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Wednesday, May 27, 2015


This is an essay that I wrote and submitted to Lille Catholic University for an honorary doctorate degree that they will be conferring on Fr. Ben Nebres, the former President of Ateneo de Manila. I thought I might as well post it in my blog since this year is the 10th year anniversary of our exchange program in France. It just seemed liked yesterday. Wow! How time flies! Congratulations Fr. Ben!!


Palais de Beaux Arts
If I were to name one program during my University stint in Ateneo that I would want to do all over again, it has to be the JTA or Junior Term Abroad program. It was in 2005 when I did my exchange program in Lille Catholic University, together with 8 other students from Ateneo.  We were only the 3rd batch in Ateneo to take advantage of this program to study abroad, interact with foreign students and immerse ourselves in the local culture. We did not only have the time of our lives but the entire experience certainly gave us a broader perspective of the world.

Joni Ong, my co-JTA student from the Philippines and now General Manager of Jeron Distributions said “the trip made me realize that there was so much in the world I didn’t know. And I think it sparked the wanderlust that I have right now, the constant need to learn and explore the world.”

City Center
The 5-month stint allowed us to see the world through different lenses through our conversations with international students and through our travels all around Europe. In fact, more than anything, it empowered us as individuals. Atty. Kira Ang, a Junior Associate Counsel from EHM Aboitize Equity Ventures from the Philippines said “we thought we couldn’t possibly compare with the Europeans who are taller, more confident and more assertive than us Filipinos, but through the JTA, we realized that hey, we could actually compete with them.”

With other International students
Also, this experience forced us to leave the comforts of our homes and live independently. We had no choice but to do the domestic work ourselves. For us Filipinos from Ateneo, it allowed us to develop a strong bond which we share until this very day. For us Filipinos who were able to experience the JTA, we can proudly claim that this served as a preparation and more so, an inspiration to kickoff our careers. Charles Chua, VP of Credit Trading of the Royal Bank of Scotland admitted, “Living in France prepared me to be independent and to be appreciative of the different cultures of the world. It helped jumpstart my ambition and career.”
I learned to cook for the first time

My 10 sqm room
“Living in France is possibly the starting point of my journey in law and public service. The privilege of education, the longing for family and home, the company of bright-eyed and curious individuals, mixed with the air of patriotism indubitably made me question what I can do for my country.” says Atty. Daniel Luz Bolong who is now with the Office of the Solicitor General and a lecturer at the Ateneo Law School.

The business courses we took at IESEG proved to be very valuable for me, especially as a businessman. It was also the abundance of baguettes and croissants that made me learn to appreciate these French delicacies, which eventually led me and my partners to bring the popular French boulangerie and patisserie called Maison Eric Kayser to the Philippines. Today we have 5 shops and we continue to exert effort in educating the market on how to appreciate French breads and pastries.
While the JTA experience was life-changing, it has also challenged us to know ourselves and know what we truly value. Monique Buensalido, Digital Communications Director of Buensalido and Associates Public Relations said “I learned to discover other cultures and to hold my ground when it came to my values and beliefs as a Filipino when I saw how other people viewed our country.” 

Certainly, the JTA experience has created lifelong memories and also enriched our lives. But aside from all the positives that we were able to take home with us, it is the rare chance of being an ambassador to our own country at a very young age that makes us truly proud. 

We are extremely grateful to Ateneo de Manila University and Lille Catholic University as well as all the individuals who made this experience a possibility, with special mention to our then University President, Fr. Ben Nebres and Dean Rodolfo Ang of the School of Management. As a member of the pioneer batch that went to Lille in 2005, I cannot imagine how many more individuals and how many more lives have been changed today through this valuable partnership. 

This is indeed a wonderful blessing!



  1. Hi! I'm going to have my JTA this August! And as an ME student myself, it really amazes me how you juggled sports and the really difficult acads and managed to even go on jta! (Jta sem is killing us slowly right now) You're like my ultimate ME inspiration!!!

  2. Lucky for you have such programs..My brother wanted to be an exchange student.He tried writing diff. international schools to inquire but nothing happened.
    It's nice that you proved to be an extraordinary individual from them on. May all your experiences enrich others through your wonderful stories. We're grateful that you always share them w/ us.
    stay humble and normal as u can be!..