Pope, a young Thomasian and going vs the tide
MANILA, Philippines – When Pope Francis addressed young people during the 2013 World Youth Day, he challenged them to be "revolutionaries, to swim against the tide."
"I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility, that you are incapable of love," he said.
It is this responsibility and the capacity for love which Thomasian electronics engineer Rikki Macolor took upon himself when he invented a light night that runs on solar power, prototypes of which were eventually deployed to Yolanda-hit areas in the Visayas.
Macolor is set to testify Sunday, January 18, before the Pope who called on the faithful to go against the prevailing culture of indifference among this generation's young.
His invention, the solar night light, came through a partnership with a non-governmental organization and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
The partnership offer was sent to different schools, and his college's dean at UST shared it to students like him. "They saw our drive to help," said Macolor on why they were chosen.
UST eventually funded his group to create their own portable version which takes about two to 3 hours to assemble.
When Yolanda made landfall, Macolor was in Davao City conducting a workshop to community members on how to assemble a unit on their own.
It was not always a smooth ride for Macolor's faith who had questioned why troubles kept coming his way – from his family's lack of resources to finance his college education to the painful state of his mother struggling to overcome various health issues.
His mother, who he says is "like a very dear friend," suffered a kidney and liver disease 3 years ago. "Sumasama din yung loob ko (I also harbor resentment sometimes)," he said, questioning God why he is beset with problems left and right despite what he has done for the community.
But he said his Catholic faith is "something that keeps me sane."
"Despite everything I've been through, it's something that I can really hold on to," he added.
Macolor believes the Pope's arrival in the Philippines is such a "fulfillment" for him and the roughly 80 million Catholics of the country.
Pope Francis' presence in Macolor's alma matter makes the Argentine pontiff's visit even more special.
The University of Santo Tomas (UST), the second university in the world to be given pontifical status, has been visited by the previous popes thrice in the past. (READ: What you need to know: Pope Francis' UST visit)
Pope Francis is the third pope to visit UST, and his visit is the fourth time by a current leader of the world's Catholics. (READ: UST on Pope visit: Focus is on the message)
He is set to encourage young people to share in the mission of evangelization. (READ: Know their stories: Thomasian youth volunteers on papal visit)
As early as 5 pm a day before the January 18 youth encounter, throngs of Thomasians old and young have lined up in designated entry points to the campus. (READ: Parents encourage youth: Go to UST, see the Pope)
Setting an example
In 2002, Macolor was forced to drop out of school due to strained finances.
During his 6 years of working even without a college degree, he was able to help send his younger sister to college. Also a Thomasian with a degree on interior design, his sister now works as a web developer.
In his more than half a decade of working, he kept thinking about how his dad has "reached a certain age and it was not a time to give up."
"My dad didn't even know I dropped out of school, filed a leave of absence. He talked to me very intimately. He was in tears when he found out," Macolor shared.
But after his sister's graduation, Macolor went back to school and enrolled at UST.
He said he wanted to set an example for kids who he can encourage to finish their studies. "That they should not take for granted what they have… I see a lot of kids di masyado concern yung pagaaral (who are not too concerned about their schooling). But it's more than the degree. It's about the discipline you instill to yourself."
For Macolor, his invention is his way of giving back. The invention is also his offering to the Lord, a prayer of sorts for the healing of his mother.
"Hindi naman ako doctor... I know that I can not really do anything for my mother na may sakit. Ito yung kaya kong gawin. Ito yung connection ko with the Lord by doing what I can in my own profession," he explained.
(I am not a doctor... I know that I can not really do anything for my mother who is sick. This is what I can do. This is my connection with the Lord by doing what I can in my own profession.)
The young Thomasian engineer would often tell his mother not to give up, while she would inspire him to carry on.
It is a healthy cycle. There is a smile in the face of Macolor's mother when she sees in television shows how her son has helped communities in far-flung areas, and this in turn gives Macolor greater drive to pursue his advocacy. – Rappler.com