Photo courtesy of Valerie Bonoan
Valerie Bonoan strives to live and look like Jesus in everything that she does.
As co-director of Celebration Chapel, the sophomore integrated marketing communication major promotes community on campus by combining her love for God, her passion for music and her pride in her heritage.
“I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who can sing,” Bonoan said. “I want people to remember me as the girl who loves Jesus and really cares about the people around her.”
Bonoan became a Christian when she was 16 after being inspired by the faith of those around her. She realized that the music she sang in Christ the Redeemer Church’s praise team in Grand Terrace, California could not be authentic unless she was fully committed to her relationship with God.
This decision was a defining moment in her life because it shaped everything about her identity. She said her ultimate goal is to live a life worthy of the eyes of God. Knowing that God loves her motivates her to love others even more.
Bonoan was born in the Philippines and moved to Northridge, California when she was 9. Leaving all she had ever known was difficult, but watching her parents work hard inspired her to do the same.
“I have learned to never take what I have for granted and to know that whatever I have is not just mine, but it is for me to share with other people, whether that is material things or even my words or my talent,” she said.
Bonoan represents her culture as a Miss Philippines USA Ambassador, a position which she earned after her mother and friends encouraged her to enter pageants. This position gave her the opportunity to visit her family back home and perform at charity concerts where she encouraged young people to embrace their identity, pursue their passions and use their talents to help the people around them.
Because her religion has shown her the importance of belonging and her Filipino culture has shown her the importance of family, Bonoan said she is dedicated to creating a sense of community on campus through her position in Celebration Chapel.
In addition to performing every Friday, she said she loves spending time with the worship team and she thinks that this event provides the sense of community that Pepperdine students need and want.
Her passion for music grew along with her relationship with God. She sings because she wants to glorify God with all of her heart.
She said she admires the powerful affect that music can have on individuals and thinks it is beautiful how music speaks in ways that words alone cannot. More importantly, she believes that music is best when it comes from a genuine place.
“‘Genuine would be the best way I could describe her,” said Julia Stratton, a sophomore public relations major and Bonoan’s roommate. “She wants to make everyone feel so loved and so special. She is just a great human being (with) the voice and heart of an angel.”
She is just a great human being (with) the voice and heart of an angel.”
Bonoan’s fellow Celebration Chapel co-director agrees.
“Valerie really, really loves people,” junior economics major Benjamin Howard said. “She loves the Lord and that flows out in how she treats people.”
Lauren Leatherberry Begert, the assistant director of the Office of the Chaplain, said Bonoan embodies the teachings of Jesus by living every day with intention and authenticity.
“(I make) a daily decision every time I wake up to choose to love the people around me and to appreciate the place that I am in,” Bonoan said. “It’s a battle that I have to face internally every single day but it is a path that I am willing to take.”
Both Howard and Stratton described how Bonoan took the time to plan each of them surprise birthday parties, complete with balloons, cake, cards, and, of course, singing.
“She is quick to celebrate people whether that is throwing a surprise birthday celebration, or honoring somebody’s hard work through a compliment or praying for somebody,” Begert said. “She is a celebrator.”
Although she does not believe in limiting herself to one specific goal, Bonoan aspires to pursue her passions for singing and playing instruments through a career in music. She wants to use her voice, whether speaking, singing, or sharing her heart and soul, for the better of the community.