Sometime in the middle of 2009, I was asked by a congressional candidate for our district to run for mayor of our City under his ticket. Around this time I also started to get some prodding from friends, especially those affiliated with various church organizations, encouraging me to run with promises of support. I did not even give it a second thought as the political arena was never part of my plans in life.
However, 2 young lawyers who are members of the BCBP, invited me to discuss the state of our city over beer and peanuts. It was very informal and we focused on the way our city was being governed. We all agreed that our beloved city was not going in the right direction given the present governance. Soon, we came to the conclusion that we wanted to effect some change and that would only be possible if we entered the political arena. So, we formalized our group, named it ‘Kaabag’ (partner) with 10 of the 23 original convenors being BCBP brothers. We then registered it with SEC. And soon the decision to run for public office was made.
It was also at this time that CBCP, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, came out with their pastoral message addressed to active members of the church, urging them to get involved, not just to limit themselves to poll watching but encouraging them to run for public office based on principled politics. The “call” hit a nerve.
I committed to run for the city council but there was no peace in my heart. I knew that the political arena is an entirely new world. The presence of similarly minded people in the group who just wanted change – hopefully for the betterment of our city – somewhat assuaged my apprehensions but I was still not at ease.
I then took a few weeks’ trip to the USA to visit my two newly-settled daughters there, but when I got back, the turmoil in my heart persisted. It seemed that I was not yet ready to make my life more complicated.
And soon I discovered that politics is indeed complicated! Most of my group were for Noynoy for president but another opposition group beat us to the Liberal party nomination. Opportunities opened up for us to join other parties but we decided to stick it out with Noynoy. Meanwhile, our mayoralty candidate’s family made it clear that they would only support us if the mayoralty contest would be a 1-on-1 affair, not a 3-cornered fight with 2 opposition candidates against a well-entrenched political dynasty. We spent weeks on ‘unification talks’ with the other opposition group but to no avail.
Finally the decision to run only as independent councilors was made. There were just 8 of us, 5 of whom are BCBP brothers, but the group was happy with that. Then on the last day of filing, an elder of another community made a last minute decision to run with us. It was totally unexpected. He was a convenor of our group and although he really wanted to run, he had said he could only promise full support because he was a full-time worker for their community. When he informed me of his decision, all my doubts disappeared and I was assured in my heart that this was God’s work and He would be with us all the way. There was finally peace in my heart and I was ready to face another battle.
When I was new in the BCBP community, I was challenged in a reflection I read to get out of my comfort zone and do several things – accept community service, travel, adopt a child, and run for public office. At that point in my life I was open to only one of those challenges – travel, as I had already done some at that time. Accepting a community service was a possibility, though my sights were limited to my chapter, but adopting a child and running for public office were nowhere in sight. Those were my plans, but God had other plans for me.
Slowly, God’s plans for my life unfolded right before my eyes. I could only say, “Yes!” because He prepares me, he softens my heart to accept and gives me the assurance that He is in control. My first service in community was as breakfast head and then as CLP, Christian Life Program, chief servant. At that moment I had doubts and even had plans to inform our mother chapter Mactan’s mission team that I would like to ‘lie low in my service.’ It seemed to me that with only one year in community, I was already too deep into it and I was not ready for it. I am a medical doctor with a good practice and felt that my patients needed me.
Instead I was made Outreach Head and I heard Him clearly in my heart, “You do not serve Me because you are ready, I will make you ready,” so again I said, “ Yes!” I then served as Ormoc’s first chapter head. I thought that would be my last service in the brotherhood because I had never considered service beyond my chapter.
When I was serving as Chapter head, we had a surprise call from a friend, an Italian Franciscan nun running an orphanage in Samar asking us to adopt a 2-day old baby girl. We had visited the orphanage a few times, and although adopting a child was not part of our plans, it was not hard to say, “Yes!” Our adopted daughter is now 7 years old and she is simply a bundle of joy to all of us. I was then appointed as RCD for Leyte and, currently, I serve as Managing Director for the Visayas.
Today I have taken on the last challenge of that reflection a few years ago, running for public office, something I would never have considered even just a few months ago! But God has His ways and I just know that this is part of His plans for me.
Our fight for election to the city council is actually a long shot at best. We don’t even have a party and we are up against a political dynasty that has been there forever. They are household names in a political contest that is based on political largesse and patronage but we also believe that we have a God of the impossible.
It is also heartening to know that there is a total of 58 BCBP brothers and sisters in the Visayas running for different public positions in their localities. We can only ask you to include us daily in your prayers for physical protection. But above all, please keep all of us in His ways so we can be effective witnesses for Him in the political arena.
To me personally this is not just about winning; it is more about taking a stand – that we will not close our eyes and just turn away pretending things are all right when they definitely are not. We have decided to light our one little candle rather than just continue to curse the darkness.
God bless us all!