Marinelle Pamplona Formentera is one young lady worth emulating. While still a college student, she spends a lot of her time impacting her city with projects and sponsoring ordinances. Marinelle is Parañaque’s Sangguniang Kabataan’s (SK) President. Under her are youth leaders and their teams/Kagawads from each of the sixteen barangays in Parañaque. She is currently 19 years old, a student taking International Relations, Major in Diplomacy at the Lyceum of the Philippines University.
Marinelle says, “At first, it’s not easy handling people, especially if you talk about leadership —- unless it’s your passion.”
And passion is what Marinelle definitely has. In 2007, she was the SK Chairman of Barangay Sun Valley. In Dec. 6 of the same year, she became the SK Federation President of Paranaque. In 2008, she was chosen by the National Youth Commission as one of two representatives to Okinawa Japan for a youth exchange program, becoming the Junior Ambassador of the Philippines to Okinawa. In 2009, she was given the Dangal Ng Filipas Award by the Consumer’s League of the Phil. Foundation for excellent Local Youth Service and Governance.
Marinelle is someone brimming with ideas. When asked about the ordinances she has sponsored, she mentions the Educational Assistance Program (EAP) for in-school youth.
With the EAP, daily transportation costs of youth whose parents are labanderas and tricycle drivers are covered by the local government. Marinelle has also pushed for the ALS (Alternative Learning System) for Out of School Youth. This includes having mobile teachers on call, gung-ho enough to ask bystanders point blank: “Do you want to finish High School?” (As of this writing, there are 14 certified graduates from the ALS.)
Education is important to Marinelle. Of this she says, “No one can steal it [education] from you.” And to the youth she says, “Stay far from drugs, vices, fraternities, and gangs.”
Other projects of Marinelle include a day care center where there are school supplies available, family days, and the assignment of staff per barangay to answer the needs of the youth in each barangay.
Marinelle encourages the youth to form organizations and plan sports activities to give them a better alternative to drugs and gang wars. She also does feeding projects for kids in depressed areas, and encourages environmental action such as the cleaning of creeks and streets by youth organizations.
In the heart of Marinelle is a passion for health. The Sangguniang Kabataan gives seminars to address youth who have early pregnancies. This is called the AFHS – Adolescents Friendly Reproductive Health Services. Marinelle is also currently authoring an ordinance on HIV. “There is a lack of information on HIV. An education drive is needed. We don’t even know the exact number of HIV patients in the city. No direct council in the city is present to give information and education to the youth. There is no cure yet.” She also adds, “Paranaque is a prone area to this and STD. There are a lot of bars around…”
Marinelle feels what real youth feel because she is one. She also knows what it means to stare opposition in the face. Someone died in a sports (basketball) activity during one of her projects. This caused a lot of intrigues, especially after the burial.
Marinelle had to face a lot of accusations, even to the point of a lawsuit. She found herself in a cycle of sleeping, waking up, and crying. However, she had support from other people, and she had God. “You need God to be complete,” she says to me as she recounted her experience through tears. She was seventeen years old when that happened, and she realized that even with all the projects she was doing, God was still very important. She couldn’t forget God. “God made me a stronger person out of that experience. No matter how I felt, I had to be matatag (strong).
Marinelle feels fulfilled. She is dedicated to her city-wide work and to her studies. “Not everything is easy. Being a public figure is not easy. If you say something wrong, it could be used against you. The SK helps you to become a mature person.”
To the youth she says, “A good leader must be a good follower. S/he must be a good leader in works, not just in words.” Then she smiles and adds: “Don’t stop dreaming and hoping.”
For someone with a lot of dreams and hopes for her city, Marinelle is the best person to give advice.
Janina Marie Rivera is the author of the book, A Night Bird Sings of Blindness and Fear and has co-authored the devotional, Dawns, published by OMF Literature. She is a contributing poet in the books Joyful Light and Whitmanthology: on Loss and Grief by Various Authors. She is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine.