What’s in a house? A story of service and compassion…Glad 1 The Promised Land

Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.”

Psalm 41:1

Growing up near the campus of the biggest school in my hometown in Midsayap, North Cotabato is something I consider a blessing as it gave me a front seat observing the academic community to which, I attribute to a significant extent, the moulding of my values and character.

The moment I stepped in a classroom at Southern Christian College (SCC) as a Grade 1 pupil, there was this one figure that from the eyes of an innocent child then, was bigger than life. He spoke with so much wisdom and vigor and when he talked, I couldn’t get my eyes and ears off him as he did not only speak of great stories about God and application of parables but he genuinely spoke from the heart. He was Reverend Dr. Eliezer Mapanao, the President of SCC from 1967-1987; 1994-1997- practically the entire time I was studying in this esteemed school from Grade 1 up to High School.

Despite his Harvard Master’s Degree in Theology and while serving as resident director for International Study Fellowship at Princeton University, he decided to accept the call of his father-in-law to “save” a struggling school which at that time was at rock bottom and moved his family from California to settle in our hometown to spread the light through education. He introduced the paradigm of soil and soul for social well-being. He was a great fundraiser using his pen and tongue to bring dollars for the construction of school buildings and implementation of academic and community programs. Read more about his inspiring life: https://southernchristiancollege.edu.ph/remembering-his-elyness-in-scc-a-tribute-to-dr-eliezer-d-mapanao/

“While we are a small college, we serve a big God, and he bids us to grow and glow… The first and best resource of SCC is its un-surrendering people. Lesser mortals would have presided over her funeral long ago.” ~Rev. Dr. Eliezer D. Mapanao

Jowena, his eldest daughter graduated with a degree in Psychology from the University of the Philippines and immediately after graduation, he asked her to teach in the program of the school for underprivileged children. She agreed to do so and as she was teaching, she observed that these Muslim children kept on missing classes as they would always get sick. A further survey revealed that it was because of their poor living conditions that caused the frequent absences which was exacerbated by a fire that destroyed almost all of their houses in that squatters’ area.

Such led to a fundraising effort by Jowena to buy a land and relocate these families. Later, through the leadership of Mrs. Leda Moralde, two hectares of land was purchased. Fast forward to 2015, those children whose families were recipients of the village are now young adults and while they had been given the land, they could not transfer because of some legal requisites and lack of funds.

The passing of Dr. Mapanao on October 13, 2015 at age 89, sparked the aspiration of the Muslim young adults led by Mrs. Norma Umali and Bai Puti to relocate. Moved by the appeal of these young adults (who were Jowena’s pupils 25 years ago), his wife, Mrs. Portia Mapanao responded which led to the founding of the Bangsamoro Young Adults Association (BYAA) whose Vision and Mission is to build the homes of 65 Muslim families and implement livelihood programs to make the community sustainable. She tapped her network, talked to government officials and appealed to the current SCC leadership through Dr. Edwin Balaki (incumbent President) for things to get moving.

I was privileged to be part of this relocation project becoming a reality which is aptly referred to as Glad 1, The Promised Land. A couple of years back, I got a letter from Mrs. Portia soliciting help and in my own humble way heeded to such call. A bigger opportunity came when I got in to be part of Team Manulife-John Hancock runners for the 2020 Boston Marathon (where my company Manulife-John Hancock is a proud sponsor for 35 years now). Each runner is required to do a fund-raising campaign. I chose this relocation project to be my recipient and raised close to 700,000 Philippines Pesos (roughly $15,000) from 92 generous individuals to construct 15 houses overshooting my target of 10 houses! Even if the usual Marathon did not happen this year, this worthy endeavour came out of it which I am truly honoured to initiate. To all my friends and family who generously opened their hearts to my call, may God bless you many times over. It was so inspiring to say the least!

Each house is built on a 150 sqm space (more or less) and is a one-room space with no divisions when it is turned-over. A house is built when the recipients thru BYAA are able to raise their share of 20,000 Pesos (which they save up for over a year on the average as the source of income of these families is peddling sliced fruits, vegetables and candies) as counterpart. The Foundation raises funds of 45,000 Pesos ($935 US) as each house costs 65,000 Pesos ($1,350 US) to build. Imagine how low-cost the houses are considering the small amount to build them but for each of these families, it is a dream come true.

For those from the Philippines and those knowledgeable about Mindanao, I grew up very much aware of the differences and conflicts between and among Christians and Muslims and this is what makes this project even more meaningful. As one anonymous donor said, it crosses cultural boundaries and is really an initiative to demonstrate that we can co-exist and live harmoniously. It takes a visionary leader with a compassionate heart to make it happen and such was Dr. Mapanao and Mrs. Portia Mapanao.

Now we are down to just 10 more houses to go. Ten more families waiting to have a house they can call their own. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we call on you to respond. This year had been beset by many challenges but there is still so much to be thankful for and giving to this worthy cause may just be one way to give back. No amount is small not to matter. Every heartfelt donation will be much appreciated.

Mrs. Portia just celebrated her 86th birthday last November 21 and her only wish is to complete this project as envisioned by her late husband. What a life testimony this is!

It is my prayer that you will be moved to donate and together, let us realise the dream of The Promised Land.

For your donations, please give to https://www.gofundme.com/f/glad1relocationproject?sharetype=teams&member=3527002&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_na%20share-sheet&rcid=c1dbcb935ac6455bbd8654c5a3ebb844&fbclid=IwAR3tTjB_jOPttwXHBUl1KjkBtNpldpQa8YbulTbCIp7Vj-Z2zine9w9rgvU

The beauty in simplicity…Bohol!

This place exudes warmth and you feel that the moment you land in the new Panglao International Airport. The endless trees on one side and the ocean on the other welcome you like family embracing you after a long absence.

I love the simplicity of Bohol and yes, it’s one of my happy places here in my home country, the Philippines. Bohol, for me, affirms that there really is beauty in simplicity. It’s less crowded white beaches, many options of beautiful resorts (but not the sprawling types that tend to be intimidating), the island hopping with little coves of super fine white sand, the butterfly and firefly gardens, the bee farm, the tarsier sanctuary, the historic churches, the Chocolate Hills (the country’s 3rd National Geological Monument), the man-made forest, the caves, waterfalls, the relaxing Loboc River cruise…the list is long and that means, you will not run out of activities to do. The variety of things to do gives both the adventurous and those who prefer just to get away from the busy city life so many to choose from. Dining places offering good food also abound at prices that are budget-friendly. Just like the place, the Boholanos, in general are simple. They have that aura in them that’s warm and welcoming; that makes you feel you’re home.

Bohol is also a historical destination. The Blood Compact Shrine is one monument that tells of the first international treaty of friendship between Spain and the Philippines. The massive churches that abound in Bohol with almost each of its 47 towns having one is another interesting story. (Trivia: Do you know that these churches are products of forced labor brought about by a revolt in the 1620s?) Read more about this here: https://www.bohol-philippines.com/bohol-church.html

I brought my family there a few years ago as a gift to my mother whose wish is to celebrate her birthday with us siblings and her beloved “apos” (grandchildren). I love gifting my loved ones with travels rather than with material things as experience is more lasting and leaves wonderful memories. (Too bad, my other sister Anne and her family is based in Abu Dhabi and could not join us.)

Two years ago, an epic reunion happened in this idyllic place. This time with my childhood best friends. Friends I made when we were still innocent of the world as we started being friends when we were 5 or 6 years old being neighbors, church mates and classmates.

You don’t have to have anything in common with people you’ve known since you were five. With old friends, you’ve got your whole life in common.

~Lyle Lovett

It was a reunion I thought could not happen as we are spread across the globe – Lanny is based in New York; Vivien in Los Angeles, Lyncie in Toronto, Marylene in Cebu, Jeany in our hometown in Cotabato and myself in Manila. But it did! Thanks to the wedding of Vivien’s beautiful daughter to a charming young man whose family hails from Bohol. We all said yes and ended as principal sponsors of such a lovely and meaningful wedding celebration in an islet of a beautiful resort in Panglao.

Our reunion is very, very meaningful to all of us as it was the first time for us to get together as a group after 35 years! The first and “only” time we are complete because we lost one recently. Our dear Marylene went up to a better place less than two months ago. We could have been together for our second reunion last May in Dumaguete but Covid-19 got in the way. Bohol will forever be etched in our hearts as a place where we had the best bonding times.

The first and only time we are complete because our dear Marylene went up to a better place. (Maybe, she was saying goodbye in this picture?)

When I go to Bohol again (and for sure, will go there again and again), it will be nostalgic and that makes Bohol a much more special “happy place” for me.

When Everyday is Saturday

By: Bing De Los Reyes 

When you turn gold (in age, that is), you start thinking what will be your next phase? When will you retire from corporate work or if you’re an entrepreneur, is your succession planning well in place? I’m in this phase in my life now and as I think about it, I’m putting more details on how it will be when everyday is Saturday.

Yes, I’m referring to retirement. That phase in our lives when we change gears and embark on a new adventure. That’s how I look at retirement. It’s wrapping up a life stage to start a new one where I can give more time and attention to some meaningful ventures that I have set aside because I am tied up with many responsibilities as an employee. Retirement may mean slowing down on deadlines and deliverables but never an end to a meaningful and productive life. In fact, it may just be a more meaningful phase awaiting.

I’ve been working in the corporate world for over 3 decades and while there were work weeks that extend until weekends, there were more weekends spent to rest and re-fuel and when I have the whole Saturday for myself (I mean, when there’s no work to attend to), it feels so good! So, I imagine retirement as everyday being Saturday. Heaven, right?

But wait, can I really live a life doing practically nothing? I don’t think so and that is why it is important to plan. I want to continue to have a meaningful and productive life in my next phase and I can only achieve this if I planned ahead for it. 

My journey in the corporate world had been long and exciting and I will share with you the planning process I implemented to prepare for yet another exciting life stage in my succeeding articles – the good steps I took and the missteps that we can learn from.

For starters, here’s what you can do now to start the planning process towards a comfortable retirement. If you do it right, you may not even take 30 years before embarking on this phase. The key is starting it early:

  1. Envision the future that you want
  2. Know the price tag of that future that you want
  3. Start paying for that future now while you can still do it on installment basis.

So how will it be for you when everyday is Saturday?

What’s a “happy place”?

“Everyone has a happy place, the scene that comes into view when you close your eyes and let your mind transport you to the dot on the globe where life is cozy, safe, warm.”

Author: Sarah Jio

There are places that simply give us joy. It is hard to describe but we feel it. It gives us a sense of peace. It’s like an escape. It’s when you say “I can live here.”

A happy place may also pertain to a person. Someone who makes you feel at home, accepted and loved. Someone who makes you smile no matter how hard your day is. This can be your spouse or partner, your parent, your own child or a best friend.

I have several happy places and when life becomes too fast and heavy, I retreat to these places and every time, they always give me that dose of magic!