Monday, March 9, 2009

A Feature on Mano Amiga Principal, Ramon Austria

Right Hand Man
By Ruel S. De Vera
Sunday Inquirer Magazine
AS a child, Ramon “Mon” Austria knew what it felt like to be uprooted. Born in Quezon City, he was only 4 when his family moved to the Federated States of Micronesia, where his father Rolando took a job as state physician on an island called Kosrae.
“Only a few people can boast of having spent their childhood frolicking on some island—and I’m one of them,” says Austria. “I could swim whenever I wanted because in Kosrae, you’re never more than five minutes away from the ocean.”
It was education—a theme that would pervade much of Austria’s life—that brought him back to the Philippines after four years. Years after this idyllic childhood, while taking up management economics at the Ateneo de Manila, Austria thought about doing a bit of volunteer work after graduation.
He was drawn to the Regnum Christi, a lay movement within the Catholic Church that provided him an opportunity to be involved in the youth apostolate in Washington, D.C. for a year.
This experience started him on the road to a teaching career, a path the 24-year-old Austria confesses had never crossed his mind.
“Are you kidding?” he says incredulously when asked if this was something he had all planned out. “There’s no money in teaching.”
His eventual work among young students he explains away as "divine intervention." He was never too keen on working with children, he says, and yet he wound up doing just that in Washington. “Little by little, I learned to love working with children,” he clarifies. “It’s something that just happened.”

And what Austria initially intended to be just volunteer work gradually steered him on a set career path. Returning from Washington D.C., he signed up to teach religion at Beacon International School in Taguig City. After two years there, he embarked on a project that was meant to change lives through education, in perhaps the same way that his life had been changed.
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