2017 is ready to say adieu. Leaving us many poignant memories; of laughter and tears; of joy and sorrow; of spills and thrills; of trials and triumphs.
2017 zoomed by so fast I had trouble keeping abreast with her. For me, it started out with mixed feelings of joy and hope and apprehension as I trudged on with the noble work that Habitat Philippines had entrusted with me. After a successful military career, joining Habitat had felt like being a young lieutenant again; opening new frontiers, breaking new ground.
From the typhoon-ravaged areas of Samar and Leyte, to Cebu and far-away Coron in Palawan; to the earthquake-damaged areas in Bohol, Habitat’s tireless field forces pushed onward. Despite the many internal and external challenges that bogged us down, we soldiered on, with nothing but the best intentions for the disaster victims we had vowed to serve.
I have nothing but admiration and love for these magnificent men and women who just bit their lips and embraced the job at hand. They have put God’s love into action, providing dignity and hope – not just for the number of families they served – but for the future generations, of the children and grandchildren of those whose lives they have touched.
And I would like to personally thank these people for giving me so much inspiration and enlightenment in my year’s journey. Charlie Ayco was the incisive boss who had great insights in creative ways to give support. Tots Escalada gave me good guidance, and at the same time, enough slack to exercise my leadership and my better judgement. August Baltazar and Eric Benitez taught me the technical aspects of the job at hand. On the ground, I was lucky to have tireless operators in Kris Faeldonia, Maru Dagondon and many more. I also received much support from Charles Lepiten, Lorie Rota and that feisty lady, Minnie Lagria. There were countless others who were there to give of themselves; from Habitat’s staff to our home partners, to our volunteers, our IPs, and our donors and generous sponsors. Each one of them had a heroic role to play. Each one of them will always have a special place in my heart.
In April, after 4 humbling, yet fruitful and fulfilling years, I left Habitat. A wonderful opportunity had opened up for me to serve on a different capacity. WeGen, headed by the dynamic duo of Michael Saalfeld and Sarge Sarmiento, was a refreshing energy-tech business that advocated the use of rapidly-developing renewable energy in the country. And I was offered the singular honor of pioneering its inroads in my home province of Bohol. Indeed, it was another challenging legacy task at hand, particularly as I would now be able to serve my home province of Bohol.
But things just weren’t meant to be. Last July, while still trying to gain momentum with the new company, a call came from Davao inviting me for some discussions. At first, I thought this was for the impending Marawi rehabilitation, as there had been rumors of such. It turned out that it was for a totally different, yet equally challenging adventure.
I didn’t think much about it then, but I was now on my way back to the security sector, where I had dabbled in for 30-plus years of honorable military service. I have gone full circle; from security to development work, then back once again to security. It has been a great meaningful experience for me; and a humbling one at that. But I have no regrets, for the priceless learning experience I have been blessed with will certainly be a big asset as I continue my journey in life.
Today, I am working with Udenna, a new and aggressive Filipino corporation led by the young, dynamic Dennis Uy. Udenna reminds me so much of today’s Golden State Warriors; where ball-movement is fast, and where players take on different positions, with Dennis taking the role of coach Steve Kerr. I am happy and proud to have joined a company which has 2 well-intentioned Foundations, and clearly values the need to give back.
This Christmas, Udenna provided its employees with a generous Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) bonus. It is money not intended for us, but for any advocacy, or any sincere and creative way of reaching out to those who are in need. This means that aside from the regularly-mandated CSR projects that the company has, we can come up with our own small projects for our personal charity work. It is a great way to develop the community service orientation of each individual in the company.
My wife, Wit, on the other hand, has been making miracles happen in our small farm in the province. From her cacao production, she has grown a modest granola business with the kids. Her boundless energy never ceases to amaze me. Like the miracle of Jesus’ five loaves and 2 fishes, Wit has been able to develop the farm and its produce despite the minimal inputs she has to work with. She has done it with a vision of abundance, positivity and love. Generous to a fault, she believes that by helping others, she helps the family, and she helps herself.
The kids are slowly making their mark as well. Bianca and Josh are helping their mom grow the granola business. Carlo is having the time of his life diving; a profession he says isn’t work at all, but play. With wife, Freedom, they are now in Dauin enjoying the sun and the sea. Alyssa is in wintry Korea, having found her interest in NGO work. Her active campaign for a clean global environment is an advocacy that resonates well with the rest of us.
There is so much to be thankful for. To those who have helped me in my journey, my utmost gratitude. To those who continue to help our brothers and sisters in need, you have helped my heart nonetheless. My salute to you. God is great!!!
2017 opened with some apprehension and uncertainty. As we close the door on 2017, there is certainly so much to look forward to for the year ahead. Let us all welcome 2018!
Have a happy, healthy new year, everyone!!!