Alex Eduque: The Bright-Eyed Builder

This 19-year-old Fun Fearless Female 2010 Awardee has spent her last five summers building homes for those who have none. She talks to Cosmo about how YOU can help, too.
With reports from Amie Perez

Other 19-year-olds study hard on weekdays and party hard on weekends, but Alex Eduque spends all the free time she can spare—and her summer vacations—helping others by building homes with Habitat For Humanity for those who have none. She talks to Cosmo about her passion for helping others, and how she thinks you can help, too.

You've been doing this since you were 15. What inspires you to do what you do for Habitat For Humanity?

I guess it's seeing the hope ingrained in the people there, the people I work with. Kasi siyempre, despite the distressing situations the Philippines has gone through, 'yung paghihirap nila, you always still see a smile on their face. You see the optimism. I guess [there's] also family support. The passion [in them] has been growing since I started with them.

Was your family supportive?

Super! My family talaga, in everything I do, they always support me in full. And without them, none of this would have been possible. I wouldn't have been able to do everything I wanted to do, I wouldn't have been able to raise half as much or even a quarter of the funds that I have for Habitat without family support, so talagang they're instrumental and they're really behind me in everything.

What are the challenges that you faced and continue to face in your cause, and how do you get past them?

Siguro, initially, it was stepping out of my comfort zone. Really seeing how people lived outside my sheltered life, gan'on. Initially it was that. There was culture shock in the beginning. But once I got through that, nothing. They're very supportive, they're excellent. I can't ask for more. They're an excellent NGO to work with. They really take care of me. Parang feeling ko nga minsan prinsesa nila ako. Like, even if they slave drive or if they work you 'til sobrang late at night when you do radio guestings and stuff, talagang nang-aalaga sila.

Could you give suggestions on how we can make helping people a habit?

It all depends on how some of us are brought up, but with me, it was really inculcated in me since I was a kid to have that sense of social awareness. Nakita ko talaga from my grandmother to my mom, they were able to lead by example. To me it was second nature. And I guess instead of makisakay sa family charity or do what's already being done, I really wanted to leave my own legacy behind. 'Yung talagang matatawag kong sariling akin. And that's why I did it on my own. I could have helped my parents, but I wanted to do something on my own. I wanted to cross that barrier and just prove to myself and to my family that kaya ko rin.

Could you tell us more about Habitat For Humanity?

It's a Christian organization and what sets it apart, or why I believe in it talaga, is that hindi lang kami nagpapatayo ng bahay. I always say a house is different from a home. A house is a structure and a home is [made by the family that lives in it]. In Habitat, after we put up the houses, we really promote a sense of community. We inculcate in them this notion of being able to sustain what was given to them. It's not only the house. Ano'ng magagawa mo sa bahay? Tinuturuan namin sila kung paano maghanap-buhay, education for the kids. You're given a house that can be passed on to future generations.

What are the different ways that people can help?

What can people my age do? Of course, we're still living off an allowance. So I think that how large scale or small scale [the help you give] doesn't matter. Anything will help. I think for the youth, we really encourage volunteerism. We also accept donations. We have different events like runs and expos.

What tips or advice can you share with Cosmo readers who want to help others?

Don't be scared to cross that boundary. Don't be scared to take risks and leave your comfort zone, because you'll be surprised to find what lies before you.

You spent time in homes in such communities? Can you tell us about it?

Basically, I spent two months in Baseco in Tondo with the families there, and that was the time that their homes just got [destroyed] by the fire. I saw the rebuilding of Baseco, and I think that in itself was an eye-opening and very fulfilling experience that nothing can ever replace. I saw it firsthand. I was part of it. I really am thankful to Habitat, to my family, to God, for giving me the chance to see it through.

What else do you hope to do for Habitat For Humanity and to help those in need?

Basically, right now, it's an idea, but we're trying to lay it down. We're trying to promote more youth involvement. We're going to try to form a youth council. The power of the youth, especially in underdeveloped third world countries, is underestimated. No one really gives emphasis on the youth, but when you think about it, who is the voice of the future? Who are the succeeding generations? It all depends on the youth, and I don't think it's too early to start, to give that push, to start fueling the passion. And when you get the youth together, then the people actually listen. It's a refreshing and very stark contrast to all the politicking going on when you have the youth out there.

How long can you imagine yourself doing this?

I've been doing it for five years. [I can do it] for a lifetime. I think it's a lifetime advocacy to help other people. It's not something that should be counted, it's not something that should be measured. It's something that should come second nature. And the day that you start counting the hours that you help, I think that's the day you realize that it's not for you, what are you doing it for? So to me, for as long as I can help, I'm willing to do it.

How do you reward yourself?

I hang out with friends, I go to spas, I go to the malls, but I think seeing my work in progress, seeing the houses I build, seeing the smiles on those children's faces, that's a reward in itself na hindi mabibili. 'Yung napapasaya mo 'yung buhay ng iba, and they remember that forever--it's those little things that become heartwarming in the end. They're what really matters and keeps me going.

You mentioned culture shock. Paano ka na-culture shock?

Siyempre I was sheltered growing up, tapos biglang at 15, for two months they immersed me. In the beginning, sobra sa Smokey Mountain. Walang semento, we would walk on garbage, rain or shine, we would walk. We were really taught to work since we were children, but [this time we had] to take on heavy construction work, to be with families and talk to families. We take 'yung mga typhoons for granted because we're in a sturdy home, and then you see these families who have worked for it all their lives and it just got destroyed...

What is the best lesson you learned from your experience with Habitat For Humanity?

To really appreciate things out there and to realize that that's what makes the difference. To see who I really am, to find myself in all the charity work that I do. To be able to take risks, to be able to be more daring, in a sense; fearless, as Cosmo would say. Not to be afraid to be yourself around others, despite all the criticism. To really find who your true friends are. And, [at the end of it all], part of being fearless is to find your support base. To me, it's my family.

Launch our Gallery by clicking the button below to see behind-the-scenes pictures of the shoot with Alex Eduque. To watch the video interview, click on this link.

Grab the May 2010 issue of Cosmopolitan with Bea Alonzo on the cover to get to know Alex even more and see the rest of the Fun Fearless Female Awardees.

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