A Leap of Faith — The LET Story of Jonathan Chiong, Hobbyist-Coach for Beauty Queen Catriona Gray

Jace Chiong, LPT and MindGym alumnus, with Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray. Jace is a university professor, soft skills trainer, and hobbyist coach for beauty queens.

[A note from our educational director]

I am not a real fan of beauty pageants since it just makes me feel unrealistically wishful (that I were tall, pretty, and sexy!). But this morning, I had an urge to watch the Miss Universe 2018 pageant, and our Bb Pilipinas Catriona Gray closely. As a coach and mo/am of MindGym LPTs (a snoopy mom), I wanted to see, hear and feel how it was like for one of our 2018 September LET English majorsJonathan Chiong (Jace), now LPT and MindGym alumnuswho was one of Ms. Gray’s coaches for behavioral innovation thinking.

Jace and I had a long chat reminiscing the first time we talked, his LET journey ordeals, his answered prayers and why he can’t join us for the LET victory party-outreach since he will be with our Bb Pilipinas in Bangkok then. I requested that he writes a sharing of his LET story and the lessons he learned from it and here’s what he quickly did and gave me last 12 December 2018.

Read and learn how his prayers were answered through signs that he is in the right path. Appreciate as well how important a teacher or coach’s role and mission is in giving people not the answers but the path to find answers ~ since they themselves have struggled in their search to choose the road less travelled by.

Jace, on behalf of your MindGym family, I congratulate you for a triple victory: for LET, for Catriona, and for the country that you long to transform through our beauty queens.

May you continue bringing out the best in others by keeping them in touch with their best selves. Yes you can! God bless you and all the beauty queens that you may inspire in your lifetime.

♥ ma/om Alice

It has been 20 years since I have graduated from college. I was literally trekking life, in several directions, not knowing what it is that will truly make me happy. I have delved in several undertakings, training upcoming showbiz personalities, directing fashion shows, organizing events, and training in the BPO industry. After obtaining my masters degree, I decided to teach in the university. I was happy then, but something’s missing. So I left the Philippines to pursue graduate studies in psychology.

In the world’s arena, we don’t have to obtain higher degrees for us to be able to fulfill our needs. What’s important is “to have a job” regardless of its nature, practical skills at that. On my seventh year abroad, I have decided to come home for good.

Finding one’s happiness is not easy. I decided to roll on with my 18 units of education for me to be able to take the Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers. After three years of realization, I have finally decided to take the board, with the prodding of my classmate and best friend, Ariel, from the JRU Graduate School of Education in Mandaluyong. I had mixed emotions. Am I ready? I was like, is this for me? Will I be happy?

At the back of mind, some voice is telling me that taking the LET isn’t that important since I already have multiple masteral degrees. I am content with my life. I didn’t have any plans in making a difference in the public school system. So why take the LET? So I prayed hard, asking the heavens to show me a sign.

The next day, the first sign came. There’s like a bunch of roses in my midst. Beautiful red roses enshrined by the image of Our Lady of Manaoag. I still had doubts. So I prayed again. A week after, a huge bouquet of roses literally swept off my feet. I said to myself, “yes, this is it!

The second hurdle came. My school records were in disarray. I called upon God to allow me to work in His wondrous ways. Should my school records still be in some frenzied state, then I shall postpone my LET journey to March 2019. Lo and behold! For some split second reason, my school records literally landed on my lap.

My third stage of several hurdles came when I was about to file for whatever it is for me to take the LET. I was appalled by the system of our government offices, seems that there is no system at all. I held my patience and continued to smile. I prayed to God telling Him that if I am meant to take the LET in September 2018, classes will be suspended due to a reported weather disturbance. True enough, classes were called off on Monday, July 9, 2018. So I went off to Robinsons Place, Manila where it took me 7 hours to have finally accomplished everything. Having my Notice of Admission was like winning a lottery 😉

I searched for a review center because I felt that I need to train my brain that seems to be so rusty. Most of the review centers have since concluded their review sessions, while othershave started their sessions. A voice within guided me to the MindGym website. I decided to call MindGym for there are review sessions for “crammers” as what they term it. So I consider myself a crammer, really, huh? For three days, nobody picked up my calls. I said to myself, if I couldn’t get hold of MindGym then I won’t be taking the LET. So I said a little prayer. Whoa! But on the fourth day, coach Alice picked up my call.

I was like, “Ms. Alice, matanda na ako. Kaya ko pa ba?

With her very sweet and encouraging voice, she replied, “Ilan taon ka na ba? Siguro naman mas matanda pa ako sa iyo, pero nakayanan ko. Pumunta ka sa opisina sa Sabado at may assessment.

I was happy, still with mixed emotions. Saturday came. The assessment was a bit of torment, had headache and backache, oh! I wanted to poop and puke at the same time. I scored 59%. I felt like figuratively puking and I was in a daze questioning the fates whether or not I should take the LET.

Still, I decided to give it a try. The days of the LET review session came. I kinda felt that I was the oldest in the batch of “reviewees.” I shrugged off my shoulders and managed to get a seat on the side front row of the venue, being late on the first day and the remaining days ahead..

Ate Lorna, with her warm and hospitable nature, continued to encourage me during the times that I have felt my brain splitting into two. I was terribly exhausted, having to go through Math (which I hated the most), Filipino, Science, English, and other courses that seem to blur my senses. I would literally doze off even with three cups of 3-in-1 Kopiko. Even with teaching experiences, PROF Ed broke my state of chimera, leading me to question, is this what I really want?

Specialization? I wanted to toss the reviewers. Exhaustion enveloped me. English isn’t just about grammar. It is more than that! I was like, am I getting insane? What have I gotten myself into? I asked for a sign again. I prayed to St. Pio. My professor in the doctoral program rendered his utmost consideration by allowing me to attend my review sessions in MindGym, missing eight sessions in Public Policy. Again, an answered prayer!

MindGym made me appreciate mind and concept-mapping. I was frustrated not to be able to give out the correct answers, then I realized that to be able to develop oneself holistically, it isn’t about finding the right answers to the most challenging test questions, but rather, to discern the most acceptable answers.

So I breezed through the review sessions much to my dismay and trepidation. Like too much is really not healthy. I usually get home exhausted, and I am so excited to go to dreamland. Going to sleep seems to be like a journey to perfumed nightmare. Again, I prayed. Praying the entire Rosary, four mysteries, blessed me with assurance and strength.

When final coaching came, a storm was brewing. The bad weather did not deter me from attending my review sessions. I again asked for a sign from the heavens. Out of nowhere, Ms. Liao of De La Salle University, LET passer September 2015, handed me a chaplet of St. Joseph of Cupertino. With that, I rendered myself speechless. I said a prayer of thanksgiving.

18 sessions of extensive LET review, I felt, weren’t enough. I shared my journey with a former student of mine, Salve. We both served each other’s pillars of strength. Janry, another former student and a LET passer, shared to me several tips and he even came to my workplace to say a prayer two days before the actual LET day.

By the way, I belong to a family of business people and entrepreneurs. So the essence of “teaching as a career” for the family is not a profitable venture but more of a calling and a mission. My mother, the only teacher in the family, who is 86 years old, is at her peak of joy, giving me the best of support as there is one in the family who decided to follow her footsteps (my dad has since passed in 2010). My sisters started praying for me as well.

The LET journey is ardous, tortuous, and tormenting I couldn’t describe the feeling. I was tremendously stressed out, physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, financially, however, awakened spiritually. I was on the verge of giving up but prayers kept me moving.

The day of the exam came. I was floating in confusion. None of which we have reviewed was in the actual LET test papers.

I sent Coach Alice a message via Messenger and she replied, “Ganyan ang LET. I was like that ten years ago, and I passed. Yes, Jace, you can!

The agony of waiting for the results was another tremendous trial. What kept me going? My faith. St. Pio’s relic was a sight to behold in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. I continue to pray. During my trainings in several government organizations, in Cebu, Iloilo, Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, I make sure to visit a church clutching to my Rosary. I know in my heart that faith can move mountains.

God knows that I have a very generous heart so I asked Him and prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father. Is this really the journey that is meant for me? If so, I promise to continue to help others. I believe that my purpose in life is to continue to impart knowledge and learning. Not my will but Yours be done.

Three days after, roses were seen all over my midst. I was like, I need to pass the LET because I want to contribute to the passing rate of my alma mater after 20 years. I was the only Gen-xer in a batch of millennials and gen-zs.

And then, the results were finally revealed.. I passed the 2018 September LET, with so much joy in my heart.

The key to passing the LET is knowing what you want, knowing your true purpose, and knowing your intention. I’ve learned that a more flexible and open mindset is what is required, that here’s no single path in life that you have to stay on to be successful and happy. Success and happiness comes with noticing the progress you’ve made, and understanding that every lesson is a step forward. I can only grow by opening up fully to what I am really feeling. I do not have a perfect life, and I felt that taking the LET was the only right thing that I ever did after twenty years.

I have realized that a person who makes no mistakes is unlikely to make anything at all, that it’s better to have a life full of small failures that you learned from, rather than a lifetime filled with the regrets of never trying.

Thank you MindGym for the support. I will never forget you. Thank you for making me realize that many of the greatest lessons we learn in life we don’t seek on purpose. In fact, life’s best lessons are usually learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes. You guys didn’t just teach me the technical stuff but also shaping my mindset making it the heart of success, that I have to take the good with the bad, smile with the sad, love what I have and be thankful for what I’ve had.

The vital lesson in this journey is to continue my passion in helping others. Who knows that I might be able to transform our public school system? With that, I need more discernment. Amidst all the torment, I still managed to enjoy my Netflix flicks, Insatiable, Grimm, American Horror Story, Stranger Things, and The Originals.

In life, we fall, we rise, we make mistakes, we live, we learn. We are humans, not perfect. We’ve been hurt, but we survived. I always think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, and to chase the things I love. Sometimes there is sadness in our journey, but there is also lots of beauty and magic everywhere. We must keep putting one foot in front of the other even when we are hurt, for we will never know what is waiting for us just around the bend.

The journey continues…To God be the Glory. In The Road Not Taken? I took the one less traveled by. And yes! Age is just a number.

Jace Chiong, LPT (Secondary-English)
AB OCM, De la Salle University Manila
MA, Ateneo de Manila University
MA PSY, California State University Dominguez Hills
MAEd, Jose Rizal University
EdD, Jose Rizal University

Jonathan Chiong (Jace), a coach for behavior innovation thinking and 2018 September LET-passer, is a soft skills trainer of government agencies and certified trainer of the Civil Service Institute. He also currently teaches university English, literature, foreign language, and psychology. Jace is a graduate of AB-OCM from the De La Salle University Manila, and a lifelong learner with a string of master degrees: a Master of Arts from AdMU, MA Psy-Cal State Univ Dominguez Hills, MAEd-JRU, and EdD-JRU. Coaching beauty queens is a hobby. His passion is to continue helping others by training them—beauty queens and all—to use their voice in advocating values that will transform society.

About MindGym

MindGym Philippines is a learning center directed by educators with the passion to teach, learn, care, and share the best! We offer licensure exam reviews, art workshops, and academic tutorials.

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