By Jethro Pascasio

Alchemist.

This is the term used to refer to a member of UP ALCHEMES – similar to how Isko/Iska is used for a student from UP. It is also reminiscent of the similarly titled novel written by Paulo Coelho. (Although the original title is in Portuguese, O Alquimista.)

In the novel, the Alchemist is someone capable of turning lead into gold. However, he is not the protagonist of the story. The novel, instead, tells about the life of shepherd boy named Santiago. His story is in some way a reflection of our own lives as Alchemists.

Santiago was born in a small town in Andalucía. He was seemingly destined to live an uneventful life. He attended the seminary as a boy but in his heart, he had a longing to see the world. So he chose to ask for his father’s permission to be a shepherd instead. That very decision sparked changed in his life. It ushered him into a journey filled with dreams and challenges. It was that choice to pursue the yearnings of his heart that allowed him to break free from his mundane life.

Throughout his journey, he met different people with different characteristics. They all helped expand the way he sees the world and they were all crucial in shaping him to become the man he was meant to be. One of these people is a king named Melchizedek. He was the one who told Santiago about personal legends – the very things that a person wants to accomplish. He was the one who told the boy that if he earnestly wants something, the entire creation conspires to help him achieve it. And so Santiago dedicated his journey to seeking his personal legend.

A lot of things happened in Santiago’s quest for his personal legend. He had to let go of a lot of things – one of which is the gold from the Alchemist and the love of a girl named Fatima for another. Finally when he reached the Pyramids – the place where he dreamt a treasure lies, his endless digging was proven futile. There was no treasure there. To make things worse, he got robbed of everything he had by a bunch of bandits. In a twist of fate, one of them told him that he also had a similar recurring dream about treasure in an old abandoned church in Andalucía and dismissed it as “crazy”. Santiago’s treasure was right where his dream was first conceived.

In the grand scheme of things, the treasure that Santiago sought was not his personal legend. Rather it is just its treasure. The freedom that allowed him to see the world in a different light is something that might be considered his true personal legend. He had to make a lot of hard decisions to maintain that freedom but it also what made it possible for him to experience the world.

Santiago’s story is a story of pursuit. A pursuit to realize his dreams. A pursuit to achieve his goals. A pursuit to change his life and make it for the better. And since it is a pursuit, Santiago did not remain still. He went out of his comfort zone to seek what he is after.

He broke free.

Something that every alchemist of UP ALCHEMES knows how to do.

As UP ALCHEMES enters its 16th year, the challenge to continuously break free is upon every alchemist. The organization definitely grew over the past years but settling for less will not be an option. There will always be risks but just as Santiago’s story has showed, risks are part of dreaming for something. The proof of desire is pursuit. And so as we desire to make a difference, as we desire to break free, we shall push forward with courage and see our personal legends turn to reality.

Photo credit: shanobyl.com