Here’s an interesting story about a high school student from the Mt. Province General Comprehensive High School (MPGCHS). If her name sounds a little familiar, it may be because you read a blog post which included her name in our other blog.
Desiree of the Mountains
By Jenny Santiago/Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Looking at 15-year-old Desiree Sokoken, one would not guess she is a full-blooded Igorot from the Mountain Province. She could easily pass for a Chinese-Filipino mestiza.
“I’ve spent all my life in the Mountain Province. This is my first time to be in Manila,” Sokoken said when she was in town recently for the 5th Ramon Magsaysay Student Essay Writing Competition. Sokoken was one of four finalists in the high school category.
Although it did not win the top prize, Sokoken’s essay stands out because of the writer’s first-hand involvement as a volunteer with the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) since 2006.
The experience inspired her to write about PNRC governor and 1999 Magsaysay Award winner for Public Service Rosa Rosal for the RM essay contest.
“My fascination with her started when I became a PNRC volunteer, and this fascination grew when I read the write-up on her as one of the RM awardees,” she said. “Rosa Rosal made me realize that public service knows no boundaries. Young or old, rich or poor, celebrity or ordinary (person)—one can be a public servant.”
She began her volunteer work when she was just a sophomore at the Mountain Province General Comprehensive High School (MPGCHS). “I was motivated to join (the PNRC) because of my desire to help others in need. I find it quite refreshing. It makes me think helping others is an accomplishment, which is truly heart-warming.”
Together with other student volunteers from her school, Sokoken actively participated in PNRC community services like cleaning streets and river banks, and looking for blood donors.
She attributed her compassionate nature to her good moral upbringing. She said her parents instilled in her and her four siblings the golden rule and to love and help other people.
Sokoken is the second of five children of Dan Evert Sokoken and Shirley Ngolab-Sokoken. She comes from a family of teachers. Her father and most of her uncles and aunts are educators.
A consistent honor student since grade school, she graduated valedictorian from All Saints Mission Elementary School (Asmes) and is now a candidate for the same top academic honor as a senior at MPGCHS.
Passion for writing
“I discovered my passion for writing in elementary school when our school paper was revived,” she recalled.
As a staff writer of Asmes Messenger and now as associate editor of her high school paper, The ATO, Sokoken wrote mostly news reports. She is not into literary writing, as one would expect of an essay contest winner.
For an Igorot who only speaks the local language at home, Sokoken is very articulate in English. She has had two awards as best in English at MPGCHS.
“English is my favorite subject, but I also love Math so I joined a regional bookkeeping contest—the Student Technologists and Entrepreneurs in the Philippines. I was third placer,” she said.
Aside from the prestigious RM essay writing contest, she has also joined about five other local essay competitions and a debate contest.
She considered her school paper adviser Glynnis Ngeteg, who also happened to be her cousin and English teacher, her writing coach. It was from Ngeteg that she learned about the RM essay contest.
Sokoken had only seen her idol in pictures and on television and did not meet her until she came to Manila for the awards. For her essay, she said she relied primarily on materials furnished by the RM Foundation.
Now back in her hometown, Sokoken is busy preparing for the University of the Philippines College Admissions Test. She plans to take up either broadcasting or tourism at UP.
But regardless of what career she eventually pursues, this Rosal fan dreams of establishing a charitable foundation for the needy.