering what more there is beyond the everyday? After all, the journey of life is long, but time, kaibigan (my friend), is fleeting.

Walt Disney’s Late Bloom

When we think of Disney, we often conjure images of magical kingdoms, beloved characters, and childhood memories that bring warmth to our hearts. But behind this empire of dreams is a story of perseverance, resilience, and an unwavering belief in oneself.

Long before the world came to know Mickey Mouse or the enchantment of Disneyland, there was a young man with a vision – Walt Disney. In his early 20s, not much older than some of our youth today, Walt took his first steps into the world of animation. But the journey wasn’t as magical as the tales he’d later create.

His first animation company went bankrupt. Projects failed. Investors turned their backs. There were times Walt couldn’t even afford a decent meal. But did he give up? No. With each setback, he gleaned lessons, refined his vision, and dared to dream bigger.

And then, out of the trials and tribulations, Mickey Mouse was born. This iconic character was not just a turning point for Disney but also became a beacon of hope for dreamers worldwide. Later, Disneyland materialized, not just as an amusement park, but as a testament to where dreams, combined with hard work and determination, can lead.

Walt Disney’s story teaches us that our timeline of success and discovery doesn’t always align with society’s expectations. Our journey might have twists and turns, but it’s rich with experiences that lead to our true calling.

It’s never too late, nor too early, to follow your dreams. If Walt Disney, amidst all his early failures, can create a world of magic, then so can you. Your magic, your story, is just waiting to unfold. All you need to do is believe and persevere.

Malala’s Youthful Resilience

In a world where many of us seek inspiration, there emerges a tale of a young girl from the valleys of Pakistan. A story not just of dreams, but of bravery; not just of aspirations, but of resilience. This is the story of Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, even at a tender age, had a vision clear as day: every girl has the right to education. In her hometown, where girls going to school was frowned upon, Malala raised her voice against the oppressive Taliban. She wrote about her experiences, advocated for girls’ education, and hoped for a world where every child, regardless of gender, had the right to learn.

But her dreams came with a price. At just 15, on her way home from school, Malala was shot by a Taliban gunman. A bullet to silence her, to suppress the voice of hope she had become. But, true spirits aren’t easily subdued.

Not only did Malala survive, but she emerged even stronger, her voice echoing far beyond her homeland. She became a global symbol for children’s rights, advocating for the education of every child. And at the age of 17, she was recognized with the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest-ever laureate.

Why does Malala’s story resonate with us Filipinos? Because in her, we see the reflection of our own youth — passionate, fearless, and full of hope. We are reminded of the heroism of our own young ones during critical moments in our history, standing up for what they believe in.

Malala’s journey is a testament to the power of youthful resilience. It tells us that age is not a barrier to making a difference. Your voice, no matter how young or old, holds power. And just like Malala, with determination and courage, you too can rise, advocate, and bring about change in your own unique way. Remember, it’s not about how young or old you are, but how deep your passion runs.

Cory Aquino’s Unintended Leadership

There’s a saying that sometimes, destiny chooses us, even when we least expect it. This couldn’t be truer than for Cory Aquino, a simple housewife who never dreamt of political office, yet whose name became synonymous with democracy in our beloved Philippines.

Tita Cory, as many affectionately called her, was the wife of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., a staunch critic of the Marcos dictatorship. Her life was primarily dedicated to her family and supporting her husband in his political endeavors. But when Ninoy was assassinated in 1983, Tita Cory’s world turned upside down. 

What could’ve broken her instead lit a fire within.

With the nation in turmoil, she emerged as an unlikely symbol of hope. Pressured by the collective desire of a nation yearning for change, Tita Cory, with her iconic yellow dress, took on the mantle of leadership. She faced great odds, including a rigged election and a full-blown revolution. 

But with faith, resilience, and the unwavering support of millions of Filipinos, she restored democracy to our nation, becoming the first female President of the Philippines.

Her leadership wasn’t about ambitions or political aspirations; it was about a love for the Filipino people and a commitment to justice. Cory Aquino showed us that sometimes, leadership finds us in our most vulnerable moments. That from the quiet corners of our homes, we can be called to serve a purpose bigger than ourselves.

Tita Cory’s story is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the profound impact of genuine servant leadership. She reminds us that it’s not titles or positions that make leaders, but a genuine heart, courage in the face of adversity, and an unwavering love for one’s country.

Today, as we reflect on her legacy, let us remember: True leadership is not about seeking power but answering a call. And just like Tita Cory, when destiny beckons, may we too rise to the challenge with grace, love, and unwavering determination.

Choosing My Path to Peace

You know, as we travel through the tapestry of life, each of us has a unique thread, a distinct color that we contribute to this vast design. Today, I’d like to share a snippet of my own thread, my own journey.

Growing up in the bustling city, I was surrounded by the constant hum of activity: honking jeeps, towering buildings, and the ceaseless rhythm of urban life. It was exhilarating, but with time, I began to yearn for a different melody. 

I dreamt of mornings where the first sound I heard was not of alarms but of birds chirping, where the air was fresh with the scent of dew-kissed grass, and where life moved not in a frantic rush but in harmonious cadence with nature.

I will always be grateful to my wife. She made it easy for me to make a choice.

A choice some motivational speakers might see as stepping back, but for me, it was stepping closer to my heart’s true desire. 

I chose the tranquil embrace of Los Banos to build and nurture my family. Away from the city’s glitz and glamour, I found a richer, more meaningful life at the foot of Mount Makiling, under the canopy of stars, and amidst the genuine warmth of close-knit communities.

This wasn’t just about escaping city life. It was about aligning my life with what mattered most to me: quality time with my family, a deeper connection to nature, and the peace that comes from living authentically.

My story is not about advocating for everyone to move to the province. No, it’s about the power of personal choices. It’s about recognizing that each of us has our own version of happiness, our own definition of success. And sometimes, it requires us to take paths less traveled, to make decisions that might baffle others but resonate deeply with our own souls.

As we’ve learned from the stories shared today, from Walt Disney to Malala to Tita Cory and even my humble journey, life is not about following a pre-set blueprint. It’s about listening to your inner compass, trusting your journey, and embracing the choices that bring you closer to your heart’s truest desires.

More Than Dreams and Goals

Our culture is deeply rooted in dreams and aspirations. We often ask our children, “Ano ang gusto mong maging paglaki?” (What do you want to be when you grow up?) But what if I told you there’s a deeper, more holistic way to approach our life’s purpose?

Enter “Ikigai” – a beautiful Japanese concept that resonates with many around the world. While there’s no direct translation in Tagalog, “Ikigai” can be understood as our “reason for being” or that which gives us the joy of waking up each morning.

But what makes Ikigai special? It’s not just about lofty dreams or ambitious goals. Instead, it intertwines four key elements:

What You Love – Your passions, the things that ignite a spark in your heart.

What the World Needs – The greater purpose, how you can contribute to the community or even the world at large.

What You Can Be Paid For – A pragmatic aspect, ensuring you can sustain and support yourself and your loved ones.

What You’re Good At – Your talents and skills, honed over time, that you can share with others.

At the intersection of these elements is your Ikigai, a harmonious balance where you not only chase dreams but live purposefully, fulfilling both personal desires and a larger, societal purpose.

Life isn’t just about dreaming big or setting goals. It’s about finding that sweet spot, where your heart’s desires align with the world’s needs, where your skills meet purpose, and where each day feels meaningful.

So, beyond asking “What do I want to be?”, let’s dive deeper. Let’s explore our own Ikigai. By doing so, we’re not just chasing dreams; we’re crafting a life filled with purpose, satisfaction, and joy. A life where each day, we have a profound reason to greet the morning sun with gratitude and zest.

Finding Your Ikigai

Finding our life’s purpose can often feel like navigating a vast ocean without a map. But with the right questions, we can chart our course and discover our unique Ikigai. Let’s embark on this introspective journey together.

What Do You Love Doing?
Reflect on those moments when time seems to stand still, when you’re so engrossed in an activity that everything else fades away. Maybe it’s when you’re writing, singing, teaching, or even just listening to someone’s story. What makes your heart beat a little faster, fills you with joy and energy?

What Does the World Need That You Can Provide?
Look beyond yourself. What are the gaps you see in the world, the challenges that tug at your heartstrings? It could be providing education, alleviating poverty, healing through art, or championing sustainability. What can you contribute that would make a difference?

What Can You Be Paid For?
This isn’t just about money. It’s about recognizing the value you bring and ensuring that you can sustain yourself while pursuing your passion. How can you transform what you love and what the world needs into a viable path? Perhaps through a career, a business, or a social enterprise?

What Are You Really Good At?
Acknowledge your strengths. Maybe you have a gift for communication, an analytical mind, or a nurturing spirit. What skills have you honed over the years? And how can these be channeled in service of your passions and the world’s needs?

Now, take a moment. Let these questions sink in. Imagine these elements as four circles, overlapping and intersecting. At the heart of it all, where everything aligns, that’s your Ikigai.

The beauty of Ikigai lies in its balance. It urges us to find the intersection of our passion (what we love and are good at), our mission (what we love and what the world needs), our vocation (what the world needs and what we can be paid for), and our profession (what we can be paid for and are good at).

Strive to align these elements. It’s not an easy task, but by regularly reflecting and adjusting our sails, we can inch closer to a life that is not just successful but profoundly meaningful. Seek your Ikigai, and let it light up your path in this wondrous journey we call life.

What do you really want in life?

Life is fleeting, and each day is a gift, waiting to be unwrapped and cherished. While the external world constantly bombards us with images of success, wealth, and fame, it’s crucial that we look inward, delving deep into our souls. 

Continuously ask, “Ano ba talaga ang gusto ko sa buhay?” (“What do I really want in life?”)

The pursuit of our Ikigai is not a one-time quest. It’s an ongoing journey, a dance between introspection and action, dreams and reality. 

As we evolve, so do our passions, skills, and the world around us. By staying attuned to our inner compass and recalibrating when needed, we can navigate toward a life of harmony and fulfillment.

Your unique Ikigai is like a lighthouse, guiding you through stormy nights and shining brighter during sunny days. Let it lead you not just to success but to a life infused with purpose, joy, and profound meaning.

I challenge you to not just go through the motions. Don’t merely exist, ticking off days on a calendar. Embrace each moment with passion, align with your purpose, and truly live.

In the wise words of a great philosopher, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

So, let us rise with determination and heartfelt intention. Huwag lang basta mabuhay; mabuhay ng may layunin. (“Don’t just exist; live with purpose.”)

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