By Bro Rod Llacer, BCBP Malaybalay, Bukidnon
“It is my belief that it is no man’s fault to be born poor, but he has only himself to blame if he dies poor.” Bro Rod tells us of his journey from the slums of Manila to the mountains of Bukidnon. His secrets? Faith and trust in God, prayer, and hard work.
It is my belief that it is no man’s fault to be born poor, but he has only himself to blame if he dies poor. I also believe that with God nothing happens by accident; everything that happens is part of a grand design. All we have to do is put our complete trust in the all-knowing and loving God and allow Him to work in us.
My full name is Rodolfo Yu Llacer, Jr. Both my parents and I were born and raised in Paz, Paco, Manila. My mother Josepha Ponce Yu, a beautiful Chinese mestiza, worked as a sidewalk vendor selling anything from newspapers to doormats, while my father Rodolfo Guinto Llacer was a construction worker all his life. Though lacking in many material things, my hardworking parents did their best to provide us a place called home in one of the slums of Manila.
My mother used to tell us, “Anak, pera lang ang kulang natin, milyonaryo na tayo sa pagibig at saya.” I leaned from my father who would tell us that honor and dignity are the true measure of man, that a man’s courage is measured not on how many fights and brawls he’s goeent himself into, but on his ability to stand for and live by his principles and fight for what he believes is right and not to be a burden to society.
Yes, I grew up in one of the most exciting places of Manila, the slums. This place molded and showed me the true and real face of life. Although we lived in a place surrounded with drugs, alcohol, violence and other vices, I remember it also as a place of prayer and worship. We had the senakulos, block rosary crusade, santacruzans, devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Black Nazarene and a lot more.
In my desire to help my parents I sold newspapers at the age of 8. I also sold sweepstakes tickets, pork and chicken meat in the market, gulaman and sago drinks during summer. I shined shoes, washed and watched cars, ran errands for our neighbors and a lot more. At 18 I started working as a labor hand during the construction of the first LRT in Manila, working during the morning and studying Civil Engineering at night. I finally graduated after seven agonizing years.
Looking for a better way to provide a more comfortable life for the family, I grabbed an opportunity to work in a PAGCOR casino. I never really liked gambling but the job paid very well. After several months I was ordered to report to the PAGCOR branch in Davao City. At first, I wanted to resign since I didn’t want to move to Davao, but I needed my job so I complied.
Little did I know that God would slowly unfurl His plans for me in that beautiful city of orchids and durian. About a year later God let a ray of His blessings shine on me in the form of a beautiful maiden from Malaybalay, Bukidnon. She struck me with her simplicity and spirituality, qualities that I found hard to resist. It was because of her that I passed over the opportunity to be transferred back to Luzon.
When we were starting our life together, Tes wanted us to part of a community since she had been used to belonging to one since her college days. It was the pediatrician of our children who invited us to the BCBP breakfast at Sunburst. At that time bago pa lang ang BCBP Davao, but the warm reception of the Tito’s and Tita’s made us feel relaxed and comfortable.
But when we reached home, I told Tes “We don’t belong there, they are members of affluent families of Davao; we are just mere employees.” However God had different plans for us, inspiring us to take and graduate from BCLP 2 in April 1994 and become regular members. We’ve now been with the BCBP for more than 19 years and have never once regretted joining. We are truly grateful that early in our married life, God drew us closer to Him and called us, through the Brotherhood, to serve in his vineyard.
After our Christian Life Program, we were soon assigned as action group leaders. We accepted the assignment even though we didn’t have a telephone at home or a car. We used pay phones to contact BP activities. Eventually God provided for our needs. When our group had no guitarist, an office mate suddenly sold his guitar to us, and I slowly learned how to play.
In the BCBP Tes and I have experienced God’s goodness, faithfulness and generosity on a grand scale. As we serve Him and walk our journey in faith, we completely trust in God to lead us along the way, showing us how He would take care of us.
In 2007 I resigned from my job after working for PAGCOR for almost 20 years. I had long wanted to have a different means of livelihood. Throughout the years I had tried my hands in many things but every attempt had failed. I made one bad investment after another, making us lose our hard-earned savings, until we were presented with this opportunity of putting up a poultry farm. I was quite hesitant and concerned on what might come out of this, not to mention that it would entail a very big investment on our part. Faced with this predicament, we turned to the only help we knew and prayed fervently to God. After prayer, armed with a fraction of the needed funds but with great faith in our hearts, we took the plunge.
It was during these critical times that God allowed us to marvel in awe at the wonder of His deeds as He showed us how faithful He is to his promise. I started looking for a suitable site for the farm in Malaybalay in August that our integrator would approve. I told God in my prayer that if September passed and I hadn’t found a site that would mean He did not approve of the project. On the last day of September we found one that met the specs of the integrator. What we needed now were the funds to do the necessary construction so that the site would be ready by December.
My brother-in-law gave us all his used and extra lumber plus construction equipment we needed. Friends and relatives poured in their support in prayers and money. But by November the construction was slowed as we ran out of money for materials. We stormed heaven and cried out for help.
Brothers and sisters, sometimes God answers our prayers not always in ways that we expect him to do so. The days and weeks that followed were full of heavy rains as one typhoon followed another, making it impossible to continue the construction. What’s even more amazing was that the rains would stop on the days when we would have available materials and again the rains would start pouring when we would run out of money and materials. I would pray and ask the Lord if I had understood clearly His approval of the project and He would always reply, “Yes, you did!” And soon after that funds would come from unexpected sources, loans would be granted without collateral, so many times this happened, that it cannot be coincidence. It was God at work!
Today we marvel at God’s goodness and love. Our farm is doing well and we have more than 30 employees under our care. Although we still lack many things necessary for smooth operations, somehow we are able to have good performance, even receiving an award as one of the top ten performing farms during our first cycle. We can never thank God enough for his generosity and goodness. So to give all the glory and praises back to Him, we had the farm registered under the name of Christ the King Farm. Indeed, as the name implies, the farm is His, we are just His caretakers. We hold fast to the promised in John 14:13-14: “And everything you ask in my Name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. And everything you ask in my Name, I will do.”
Sirach 2:1-5 tells us to prepare ourselves for trials as we serve Him, to hold fast to the Lord, to be patient when we are humbled, for “as gold is tested in the fire so those acceptable to God are tested in the crucible of humiliation.” Never did I imagine that I would really learn the meaning of these verses! As I was beginning the construction of the farm, God also called me to start construction on another project, the rehabilitation of the BCBP Malaybalay Outreach. I was willing to help out in whatever capacity but when they formally told me that I would take over as Outreach Head, I resisted. But after successfully dodging positions and titles in Davao, I was not able to get away from this one.
The first few years were really difficult as many old members refused to adhere to the changes (we were reverted back to one of the units of BCBP Cagayan de Oro West with me as unit head) choosing to hold on to their old practices that were not bringing any growth. It was a period of humiliation as my patience was stretched as I reached out to our brothers and sisters. When I reached the breaking point, I told my chapter head Bro Bong Pelaez that I’m resigning as unit head of Malaybalay, which he readily accepted. As I started to relax, he said, “…because you are now the Outreach Head.”
Today, I can safely say that God finally smiled at us there in Malaybalay. Thanks to the undying support and dedication of our brothers and sisters in CDO, our outreach is growing strong. Our recent BCLP produced 30 graduates who are now the driving force of our community. God is good!
Life is what we make it. Tes and I are committed to a life that has God at its center, with Him in charge and leading the way. It is our prayer that God, in all His goodness, will give us the strength and enlightenment and continue to guide us as we journey through life. It is our fervent prayer that God will always keep us together, help us care for our children and bless our mission to touch the lives of our loved ones and the people that God will lead us to. Someone once said, “Heaven may be too difficult to achieve, but we should strive to make ourselves a little less unworthy of it.”
In closing, I would like to share with you a quotation that has become my guiding principle in life. “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you will become is your gift to God.”
I pray that all of us will be acceptable gifts to God. Amen.
First posted in Kapatiran on October 13, 2013.