“Breaking News: Philippines currently ranked first in most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia,” Philippine Department of Health confirmed the report. In other news, we have a different kind of first: Judge Jerlie Luis Requerme is the first Filipino cohort of the Next Generation Leaders (NGL) Program of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Washington, D.C.; an empowered Filipina from the Philippines. You might wonder how courageously she battles home-sickness, alone in a foreign land, and 8, 711 miles away from home, “What is she doing there? and why?”

Two decades ago she started to be an advocate. From there she pursued her passion for service by being a lawyer in 2003. Her work span across sectors including environment, education, women and children’s rights. Currently, she is a Judge for six years, and still counting, in Mindanao, south of the Philippines.. Her court is located in the relatively remote area of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. We met her 3 years ago, in an alumni meet for the U.S. Government Alumni Association (USGAA) Philippines. The very first Judge I got to be close with along with her Bestie, Judge Ma. Theresa Camannong a.k.a. Judge Matet, who is also an alumni. I was 20 back then, and I remember bragging about it in school, because come on! Who gets to befriend judges? Few in a million! Proud and humbled, I shared my learning. The next thing I didn’t know is that we get to use it in different aspects of our advocacy and education. It becomes more interesting as we continue to immerse with alumni engagements. Being part of an alumni network opens opportunities, causes and programs you can take part with. Actively participating we get to build a strong alliance with genuine people who are in service. Yet, as we journey to become effective in being one of the nation’s rising leaders, there are challenges to conquer.

Life away from home is really hard. It became harder when the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly prevented people from travelling. In the States, Judge Jerlie is currently placed at the National Center for the State Courts (NCSC)- International Program Division at Arlington, Virginia. The Center is a non-profit organization started by the Chief Justices of the United States. For nine months she will undergo nine months of targeted professional and personal development—with a core focus on values, ethics and leadership—in order to create a capable and lasting global network of character-driven leaders who shape the world we will inhabit in the future. Though her two decades of service for humanity might strengthened her, desolation can come uninvited, especially in these challenging times. Back home, she is a mother, a wife, a daughter and a sister. Even she asked herself, “What am I doing here? and why?”

As an integral part of NGL Fellowship, Judge Jerlie is tasked to implement an action plan. Her plan aims to secure justice through technology by the digitization of records in order to preserve the integrity of court records and the entire judicial system. Looking at the realities, in the Philippines, out of the total 2,718 trial courts (both organized and unorganized), only less than 15% are pilot sites of the electronic court system, spread in 12 areas nationwide. Clearly judicial reforms of third-world developing countries are far away behind the technology of the first worlds. Sometimes frustrated and discouraged, giving up is not on our judge’s vocabulary. This brings us back to a table conversation we had with seasoned leaders of the country for an alumni project. We sat with other judges, prominent personalities in history, determined social workers, bold journalists, a compassionate police officer and I, a passionate youth leader with an intense amount of enthusiasm. They shared some realities, gave some advice, and discussed some of the things we might face and have to conquer. With fierceness they voice out, “You are (referring to our generation) our legacy, always remember that.” Their hope is for us to keep their legacy and assure that what they are building will be continued. Pressured, I smiled, and turned my head to Judge Jerlie whispering, “Judge, any tips?” “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can,” she whispered.

On the left side of Hon. Sung Y. Kim, U.S. Ambassador for the Republic of the Philippines, is Judge Jerlie Requirme along with other USGAA-PH alumni and allies.

So, to answer, “What is she doing there? and why?” Let us ponder from her words of wisdom, ” I am a Filipina: a mother … a reformist, a volunteer, a judge… among the many roles I have at home and in the community. But above all, just like the 53.8 million Filipinas, I am a human being who deserves my place, not because I am a woman but because of my capability, leadership, character and heart for service.” That last phrase, “heart for service”, strongly resonates, it brings us back to that table conversation again. Before we parted I asked Judge Jerlie on her life’s purpose, she fiercely replied, “It is quite a journey, but I discovered that I want to live a life of significance serving causes greater than oneself.” Can you imagine how a network with grounded and genuine leaders can greatly help us define our part in nation building? Greater than we expected, what it does is not literally spoken – it is simply a ripple. In layman’s term – it made you a better citizen of your country. A stone cast into the water, and from there it creates positive ripples of change in the world as a whole.

Watch this video  of Judge Jerlie’s message of hope to overcome COVID-19. 


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