“GUIDANCE COUNSELOR ‘yan. Hindi ‘yan maniniwala sa’yo. May [halong] judgement na nila ‘yan.”
This perception is what guidance counselors of the Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) usually hear from students. Along with similar views, this refrain Artlets from visiting them, thinking that only the gravest problems are needed to be addressed by counselors.
Little do they know that counselors like Carmen “Chatt” Quesada and Zyra Angeles work to help solve students’ personal dilemmas and usher them to be the best they could be. The Faculty’s guidance counselors willingly offer Artlets their open arms and give them their brightest smiles.
“Ang role namin [ay i-]facilitate kayo to be on your own and to be able to become the person you want to be,” Quesada says.
Coming from the heart
In her 23 years of being a guidance counselor at the University of Santo Tomas, Quesada has heard every misconception students have towards her profession.
“I never wanted to be assigned in AB. I [used to] hate to be here. Anywhere except AB,” she shares, reminiscing her first few years as guidance counselor in the Faculty.
Her unpleasant idea about AB’s environment was greatly affected by how her daughter became “rebellious” during her stay in the Faculty. However, with the determination to understand the Artlet culture, Quesada’s perception was soon stood corrected.
Just as she learned to love Psychology more than Chemistry, her first program during college, she slowly learned to open her heart to the Artlet community. She explains that Artlets drastically proved to her that AB is different from what she thought it was.
“Now that I’m here, I won’t leave [AB] for anything. I want to be with [the Artlets] and help [them],” she proudly says. She believes the Artlets themselves keep her motivated to do her job of helping students.
More than just a profession, the counseling they do is fueled by their love for helping the lives of the students. “Imagine being paid for something you enjoy doing and being of service, of helping. ‘Pag tumutulong ka sa kapwa mo, nakakataba ng puso ‘yun,” she says.
Following the path
It all started with fate and sheer interest. Angeles was studying nursing for a year and a half until she began to realize it was not the profession meant for her.
As someone who values time, work environment, and salary, she thought nursing was her best option. Contrary to her expectations, it turned out to be more than just giving injections and wearing white uniform. To make things more complicated, she found out that she has a fear of blood.
After taking a series of tests and consultations from her school’s guidance office, she began to realize her calling. “[I] found out na mas in line ako sa helping profession,” she recalls. “[I] could clearly visualize myself helping other students [and] parents sa academe or sa school setting.”
With a clear decision, she turned to psychology and pursued guidance counselling. Despite seeing the profession as a challenge, it became a motivating factor for her to improve the skills needed in her role of providing support for students facing different issues.
However, just like their counselees, she believes guidance counselors also need people by their side, especially when their profession affects their private life.
“Kami kina-counsel niyo [pero] kayo, sino po counselor niyo?” Angeles recalls a student asking her. It is inevitable for guidance counselors to get carried away with their profession, so whenever she thinks that she needs to vent out her emotions, she talks to her family and friends.
“Kasi normal din ‘yung mga nararamdaman namin. We also feel sad, we also get disappointed [and] frustrated,” she explains.
Devoted and committed
Despite continuously working on addressing misconceptions about their work, being able to attend to the concerns of students and help them recover throughout the process remains as Quesada and Angeles’ priority.
Making every student smile after a counseling session, in turn, remains a challenge yet a great reward for Quesada.
“A smile from my counselee is worth more than my salary. ‘Pag nakita ko na napapangiti ko sila, kahit pilit lang ‘yun, ngiti pa rin ‘yun. Ramdam na ramdam mo ang sakit sa loob niya pero napangiti mo siya. Ibig sabihin my words and my time [were] not wasted. It landed on a good land, on a good soil,” she says.
People are fragile but when held together by a strong foundation and a stable support system, their resiliency surfaces. Guidance counselors cannot read minds and fly but they can lift away troubles and save lives. F – CRISTINA ELOISA A. BACLIG and LORRAINE B. LAZARO