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Ms. Herminia Arce Ocampo (KAMPI First Lady)

By: Anne Gonzaga

Since I became a public figure as a Filipino community leader here in the Holy Land, I got acquainted with lots of people from all levels of this society. It seldom happens that you meet somebody you easily like and feel very comfortable with from the very first conversation you had that you’d want to know her more deeper than the elegance and beauty that meets the eye.

This remarkable lady has been through tough times as a community leader. She welcomes challenges with open arms and fought her battles courageously which she won eventually.  She’s a survivor, a woman of substance and integrity, hardworking, and most of all has a loving and forgiving heart. I’m not saying these words because she’s very close to me, but it’s the truth and I’m positive that many of you, dear readers, will agree with me on this. I’m very sure that we’d learn something from this gutsy lady …as a community leader, even as a working housewife and a mother.

It’s my pleasure to introduce to you the gorgeous President of KAMPI (Kapatiran ng Manggagawang Pilipino sa Israel), Ms. Herminia Arce Ocampo.

Focal:  I’m glad to be given the opportunity to present you to the readers though we are very close friends personally. Kindly give us a background of who Herminia Ocampo is, where did you come from and how long have you been here in Israel? Please share with us something about your family, too.

Hermie:  Uhmm, someone wants to know about my life… I should give you then memorable pictures of myself. Well here it is: It was September 24, 1967 when my mother Magdalena Arce gave birth to a premature baby girl whom she named Herminia (which is pretty obvious). That was I of course. The happiness of my mother has been doubled by my father Andres J. Arce the moment I opened my eyes into the world, I became the “apple of his eyes”. I was their first bundle of joy. I got one sister named Percy and two brothers named Jonathan and Basil.

My father died when I was 24 years old, just as I stepped my feet in Israel. I came from the province of Pangasinan in a small town of Mapandan. At a young age, I could already see myself reaching out to people. I had my elementary education in Mapandan Central School where I excelled academically, and taught catechism to younger children. I finished my elementary days with flying colors. I love to study a lot and I don’t remember giving headaches to my parents when it comes to my studies.

I love to do things on my own. My parents felt that I need to study in a high standard school so they decided to put me in Sto. Tomas High School, a private Catholic school in Mangaldan, Pangasinan. I had a chance to grow and faced a larger network of students because students in this school came from different towns of Pangasinan. It was tough for me to meet new faces, afraid that I could no longer set my scholastic standing the way it was, but because of my determination and willingness to pursue my dreams, I was able to graduate with honor and became one of the outstanding students both in academics and extracurricular activities.

I was blessed to have friends who accepted me the way I am and together we explored the community of our hometown Mapandan. We became active leaders of our town, administered youth activities and seminars, and organized events and church programs. I had an amazing youth life, despite being in a lower class family. I managed to face my pals with my true colors, I had nothing to be ashamed of, and I have something that I can always be proud of to everyone… my talent and my accomplishments.

My perseverance to finish my studies continued, until I reached my college days at Saint Louis University in Baguio City with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and took up Education units for further studies. I successfully graduated in 1989 and worked afterwards.

My father’s condition forced me to work abroad. He became very ill and needed doctor’s assistance all the time. My first job abroad was in Hong Kong…. where a new Hermie was born. I’ve learned how to face a sudden change in one’s life… this was the hardest part of my life I guess, but I made it as a learning experience for me to grow as a person and I DID.

Two years after, I received an answer for my application here in Israel. So I immediately went back home and settled myself for my next journey to Israel. I was able to take care of my father for two months before going to Israel on June 10, 1994, the day my father died. I was devastated but I’ve got to be strong since I could no longer go back.

I didn’t have much difficulty adjusting here because I lived together with my town-mates during my days-off, except for the fact that it was hard for me to accept the reality that my father is gone. While coping with my loss, I was introduced to this man with a great smile and sense of humor, who later became my soul-mate and husband. His name is DANILO V. OCAMPO.

He helped me go through the hardships in life and put a smile on my face once again. We both faced lots of complications before settling down as husband and wife because we waited for his annulment result. Yes, he was married before but unfortunately he needed to cut and annul their marriage for a reason… I’m sorry to tell you that I need to protect the privacy of his ex-wife.

We got married in the Philippines on April 9, 2000, five months after he received the annulment papers. It was a fairytale wedding, he really put his heart for this event and I was the happiest person on earth. Our son YDANN EZRA OCAMPO was then 1 year and 8 months, the very first time he met his step brothers Eric and Chris Adan. We were able to purchase a house in Las Villas de Manila in Halang, Laguna, where Danny’s two sons are presently living with our beloved Ninang Felicing.

My son Ydann is now 14 years old and enjoying life here in Israel. He will be in high school next year. Handball and skating are his hobbies. He will always be the “wind beneath my wings”. Sharing thoughts about my husband brings smile on my face. I might get into other people’s nerves because when I start to talk about him, I can go on and on. I’ve never met a man with so much integrity and humor in all my life; besides being a good husband and a good provider, he is also a bed-warmer. I love annoying him, and no matter how much I do this, I can turn a scowl into a smile in a matter of seconds.

I’m so blessed having my family here with me. I couldn’t be more proud of them, they are my life.

Focal: Hmmm… that was hard! I could just imagine how difficult it was for you to never see your father again. Since when did you become involved in the community and what made you decide to be active in it?

Hermie: I think it was when my husband transferred me to Ramat Hasharon where I met lots of Filipinos working live-out. A slow chill has crawled through my mind and it’s a good one…to bring them together for a party gathering and acquaintances for a change, which I really did. I started with joint birthday celebrations which they enjoyed so much, and this went on for quite some time until the Israeli government decided to put pressure on all illegal foreign workers.

These initiatives I did to our small group tend to influence others in the Filipino community. I was once invited to a gathering in Herzliya where I formally talked to Mr. Joey Solis, who introduced his plan of putting up an organization which he named KAMPI (Kapatiran ng Manggagawang Pilipino sa Israel). I didn’t pay too much attention to it, ‘coz in the first place I wasn’t interested. Mr. Rafael Detera helped Mr. Solis promote the said organization and kept on convincing me to join, but they both failed. I didn’t like the idea. The Pangasinan chapter in Israel did the same thing to me, but again I turned them down.

Mr. Solis didn’t stop from there. Being the founder of KAMPI, he believed that influence isn’t just a one-way street. He explained again the objectives of KAMPI, and from there it became increasingly clear to me that there was more to his explanations—including the need for my service and to be receptive to his offer. Suddenly, I thought of a “model of change,” illustrating how change happens when I put my heart into it, to reach out and be part of a bigger network. From here, I began to lead…

Focal: Tell us what your motivation is and who inspires you?

Hermie:  It’s my vision that inspires me to get involved in the community. Everytime I set my eyes to the bright stars above, I see bright visions of change, to motivate and achieve something worthwhile in a higher level. Viewing ‘life’ as a gift, I do believe that it’s also coupled with the opportunity to make a positive difference that can make it worth living.

Focal:  Can you share with us your experiences as President of your organization?

Hermie: I used to think that running an organization is just like holding the stick of the drums and use it to create a tune, but I don’t think that’s quite it. It’s more on positioning your hands with it and your feet to one part of the drum, then a good tune will be made. There is more improvisation in it.

Early on, I could already feel that I’ll be stepping up to the plate. My first year of leadership sucked me off at a certain extent. They saw everything in me… just like the ‘spotlight’ was always on me. It also entailed pleasing all my subordinates even if I can’t stomach it anymore. And should someone be injured as a result of this action, I carried the burden alone.

I wanted to inspire my group-mates into a higher level of teamwork, but most of the time I was misunderstood of being too much in everything… the way I dress up and carry myself… aiming too high… wanting to hold parties in halls (by the way what’s wrong with that?). Kasosyalan lang raw ang alam ko. But wait; don’t give me a flash judgment. Don’t judge me by my appearance; you need to search my heart. And if you found it then you can start to judge me though I know you don’t have right to do that but still I will allow you. Maybe by doing this, I can cement my good image in your minds and create an instant blood so you will stop being judgmental.

Can I ask you a question? What’s wrong with my desire to stimulate moral excellence within the group? I just hope they’ll stop putting the blame on me for their shortcomings and just humble themselves to be coachable. I remember Churchill when he was hated by many before leading Britain to victory over Hitler –funny huh – but this is the kind of mentality many of us have.

The courage I’ve shown that stood shoulder to shoulder with them to face battles with our competitors was a “heck in their neck”. I was often hated for asking the impossible, yet I took them to heights that were unimaginable. They said “I love competitions” but they were mistaken because I am for completion.

Conflicts arose from differences between the members and officers of the group and this has led to a break-up. The causes of the break-up was not a single event but a long transition, including the Kampi founder’s way of carrying himself and the birth of PhilSCA (Philippine Society for Culture and Arts) where I was elected as PRO, Kampi’s founder Mr. Joey Solis as Vice-Chairman and Ms. Emarlica dela Cruz as Auditor.

Some of the members hated the idea so majority of them decided to form a new group.  I accepted this sudden change in our organization with so much pain and tears. But alas! I survived with flying colors. Both groups have moved on with different objectives and different views. Thanks to my PhilSCA family for bearing with me, and of course to those people who continue believing in me especially my KAMPI Family and KAMPI Achievers who remained and faced the change courageously. Hats off to all of you! Together we will stand the test of time.

Focal:  There’s nothing wrong with aiming for your group to excel. In fact, we should set the bar of excellence higher in all we do. It’s more fulfilling to do something that we think is impossible to achieve because they are a lot more challenging. Being the Prexy of your organization, you have to deal with the different attitudes of your members. How do you handle difficult people and unpleasant situations?

Hermie: At some point, I know that I will find myself involved in some awkward moments or unpleasant situations. I need to remember always that my Bible is just on my pillow. The word of God is ready to comfort me always. I got to the point of dealing with my emotions too and oftentimes when unpleasant situations happen, my emotional response was to cry, let it pass through and move on. Afterwards, I surround myself with love, give back love and love myself no matter what the situation is.

It’s obvious that it’s not fun dealing with difficult people. They are grumpy and full of negative thoughts. I couldn’t imagine myself putting an effort to face this kind of people. I don’t want them to get under my skin. Why bother? I don’t own their problems anyway. They are what they are and for sure they are experts on this field. I just try to rise above maintaining my inner peace, my self-esteem and my professional courage. This way, I won’t be pissed off.

Focal: What specific goal do you have and want to achieve as a community leader?

Hermie: The thing that puts me into where I am standing now as a leader is my vision. Reveal your best potentials and stimulate these to others. Don’t be afraid of CHANGE and remember to DARE – dare to do what others usually are afraid and not even try to do. Whatever it takes, don’t quit!

Focal: We all know that we can never please everybody and we shouldn’t even try. It’s but natural for a leader to be under scrutiny, so how do you take criticisms?

Hermie: Criticisms are part of my life and I’ve been dealing with these a lot of times. Who cares, I don’t give a damn anymore. Words can never hurt me now, it can bruise my ego for a while but there are more things to accomplish in life. I don’t want to waste my time with this non-sense. People just love pulling your leg, so I have to be very careful not to let these impede my path to success. I won’t squander my energy trying to respond to the criticisms as a defense. I simply let it go—as the saying goes “If the dog bites you, don’t bite him back”.

Focal:  Hmmm, that’s tough! You’ve gone through a lot of disappointments and trials but you rose above with flying colors. What message do you want to impart or some sort of advice to give to other community leaders like you? By the way, we’d love to receive some beauty tips or secrets too if you don’t mind sharing it with us.

Hermie: When my life doesn’t unfold as planned, I don’t easily get discouraged. Life leads us face to face with disappointments sometimes, which we consider the roadblocks of life. These prepare us for the tough journey ahead, although we know that there are ways on how to clear these roadblocks to make our path lighter and brighter. Learn to assert your individual sovereignty as a leader and strive for progress, empowering yourself to live life strong and to the full with the guidance of our Lord. Remember, “You are the flame of your amazing life.”

We must do our best to create a world of difference, and it always begins with us. We may not be strong to do that, but we can change our place in it, the way we treat and create it count the most. I am inspired by Mahatma Ghandi’s “My life is my message”. As a leader, you can’t stop other people to piece together your life; but remember your actions, your reaction to such kind of experience will show more of you than what other people will say of you.

So be yourself, live your life in a way that reflects you and that enables you to be all that you are meant to be. It’s time to take off the masks in us, be who you really are. Don’t bare your soul to everyone, it’s not gonna work. If people can’t be with you because you are showing the real you, then it’s much better not to spend time with them, you’ll probably happier if you don’t. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Ooops, I almost forgot that you are asking me if I can share some of my beauty tips. Do I need to? Well, writing is my way to express myself. I can easily measure the language of my emotion and when I do, I feel lighter and a good reflection of me comes out. The feeling of contentment gives me a great feeling and makes it easier for me to make myself look good. I don’t need to get saturated by the media in the area of beauty tips because I have only one brand of creams so far. I stopped using night cream for a long long time already because I wanted to free my face at night. The rest, ask my husband. ^_~

Focal:  Well, there’s no doubt that you’re one of the best leaders of the Filcom here in Israel. You’ve proven it once again based on the success of KAMPI’s ‘Kids Got Talent Season 2’ which was a blast. We at FOCAL Magazine would like to congratulate you and the whole KAMPI family.  Any plans for the next big project?

Hermie: We have so many reasons to thank FOCAL Magazine and the staffs especially Ms. Pazit Godlewicz and my inaanak Ms. Jenalyn Zuno-Loot for their endearing support to all our projects. They’re always there for us. I’m so happy to know that they were pleased about the result of KGT Season 2. Yes, dear, it was really a blast. I’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedbacks and until now calls from the viewers were endless. It really paid off… you know what I mean!

You’re asking me about our next project after KGT’s success; don’t you want us to celebrate our success first before talking about our next project? (just kidding) Well, actually I have this belief that “Telling your plans in advance makes you less motivated to do them.” I feel that I’m just spreading my energy in every way and the completion becomes more reachable. GREAT IDEAS THAT ARE ALREADY COMPLETED IN MY MIND ARE FOR THE ONES DONE. Just wait until the plan is cooked, I don’t want to display it half-cooked. What do you think dearest?

Focal: Very well expressed. Just serve it hot when it’s cooked and yes, let’s celebrate! I’m just so happy seeing you with a genuine smile all the time… I can even feel the smile in your heart.

Hermie: Everything is in its proper place now, I’m happier.  I made mistakes, but I never quit. Whatever I have today is because I worked for it and I passionately pursue what’s needed to make things work out. I can say I’ve found my world again – with my true friends, with people whom I should spend my life with (you know who you are), and of course with my family.

I thank God for being the God of order always. You have arranged everything in order for me. What you see in me is the reflection of what I truly feel inside… HAPPINESS AND CONTENTMENT! To the two significant men in my life, Danny and Ydann, you’ve given me wings to soar and to fly higher. I love you both so much. Thanks so much to you, too, my dearest Anne for always being there for me.

Focal: Thank you very much, my dearest for giving us a piece of your time and allowing the public to know you a little more. I am grabbing this opportunity to greet you a “Very Happy Birthday!” As I can see, you have everything you could possibly ask for so I just pray for you to stay blissful and beautiful inside and out all the days of your life.

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