I have. I guess I am one of the lucky ones. The luckier ones, even, as I am actually related to the person who’s changed my world.
Her name is Janice and I’ve known her all my life. You see, she is my first cousin, and we grew up in a “clannish” family here in the Philippines. By “clannish”, I mean growing up in the same compound, and even when my family moved away, we still went to our grandparents’ ancestral house on a weekly basis, so I always see and spend time with my cousins. She is 6 years older than me, and I looked up to her growing up because she just seems to know everything! I was always considered an early bloomer, and maybe it’s because as I would often hang out with her and her friends. I learned and experienced a lot at such an early age—and this includes drinking and smoking (sometimes, since I have asthma), and dealing with suitors, maniacs and heartaches.
This is not to say we lived a low and miserable life before, in fact, some of my great memories are when I was with her, talking and laughing about stuff, discovering the new clubs and bars, gossiping and so much more. It also wasn’t shallow, as we’d have long talks about love lost, family issues and what we should and should not do in our generation. We have a big clan with lots and lots of complications, so at an early age, we got to see the wrongs of the ones who came before us. In high school, I think some of my classmates saw me as someone profound as I would always share stuff about “life” – and I don’t mean the sheltered kind of life we were ideally living in.
I think the best thing about my relationship with Janice is that despite moving away (for her, it was several times), and moving forward with new discoveries, we somehow always pick up where we left off whenever we see each other. The problems we have faced, no matter how different they were, kept us close. We have an unspoken agreement that we can tell each other everything, and I mean everything, without the fear of being judged or misunderstood.
After her quarter-life crisis, she found her calling one day – to serve in her church’s ministry, The Rock of My Salvation Media Ministries – and everything in her life turned. Her talents were honed in a way that no one could ever imagine! She started editing photos, then short videos, until she was a full-time creator of documentaries that reached and touched thousands of lives. Moreover, she created a group that supports the women in prison, the Saving Grace Project (www.savinggraceph.org). Monthly, the project will be giving these women basic toiletries, and occasionally, good food they can enjoy. But what is important is the HOPE that these small gifts come with. Janice said that, after her darkest days, when she was sad and alone, God placed it in her heart to provide hope to everyone, especially those who are not able to see the light, and this is what gave birth to this project.
Seeing her go through almost everything seemed to prepare me for what I will be going through in life. Although the circumstances are much much different, I felt that I can go to this person for anything, as she has gone through so much, and she was never afraid to be transparent to me. I think Janice’s life is a real and complete testimony of God’s love. She has given strength and inspiration to so many people, most especially to me. Whenever I am feeling helpless or confused, talking to her always assure me that everything will be fine, and eventually, things will be great. She is my constant reminder of the great plans that God has for my life, and she is one of the very few who can truly motivate me to move forward and stretch my potential.
More importantly, she helped me see what I can be in others’ lives. And although I am a work in progress, I know that one day, I will be a source of strength to others, the way she has always been, and will always be, to me.
Happy Birthday, ate Janice ❤ Thank you for changing my world.