Nurturing Lifelong Dreams

by Fernando Perfas, Ph.D.

| Photo by Vanessa Bumbeers on Unsplash

Growing up in a tiny fishing village in the Bicol region of the Philippines, my childhood dream didn’t quite match my realities. My parents were common people, and my family was poor. At a young age, I wondered what was beyond the mountains and the sea, the rest of the world that I could only imagine. My fascination with ships that used to dock at the small port of Tabaco in Albay Province inspired my fantasy of traveling beyond the horizon. The cargo ships, sometimes passenger ships, bore flags of different countries. I spent countless hours by the shores watching these ships unload cargo and imagining myself sneaking into one of them to travel the world.

An event that left a lasting impression was when a group of women tourists descended from a U.S. ship to my village. I was so taken by their white skin and some with blonde hair. The tale of an uncle sneaking into a Navy vessel as a teen by U.S. soldiers at the end of the Second World War had fanned my dream of traveling. He landed in Southern California, was adopted by a family, and later joined the Army. Postcards he sent to my father adorned the walls of our house, reminding me of life abroad. The desire to see the world stayed with me for a long time until it receded from memory with the passing of time. Deep in my unconscious, that dream continued to percolate.

The dream of completing higher education was a remote possibility when I started high school. After losing my father before my teens, my family’s fortunes had changed from bad to worse. I was resigned that I would never set foot in a university. As the wheel of fortunes rolled, an act of kindness had changed all that. In my senior year, my high school class adviser, along with several classmates, facilitated my application to take the entrance examination to the Pamantasan Ng Lungsod Ng Maynila for a college scholarship. It was a pleasant surprise to learn I passed the examination. Though completing a four-year degree remained a great hurdle, I finished college with pure grit. I proudly marched for graduation in 1971 with my mother among those who witnessed the first in my family to complete college. It was the beginning of how luck turned in my favor.

“Unbeknownst to me, my job would lead me closer to my dream of graduate school and travel. As in most things in life, fate has its own timeline. It doesn’t move according to our wishes and desires.”

I landed a job in the social service field, which was not the best avenue to wealth and fame. I followed my heart and what felt right. At least it provided the paychecks to support my mother and two younger sisters. Unbeknownst to me, my job would lead me closer to my dream of graduate school and travel. As in most things in life, fate has its own timeline. It doesn’t move according to our wishes and desires.

A series of events led me to graduate school and a plan to start a family, although I was not financially well-established yet. I enrolled in graduate school with some trepidations. I completed my master’s degree by sheer persistence. After I got married, an unexpected opportunity opened up, leading my wife and me to travel overseas on an assignment. A religious group had sought my services to start a drug treatment and rehabilitation program in Thailand. This assignment eventually helped my wife and I move to the U.S., where I would pursue graduate work and begin establishing roots in a newly adopted country.

Later, I earned my doctoral degree while traveling overseas for work. For several decades, I worked for private agencies as a trainer and drug program consultant, a job that took me to over forty countries to provide training services to government and non-government agencies.

I’m living my childhood dreams. Looking back, they seemed remote and unreachable. Today, I continue to travel, providing training and consulting overseas.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR   Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at

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