Reach for the Stars through Service Above Self : Featuring Transform President Mary Purugganan and RAC SISFU Adviser Sir Troy Clutario

By Tram Panaligan

“Last DICAN, back in 2020, during the Champion Term of Celine ... Mary told me Sir... I want to get 5 Star(s) [this year]... I said: ‘OMG! That is impossible for us to do! Because we are a school-based club.’. Usually from the previous DICANs I attended, usually those community-based Rotaract Clubs are the ones who got 5 star(s)...because they are really active with the community. So I told her we need to work harder. We need to double or even triple our efforts, for us to get 5 star(s). ”
- Sir Troy Clutario

... and the fruits of their labour truly paid off on the night of the 27th of June, 2021. RAC SISFU—with the leadership of Transform President Mary Denise Joyester F. Purugganan and the guidance of Mr. Jovit John Troy Clutario—made history on bagging one of the highest distinctions given by a Rotaract International District (RID): a 5-Star Club Award and award of Gold for all Avenues of Service.

More often known as Mary and Sir Troy, prior to their Rotaract journey, both have a heart of gold and have been involved with charitable works and are advocates of specific causes. Mary for instance, is an advocate and a hair donor for the Make the Kindest Cut Campaign, a hair donation drive of the Makati Medical Centre with the benefactors being cancer patients who lost their hair due to chemotherapy. Apart from this, she and her family often help out to those in need through charitable acts. Sir Troy, on the other hand, has been an advocate for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ Community and for HIV/AIDS Awareness. His efforts include getting tested for HIV/AIDS to spread awareness as his way of breaking the stigma and making the world a better place for his community to live in. For his mother has always told him and his siblings that: “If there is someone who is in need, [we should] immediately help them.”

Albeit both being active in doing good with their communities, their Rotaract journey started in different ways. Mary discovered the club brought about by her interest to the organisation since the charitable institution’s moniker and Four-way test signs—the club’s way of determining whether something is ethical or morally upright that transcends across religions—were near her place and once she was able to know that the premier transnational university had one when she got accepted at SISFU, she—without hesitation—joined the organisation wholeheartedly, as a member, because she knew it felt right for her. One year later, she rose to the challenge and became the next president of the organisation after her predecessor, TCP Celine V. Go, stepped down after a very fruitful Rotary Year for RAC SISFU during the Champion Term. Sir Troy on the other hand, received an opportunity to mentor and guide the organisation; when the former adviser of the organisation—Mr Ernie ‘Erns’ Magno, decided to step down from his duties to focus on heading Student Affairs and being the adviser of the Student Council. He was able to immerse himself with the organisation since he was always asked by Sir Erns to help him accompany the students when they take part in off-campus activities.

“When I knew that I was going to be the president, this Transform Term 2020-2021, it was really a mix of emotions: happy at the same time, pressured. Being a member and then becoming a president, I knew that I had to step up my game as I have to face more responsibilities; duties, and enhance my leadership skills. My main goal at the beginning was to actually reach the 5-Star Club Award—and even Sir Troy knows it...”
- TP Mary Purungganan

Mary and Sir Troy shared their vision when they started Rotary Year 2020-2021. For Mary, she was committed and driven to achieve the 5-Star Club Award, she—alongside with her talented team and the guidance and support of Sir Troy—persevered to reach the coveted award; whilst also creating an impact to her community in the process and enjoying the journey as the Club President during the Transform Year.

As for Sir Troy, albeit having the utmost confidence that the award was achievable through dedication and teamwork, his initial reaction to the now concluded Rotary Year (RY) was that: he felt scared since this was because when the COVID-19 pandemic has peaked in ravaging our world. His concerns were that he was not able to manage and supervise the club physically. In addition the challenge of movement restrictions for students, brought by the government restrictions to curb the pandemic, have added to his laundry list of concerns. However, this will not stop them from making RY 2020-2021 a success. Also, he mentioned to the team that he wholeheartedly accepts whatever awards they are able to gather for RY 2020-2021 for all that matters was that they were able to do their best to serve the club and the community.

“Actually [a] few months or weeks before DICAN... I was able to check the Rotaract District International 3830... they were able to create the online PQR or [the] Presidential Quarterly Report... so I checked that one. So accidentally... since I was quite nosy about it... I checked, and there [are] already scores on each avenue of service. So I immediately checked the guideline[s] I immediately told Mary: ‘I think you are going to get 4-Star Club this year... I saw it on the PQR System, but I’m not sure if they are done computing our scores...’. Fast forward to DICAN, I [was] really expecting that the club is going to get 4-Stars, [from] what I saw in the PQR. But after they called all the 4-Star Club Award[ees], I was literally shocked...Oh My God!—That was my reaction—The team will be getting 5-Star[s]! For this Rotary Year!”
- Sir Troy Clutario

They both shared the things they loved and the challenges they faced for RY 2020-2021. For Mary, her personal high point was receiving the 5-Star Club Award and multiple awards during DICAN. She mentioned that it was a mix of emotions, it was a nerve-wracking moment for her as she looked back during the first few months before the awards night. After the final reporting, in the district, she thought that she failed to reach the 5-Star Club Award. When RAC SISFU was called first during the awarding of the 5-Star Club Awards—it felt so unreal on her end she was shedding tears of joy. Her fruit of hard work, dedication, and sleepless nights with her officers, Sir Troy—and of course their members as well.

Whilst for Sir Troy, his personal high point was learning that the team actually pulled it off. Upon checking the Online PQR for RID 3830, he immediately checked the guidelines per Star Award and the Distinction for Avenues of Service. Upon checking, each avenue was able to receive Gold apart from Community Service which got Silver but was five points away from Gold, this therefore equates to a 4-Star Club Award, He is hopeful that they will reach gold as he had the firm belief that maybe the district has not yet finished computing their points. Upon learning that RAC SISFU got 5 Stars, he was over the moon knowing that all the hard work, dedication, sleepless nights, and everything that the team did all paid off. When he heard the award coming from the DRR, behind the screen—with his camera off—he too shed tears of joy, similar to TP Mary.

“Leading an organisation is not an easy thing to do, it’s never perfect nor close to being perfect.”
- TP Mary Purungganan

On the other hand, for Mary, the biggest challenge was that there were times that she started doubting herself, asking: “When or where should I start making a difference?” She was uncertain because she was asking really whether she was still making the right decisions and whether she was still being an effective leader. There were months when it felt so quiet that there were no activities or any participation whatsoever. There were many moments where she had to stand alone as the representative of the club. There were many sleepless nights filing all the necessary paperwork to kickstart the projects and to create the necessary write-up and/or reports about it. Truly it was a big fight for her during the Rotary Year.

Whilst for Sir Troy, it was balancing his load of being an adviser to RAC SISFU and being the SISFU Senior High School Administrative Assistant. There were some points in the year that beleaguered him and in a few instances almost pushed him to resign as their adviser due to the current situation we are all experiencing—a global recession, constant political turmoil, the fear of catching a virulent strain of the virus—all of which has made him constantly anxious. However, these were all wiped away when he was able to see and witness the capability of the club and the amazing students behind it. All of them tirelessly doing their best in achieving the goals of the club—which deterred him from quitting. Witnessing how they juggled their roles in the club and fulfilling their academic requirements, he realised that they were on the same boat and that convinced him to push through and brave through the storm—similar to what his club officers are doing. Their dedication and passion for service became his source of strength throughout their Rotary Year.

Now that a fruitful and historic Rotary Year of RAC SISFU has come to an end, TP Mary—now IPP Mary—and Sir Troy revealed their next journey in SISFU after their feat. For Mary, apart from being the Immediate Past President of the Club, she decided to join the Life Changing Term of RAC SISFU as their International Service Director. She also plans on guiding and mentoring the Life Changing President, Geryna Therese G. Pereyra, throughout the Rotary Year; since she has already experienced what it's like to run an organisation during these difficult times.

As for Sir Troy, in his three years with the club, many opportunities have opened up for him brought about by the organisation. Heartbreaking as it may seem, but for the next Rotary Year, he will be stepping down from his adviser duties for the organisation for he was tasked with becoming the new adviser of the SISFU Student Council for the Academic Year 2021-2022. However, he stated and stressed that, if ever the management gives him the chance to also be the adviser again of RAC SISFU—he will grab the chance to be part of Rotaract once more.

As I wrapped-up the interview, they ended with a brief message to their successor and an inspiring message to students who plan on joining the Rotaract Club this upcoming academic year respectively:

“My message to my successor, Geryna. Please never give up on your dreams. You have come up to step-up to the challenge of becoming the Life Changing President this Rotary Year. Since then, I have always believed that you are fit enough to take on the position. You are capable, strong, and independent. I know that you will do well during your term. I will always be here for you; and we will still continue to bring RAC SISFU on top. Good luck and always pray for the Lord’s guidance. Always remember the reason why you joined Rotaract in the first place. ”
- TP Mary Purungganan

“My message to the next club adviser of [the] Rotaract Club of SISFU, [is to] always know first: ‘Why are you there?’; ‘What is your goal?’ ‘Cause, [the] goal of a[n] adviser is to nourish [the student] officers. To bring out their potential in leading the club, ‘cause whoever [will] know [that] one of these officers might be the president of the Philippines in the future , or they will own a company... so always believe in their capabilities and guide them—as they are [under]taking a new journey. ”
- Sir Troy Clutario

“To those who plan on joining the Rotaract Club, join us! It is really an amazing journey and the happiness that you will receive is something very special. Helping others and putting a smile on their faces will really make a difference. It’s not just about doing charity work, it’s more than what you can see on the outside.”
- TP Mary Purungganan

“My message for those who are interested to join join. Wag na kayong magpaatubaling sumali. (Don’t hesitate to join.) Because, you will see the beauty of this organisation once you are there. Rotaract has a motto nga na (that is): ‘Fellowship Through Service’. So...nakatulong ka na sa iba (You were able to help others), at the same time, you [are] building friendships as well. It's not about just in SISFU, but outside the community of Southville. You can find friends in other districts; in other countries. Always remember why you joined Rotaract—so what is your purpose [for] joining...”
- Sir Troy Clutario

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