Champions walking the road less travelled

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

They pursue their passions even if it means getting less in return


MANILA, Philippines – What do you live for? 

We are defined by our passions and how we choose to live them. The careers that we choose mirror the values we treasure and the future we want to fashion. 

For the following people, quitting was never an option. Despite the hardships and setbacks, they chose to remain true to what they wanted — instead of seeking high-paying jobs. They pursued their passions even if it meant getting less in return. They are building communities and inspiring the nation.

CHAMPIONS ALL. They pursue their passions even if it means getting less in return

Tapat sa pagtuturo: Lilia Diaz

TEACHING FOR TOMORROW. Lilia Diaz is often called the mother of Culion, Palawan. Teaching for 40 years, she has helped transform the once leper colony into an island of educated Filipinos. Photo from TBWA.

After teaching for 35 years in the Jesuit-run St Ignatius Academy (now Loyola College of Culion), Lilia Diaz retired from classroom teaching in 2004. She did not know, however, that her life as a teacher would become more difficult.

In 2003, a basic ecclesial community (BEC) was formed in the former leper colony of Culion. The BEC adopted a community of Tagbanuas, the indigenous people of Palawan. One of the stories of the Tagbanuas led Lilia to turn her profession into a vocation.

Nung minsan sinabi nila sa aming session na…during election, para silang ikinulong. Literal na hinakot. May dumaan na bangka sa kanilang isla tapos dinala sila sa isang lugar. Binahay at hindi pinalabas. Tapos isa-isa lang silang pinapaboto. Naramdaman ng mga Tagbanua yung kagustuhan na mag-aral,” Lilia recalled.

(In one of our sessions, the Tagbanuas said that during elections, they felt like being imprisoned. They were literally hoarded. A boat picked them up from their island and brought them to another place. They were housed but not allowed to leave. They were allowed to vote one by one. The Tagbanuas felt the need to be educated.)

Lilia was asked by the BEC if she was willing to teach the Tagbanuas. She responded with an enthusiastic “yes.”

The 71-year-old Lilia would take boat rides and trek to reach Sitio Alulad and teach the hopeful adult Tagbanua learners.

According to Lilia, her training with the Jesuits was one of the main reasons why she accepted the task of training Tagbanuas. “Lumaki ako sa mga Heswita. Naniniwala ako sa sinabi ng Panginoon na kung ano man ang gawin mo sa kapwa mo, ginagawa mo sa akin,” Lilia added. (I grew up with the Jesuits. I believe in what the Lord said, “Whatever you do to your brethren, you do unto me.”)

Lilia noted that the life of a teacher in Culion is hard. She said that poverty was the greatest challenge she had to face. “Hirap talaga. Hindi naging dahilan iyong kahirapan sa pera para iwanan ko iyong pagtuturo,” Lilia said. (It’s really hard. But the lack of money was never reason enough for me to leave teaching.)

She employed different means to cope with her financial problems. She would sell kakanin (rice snacks) during the weekends.

Lilia said that she had her share of jeering. “Minsan iniinsulto ako ng mga tao sa amin. Mahirap daw talaga maging teacher ng Loyola…Kailangan pa magbenta ng kakanin para mabuhay,” she recounted. (“Some of my neighbors often insult me. They say it’s really hard to be a teacher in Loyola…you have to sell rice snacks to make a living.”)

Despite the poverty and the tiring physical work, Lilia said that her experience with the Tagbanuas made her realize how blessed she was.

Naiiyak ako kasi ang suwerte, suwerte ko. Na kahit anak ako ng pasyenteng leproso, ay binigyan ng Diyos ng pagkakataong mag-aral,” Lilia  maintained. (I’m moved to tears because I’m so blessed. I was a daughter of a leper and yet God gave me the chance to get an education.)

Lilia said that teaching is her passion and she wants to do it until she dies.

Yung regalo na iyon na makapag-aral, gusto ko ibahagi sa kapwa ko na mas malaki kesa sa pagkakataon na ibinigay sa akin. Hirap na nga sila sa buhay, wala pa silang pagkakataong mag-aral,” she said. (The gift of education I want to share with others. This is bigger than the opportunity given to me. Besides being poor, they’re not given the opportunity to study.)

Iyon ang nagtulak sa aking mahalin sila kasi nakita ko yung pangangailangan nila,” Lilia added. (Their need is what pushed me to love them — because I saw their need.)

Lilia’s life work is, perhaps, one of the best examples of being tapat. Getting a good education, she had the opportunity to leave Culion and teach somewhere else, but she chose to stay and serve her community.

She is a teacher and her example teaches us that katapatan to one’s work will entail difficulties, challenges, and even poverty. But her example also teaches us that katapatan to one’s work builds lives and communities.

Tapat sa propesyon: Dr Roel Cagape

MONEY DOESN'T MATTER. Unlike most of his colleagues in the profession, Dr Roel Cagape chooses the 'road less traveled' by being a doctor in the barrio. Photo from TBWA.

As a doctor of medicine, Roel Cagape could have landed in a high-paying job in Metro Manila or abroad. Instead, he chose to become a doctor in the far-flung and remote tribal communities of Mindanao. 

The doctor-to-the-barrio program had been conducting medical missions for the last 25 years of his medical career.

Growing up in a very remote area in South Cotabato, Roel saw early on the healthcare problems of his people. Patients would go to their house to beg his parents to borrow the family car so that the patients could reach the hospital. This was when Roel decided to become a doctor.

Noong pumasok ako sa medical school sa Cebu Institute of Medicine…tinanong kami ng aming propesor noong first year kung bakit gusto naming maging doctor…Noong ako na ang sumagot, sabi ko gusto ko babalik ako sa aming community dahil nangangailangan ng doctor doon…Tumaas ang kilay ng iba at ang iba tumawa,” Roel recounted.

(When I entered medical school in the Cebu Institute of Medicine, my professor asked us why we wanted to be doctors. When it was my turn to answer, I said I wanted to go back to my community because they need doctors there. Some of my classmates raised their eyebrows while others laughed at me.)

True to his answer in class, Roel returned to his community after finishing medical school. Aside from medical missions, Cagape organized feeding programs, ambulance on horses, and entrepreneurial intervention programs for the partner-communities.

Unlike his colleagues, Roel admitted that he is poor. He maintained, however, that being a community doctor is where he found fulfillment.

Mahirap ay yung becoming different while my colleagues are gathering treasures…all those things I don’t have. But then…doon ko na-realize na significant ang aking life eh. Nasa punto na ako na tinitingnan ko ang punto ng aking existence over being happy,” Roel added.

(It’s difficult to be different while my colleagues are gathering treasures…all those things I don’t have. But then this is where I see significance in my life. I am at a point where I view the point of my existence over being happy.)

Roel risked his life at various times just to serve his communities. His most unforgettable one was when he received a death threat from the National People’s Army based in Saranggani.

Sa ganda ng ginawa ko sa lugar na iyon, magkakaroon pa ng threat? Pero kay sarap na sabihin sa’yo ng community na ‘Doc, kung papatayin ka doon, papakamatay na rin kami’,” Roel recalled.

The people of the community guarded him and made sure that he was safe until he settled his case with the NPA commander.

According to Roel, being a doctor is a lifetime advocacy.“Hindi naman mahirap simulan ang isang gawain kung…iyon talaga ang passion mo. Masaya ako sa aking ginagawa. Basta masaya ka sa iyong ginagawa, malalampasan mo lahat ng challenge,” said Roel.

(It’s not difficult to start something if that’s where your passion is. I am happy with what I’m doing. As long as you are happy with what you’re doing, you can overcome any challenge.)

Roel continued with his advocacy of bringing healthcare to the barrios. He said his life would be insignificant without it.

He chose inconvenience over wealth. All throughout his 25 years as a doctor, he remained tapat to his profession and his calling despite death threats and lack of financial resources. Because of his katapatan, countless people have been saved from curable diseases and illnesses — people who wouldn’t have stood a chance without a doctor.

Roel’s katapatan created ripples in the medical community, especially in Mindanao. Doctors are now considering joining Roel in his quest to bring healthcare to those who don’t have access to it. Roel found the true meaning of being a doctor — it not being a lucrative profession, but holding the promise of saving lives — and he remains true to it to this day. 

Taxi driver turned lawyer: Atty Rosalio Torrentira

DREAM COME TRUE. Overcoming life's challenges and emerging victorious, Atty Rosalio Torrentira pursues his dreams until they become true. Photo from TBWA.

The journey of becoming a lawyer was not easy for Rosalio Torrentira. He went from being a houseboy to being a delivery boy and eventually a taxi driver just to become a lawyer.

Growing up with 10 siblings in a town in Bohol, Rosalio strove to finish college. He worked as a homeboy to support his college education.

Ginagawa ko ang lahat ng gawaing pambahay maliban sa paglalaba at pagluluto. Nag-aalaga ako ng baboy, ng manok…ng baka…Kapalit noon iyong aking pag-aaral,” Rosalio said. (I did all the household chores except for washing the clothes and cooking. I took care of pigs, chickens, cows…in exchange they pay for my tuition.)

After finishing his college degree, he came to Manila looking for better career opportunities. But his diploma was not sufficient for him to land a good job.

Mahirap maghanap ng trabaho dito kung wala kang kaibigan, kung wala kang kakilala, kung wala kang kamag-anak na tutulong sa ’yo, kung wala kang koneksyon…walang magrerekomenda sa ’yo, hindi ka matatanggap,” Rosalio said. (It’s hard to look for a job if you don’t have friends, colleagues, relatives or connections who will help you. No one will recommend you, you won’t get accepted.)

He added that he would sell different gadgets while applying for jobs. He sold flashlights, iron and brooms. Torrentira became a delivery man for a soft drinks company in Cavite. He then started dreaming of entering law school.

Kapag ako’y naging isang abogado, alam ko na ang mga karapatan ko na hindi ko na kailangan pang maghanap ng trabaho…Alam ko na hindi na ako maga-apply pa,” he thought to himself. (If I became a lawyer, I told myself, I would know my rights. I wouldn’t need to look for jobs. I wouldn’t have to apply.)

He eventually entered law school in Adamson University while being a taxi driver. He said that this was the most favorable job for him since he controlled his time.

Papasada ako ng bente-kuwatro oras. Pagdating ng alas-kuwatro, papalapit na ako nang kaunti sa Adamson para papasok sa eskuwela…Papalit lang ako ng T-shirt tapos diretso na sa klase,” Rosalio recalled. (I would drive the taxi for 24 hours. When it’s already 4 pm, I would go near Adamson University. I would just change my shirt then go straight to class.)

Law school was a difficult challenge since Rosalio maintained a job. According to him, his teachers and classmates supported his endeavor.

Yung mga teacher ko naging mabait sa akin. Kapag absent ako, nagbibigay ng consideration…yung mga kaklase ko nililibre ako sa pagkain, sa ibang photocopy,” he said. (My teachers were very kind to me. If I were absent, they would give me consideration. My classmates would treat me meals and pay for some of my photocopied materials.)

He almost quit law school several times due to financial problems. He was supported by various sponsors and friends throughout his stay. Rosalio became a lawyer last March 2013. He passed the Bar Exams in one take. Rosalio said that his success was for his family.

Nililista namin ang lahat ng utang namin…sabi ko sa mama ko, ako na bahala sa lahat ng iyon. Sabi ko rin sa mga kapatid ko, bago ako mag-asawa, kailangan ko muna kayong bigyan ng tag-iisang bahay,” he said. (I asked my mother to list all our debts. I told her I’ll pay for everything someday. I also promised my siblings that I’d give each of them houses before I marry.)

Rosalio believed in the power of dreams. His persistence and dedication to achieve his dreams helped him overcome the challenges he faced.

Ipagpatuloy lang yung pangarap. Yung pangarap natin, mananatiling pangarap yan kapag hindi sinamahan ng aksyon. Kailangan ng kilos yan. Libre naman ang mangarap eh…pero kailangan ng sipag, ng kilos at tiyaga sa mga ginagawa gaano man kaliit ang posisyon mo,” Rosalio said. (Continue dreaming. Dreams won’t actualize without the right action. Dreaming is free but perseverance and persistence is needed no matter how lowly one’s position is.)

Rosalio’s life is work in progress. His journey to being a lawyer shows he is goal-driven and tapat to his dreams.  

Lilia Diaz, Dr Roel Cagape, and Atty Rosalio Torrentira are living examples of how passions can be funneled  toward nation-building. By staying true to their passions and by choosing careers that give back, their efforts multiplied and inspired change in their communities and families.

More than building wealth, they built and saved lives. They chose jobs that would make them game changers and catalysts of change in their own right. –


Watch out for more inspiring stories from the Tapat Ambassadors this coming week. 

Join us for a Social Media Conversation on being Tapat on July 10. Use #TapatAko and share with us the stories that inspire you most. 

See the heartwarming story of the lawyer who drove taxis to put himself through law school on July 12. 

Be inspired by the dedication of a 71-year-old teacher from Culion, Palawan on July 26. 

We’ll be posting quotable quotes from these exemplary individuals on Instagram starting July 26. Follow @rappler on Instagram.

To find out more information about the Tapat Summit awardees visit


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!