Falling in Love in the eSPMA: Reflections and Learnings a Month After

The graduation and culminating ceremony of the eSPMA, our first ever fully online academy, happened last Feb 28, 2021 in the Philippines. A month after, our Aidufellows Carla Cañero and Thea Paras reflect on their experiences and learnings in the following posts. 



by Thea Joy Paras

Thea (first photo) as Secretary of Group 4's Project Brandable, the eSPMA's winning group


Kindly watch Thea's vlog through the link below:






by Maria Carmella Ysabelle Cañero


"…Would you be up to making a blog entry in GYLA about your eSPMA experience?"


I stared at my phone screen for more than a minute when Ate Kat sent me this message. It's midterms week, and I have a lot of things to do. I still have a long list on my planner about the requirements that I haven't even started yet but for an unknown reason, I couldn't say no.


Looking back at the past month, all I can say is that it was very eventful. Online learning is exhausting. The fact that I entered an event that would require me to do more work is not something that I should be happy about (at least for me at the beginning of the academy). At the first synchronous meeting of eSPMA, I told myself, "It's going to be a long month." But who am I kidding? That month was definitely not enough for me, and it was sad that it had ended earlier than I wish it would. 
Now that we’re done with it, I can say that the greatest lesson I learned in that whole month was to fall in love. You might be wondering how that is even possible, or perhaps you are already creating conclusions in your mind. 
To clarify, I did not fall in love with a co-participant, nor did I fall in love with a mentor. This academy made me fall in love with three things: possibilities, commitments, and problems.



Life during a pandemic in the Philippines is hard. Many people are struggling to find streams of income, and I am lucky enough that both of my parents still have their jobs. In fact, I am very privileged to be able to go to school without worrying that I might stop anytime soon. However, my life has been tough at the beginning of the year. I am now having a difficult time managing my tasks, and I often feel burnt out. To cut the story short, I was unmotivated.
So when the academy started, I felt nervous. All I knew was we were supposed to meet every Sunday to have a consultation and study the materials on our own for the rest of the week. I wasn’t even sure if that setup would work because I do not find college synchronous class fun anymore. To me, it is just a boring meeting with the professors where they repeat whatever they posted in Google classroom. 
The only difference in this academy is instead of professors, I am meeting with professionals from overseas. My initial reaction was to worry that I might embarrass myself, especially that I am a business major. I felt pressured that I should have a background about the topic. It disturbed the competitive side of me because I knew that I should have an advantage, but for the record, I was clueless.
This idea that I created on my mind was the complete opposite of what happened. At first, of course, there was this imaginary barrier of shyness that made everyone reserved. But as time went on, we learned to be more transparent with our ideas and emotions. The Sunday meetings were absolutely fun, and the mid-week calls with my groupmates were also enjoyable. The mentors weren’t at all scary, as I first thought. They are actually nice and approachable. They guided us along the way, and even though they’re a bit strict at times, I understood that it was part of the process. 
All these made me realize that I made the right decision. No matter how busy I was, I chose to remain open. I accepted the opportunity of learning something new and meeting new people –strangers that I gladly accepted into my life, on a “professional” and personal level. It made me reconnect with the people which I haven’t seen for almost a year, and together, we found a new family.

January 31, 2021: First day of the eSPMA
January 31, 2021: First day of the eSPMA

Just like falling in love romantically, I felt addicted to the idea of giving things a chance. Life is uncertain. We never know what could happen if we keep on thinking about “what-ifs.” Things may go wrong, but they can also feel right. That left me with the conclusion that falling in love with possibilities is not bad at all. If it fails, then you learn something. If it succeeds, you still learn something. After all, what’s important is the journey. A wise person once emailed me that we cannot judge a decision based on the outcome. There is no regret in trying, even if you do not achieve your desired results in the end.




The wise person that I’m talking about is my mentor, Kuya Isaac. The 1:1 mentoring was surely the most interesting, yet nerve-wracking, thing about this academy. I thought that it would be very awkward because Kuya (a Filipino term for older brother) seemed shy. But then again, it was the opposite.  I was surprised to discover that Kuya Isaac Ng is a talkative person. He shared a lot of meaningful experiences and advice with me. The atmosphere was so comfortable that it’s almost like we’re talking in person. I was inspired by how dedicated he is not only at work but also with sports. It was fascinating to see how his smile gets wider just by asking him about football and baseball. “I work hard, so I also play hard,” there goes his most popular line.


February 23, 2021: Mentoring with Kuya Isaac

His routine reminded me of the concept of unlimited willpower, which in my opinion is something that every successful person has. Right there, it dawned on me that maybe the reason why I lack motivation is that I lack a sense of commitment. When I asked Kuya how he can manage his tasks, his answer was “I have no choice.” And I’m sorry to say but I disagree. We always have two choices: to do, or not to do. But oftentimes we choose the latter, and that makes the difference. 
That night, I painstakingly restored my motivation. I realized that no matter how lazy I get in a day, I must always think of the consequences that it will bring –not only to me but also the people around me. I fell in love with the idea of being clear with my goals and getting myself involved in attaining them. Kuya Isaac made me realize the importance of consistency and finding inspiration in the things that you, yourself, chose to do.


I learned the last lesson of the eSPMA on the last day, while the jury members were evaluating our presentations. Everyone did a great job throughout the academy. Every proposal was great. But personally, I discovered that what makes a project even greater is if the presenters fell in love with the problem. Here is an analogy: problem = purpose. 

February 25, 2021: Our Final Presentation Recording (Group 5)

Your problem is what you’re trying to solve, therefore it is the reason for the existence of your project. It is because of the purpose as to why you stand in front of the jury, defending your work. Falling in love with your purpose will push you to strive harder and do better. It is a constant reminder that even when things go wrong, you have to stay still and continue because your mission is not yet done. 
Isn’t this applicable to our daily lives as well? If we fall in love with the problems that we are solving, then we will come up with millions of solutions to solve them. And even when things don’t go in our favor, we won’t be easily swayed. We might change our strategies, but the same goal remains. It will always bring you back to your starting point. Not only that it teaches us to persevere, but it also teaches us to look at the larger picture.
Even though the eSPMA has already ended, I will surely treasure every moment that I had in it -the peals of laughter during plenary, the evening calls with my groupmates, the awkward smiles during picture taking, the silence during coaching, the midnight emails with the mentors, and most importantly, that heart-warming feeling that I feel every time I see everyone in my computer’s screen. Falling in love with a person might be the last thing on my to-do list right now, but I am surely willing to fall in love with a lot of things around me. ‘Til the next academy!




Thea Joy Paras is a college freshman studying BS Biology at the Rizal Technological University - Mandaluyong Campus while Maria Carmella Ysabelle Cañero is a college freshman studying BS Business Administration Major in Marketing Management at Miriam College. Thea and Carla are among the 30 AiduFellows from Pathways who joined the first ever Online Synpulse Project Management Academy in the Philippines which took place from Jan 31st to Feb 28th, 2021 via Zoom.

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