Friday, December 11, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Pete Tan, The Free Spirit

With every summit he reaches, mountaineer and LoveYourself volunteer Pete Tan learns a thing or two about life. His biggest lesson so far – “Life is not all clear skies.” 

By Jean Natividad 

There’s something about being close to nature that changes a person. Away from the ruckus of city life, one is able to reflect on the things that matter and be present for each fleeting moment.

There's also a certain calm that being in the hills, or sitting by the river, or watching the waves brings. It is a state not easy to master given today's fast-paced life when everyone seems to be in a rush. What for really – we’re not quite sure.

Pete Tan, LoveYourself volunteer, mountaineer, and explorer of life has benefited from his nature adventures. At first encounter, one can sense the serenity in his disposition and hear the calm in his voice against a backdrop of urban noise. His amiable nature makes it easy for anyone to warm up to him. Perhaps this is why he fits so well in heading LoveYourself's recruitment arm.

Pete joined LoveYourself in 2014 and started leading recruitment early in 2015. These days, he conducts valuable and insightful face-time with new recruits. And through these interactions, Pete gets to the heart of the volunteers' motivations, passions, expectations, and helps them find their special place in the organization.

As one of the first to touch base with new recruits, Pete takes the role of the listener. What his fellow volunteers may not know, however, is that he also has one heck of a story to tell.

Rough roads
As Pete continues to listen to the stories of his fellow volunteers, he goes on to live his own narrative that only gets more and more eventful along the way. His affable and free-spirited character is a product of his experiences – experiences that have not all been that easy. He has, you can say, had his fair share of major struggles in life.

"I didn't finish college, and back then, that was a big failure for me. I wanted to get into Fine Arts, but I failed the entrance examination twice," Pete said.

He went on to take Business Administration, but his lack of passion and interest for the course led him to stop schooling completely. "I decided to try it on my own, to work and make a name for myself. I really wanted to prove something to myself at the time," he added.

At present, Pete has a stable career as a Sales Account Manager. According to him, there should be "no shame in trying." With his sheer tenacity, he overcame the fear and pain of failing not just once but twice.

But as unpredictable and tricky life is, that experience turned out to be nothing compared to the next.

The bigger obstacle
In 2008, Pete was diagnosed with tuberculosis. "I didn't know how I got it. I was smoking and I had tattoos, so I thought maybe it was through infected needles," he shared.

His condition got so bad that he thought the end was near. "I was coughing up blood. I asked my doctor if I still had a chance to live, and he said that if I am determined to survive, I still can," Pete said.

Once again, Pete went through an ordeal by himself. He made the deliberate choice to not inform his family. He shared, "My sister was going to give birth, so I told myself I needed to see my would-be niece/nephew."

This chapter in his life also pushed Pete to invest in experiences. He said, "That's the reason I tried doing new things, like mountaineering. I thought I should do it while I still can. And if I fail, at least I tried."

Conquering mountains
But this time, Pete did not fail. He is in good health – so good that he's able to reach summits, breathe fresh air, and marvel at the wonders of nature, all from hundreds and thousands of feet above everyone else.

"I am now really leaning more towards experiences than material things. I realized I had to change my way of thinking and experience more meaningful things. Being able to look back and say, 'I did this, I did that," gives me a good feeling and makes me a better person," he shared.

It’s not only through climbing mountains that Pete gets a certain rush. He said, “When I volunteer, I get a rush of something, like happiness and joy. I can say that I am braver now to help others and challenge myself.”

To conclude, Pete shared one adventure story that can pretty much sum up his life:

"It was my second major climb sometime 2013/2014. We were going down Mt. Napulauan in Mountain Province when it started to rain hard. We were soaked and cold, the trail had disappeared, and we needed to set up an emergency camp. It was so difficult. I wanted to cry. I was thinking of giving up, but then I thought it was just one experience, and it shouldn't be a reason for me to stop climbing. And then one of the team leaders said something that really resonated with me – ‘Life is not all clear skies.'"

Indeed it's not. But Pete's story and his unbreakable spirit prove the sky always clears up after a storm.

Photos: Pete Tan and Kris Tangco
Photo editing: Mark Long

LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight is a monthly feature on the cause- and service-oriented members of LoveYourself. We will be chatting with volunteers from all walks of life – all united in one cause. Keep checking every month to meet the different faces of LoveYourself.

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Previous LoveYourself Volunteer Spotlight: Alexis Sy