By Joe Coruna, BCBP Cagayan de Oro
This testimony should have been submitted in 2010 – our 40th wedding anniversary. But as they say “better late than never”. More so when we were challenged by our Kapatiran editor, that as leaders we should be role models in submitting our testimonies. Bro Bong Pelaez says, ”this is the manly challenge”.
Every testimony has its own spiritual anchor and this sharing is anchored on Exodus 20: 2-6: “I, the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, where you were slaves. Thou shall not have other Gods before me … I bring punishment on those who hate me … but I show my love to those who love me and obey my laws.”
Our 40 years of marriage( Nov. 1970), has been characterized like the hapless Israelites who journeyed for 40 years in the desert, always grumbling or complaining to their leaders and worshipping many idols. Before BCBP, I, too, worshipped many idols.
I met Hedy, my wife (name taken from that beautiful Hollywood movie actress Hedy Lamar) at the UERMMMC college of medicine along Aurora Blvd in Q.C. We were schoolmates. She belonged to class’67 and me to class’69. But I am three years older than Hedy. I was introduced to her during our residency at the hospital. She was in a mini skirt white uniform and looked like Gloria Diaz with her maloccluded teeth. Some said I also looked like Nestor de Villa with my ‘hutchinson’s teeth’. It was love at first sight but for her she insists, it was not (please refer to her testimony on this website). After six months, we were married at the height of the raging and furious typhoon Yoling. Nothing could stop the ceremony even if there was a total blackout in Metro Manila. Few guests arrived and so there was less expense incurred at Max’s Q.C. This was in 1970 and for the succeeding years we were enmeshed in the barren and parched desert, wandering , worshipPing other gods, uncertain where the future would lead us.
After residency in 1972, we went home to Maramag, Bukidnon, my home town to attend to my ailing mother who had suffered an almost fatal stroke.
I am the youngest of 12 siblings, 7 girls and 5 boys. I grew up self-centered with a type B admixed with a type C personality. B is for ‘bugoy’ and C is for ‘can easily be corrupted’. I remember that I still slept with my parents even when I was already in 4th yr. high school. My brothers and sisters were worried about this, but when I had my first puppy love, they breathed a sigh of relief because they said ‘at least my gender orientation was on the right track’.
I was back in my home town with my childhood friends looking up to me as their idol , soon to be a mayor until martial law was declared. There was no let-up for my vices of gambling and alcohol , leaving Hedy to attend to our medical clinic and take care of our first baby girl Cathy. Money was never a problem because I could always run to my father for the “CDF” fund. There were many physician samples and we would sell it even if the caption read ‘not for sale’.
During all these times, God was not in the center of my life. Gone were the spiritual values taught by my parents and enhanced by the Jesuit schools where I took my pre-med. Hedy was going into depression (so she said) and I, a psychiatrist was unable to diagnose or recognize it. Finally, I decided to relocate my family to Cagayan de Oro city, my mother’s home town to test and find out if anything was left of the values that the Jesuits had taught me. I immediately established a psychiatric practice and Hedy, meanwhile pursued a residency training in Internal Medicine. At this juncture, we were told by the U.S. embassy in Manila that our approved immigrant visa in 1972, had expired. But still, life has been good to me or so I thought.
In just a short stint with my practice, I became President of the Misamis Oriental Medical society and many civic clubs were recruiting me. I became proud and sometimes arrogant. My penchant for vices was blown-up to the hilt and I was drifting farther and farther away from Hedy and my children. I would come home late in the evening until finally Hedy learned that I was into an extra-marital affair. She wanted out of our relationship. I pushed the emergency button for the Lord and I took a chance of reconciling with her.
In 1991, I was invited to a BCBP breakfast for which I could not refuse. Some of these brothers were my cohorts in the evenings after playing basketball . When they stopped going out with me, I got a sense that something was brewing and I got curious and wanted to know what. That brother is now the chapter head of SOCAL USA. The next time around, I practically dragged Hedy along with me to the breakfast (by then, she was still hurting). There was an unseen force that kept us coming back and before we knew it we finished BCLP no. 2. I felt like the man in the Bible who found the “Pearl of Great Price”, and I did not want to lose it again. The crux of my conversion was Hedy’s forgiveness, my improved relationship with my children, my increased prayer time and being able to work on establishing a personal relationship with Jesus. We stopped selling physician samples and began to use them as starter doses especially to the least of our brethren. Today, I still dread the memory of that time when we could have ended up as part of the cold statistics of dysfunctional families.
Meanwhile, Hedy and I were immersed actively in the mission team to Davao as our outreach. We practiced in our clinics only for three days because we had to travel by land to Davao on Thursday and stayed there till Sunday. The income that we got in six days of medical practice was the same income we got in three days, sometimes , even more. Truly, God is the greatest provider and His faithfulness lasts forever, to those who serve and love Him. As the song goes, “ love is lovelier the second time around”. It was also ‘pay back time’. Not that He demands it from us but we felt we needed to pay it forward for the blessings He had bestowed upon us.
My climb up the ladder of spirituality and leadership was fast-tracked as I became chapter head, then RCD and am serving now on my last term as member of the national BOT. The indelible imprint of being a bonafide member of the BCBP is a tall order and we have learned to walk our talk.
Hedy and I have crossed the RED SEAS of our lives. The BCBP is our CANA-AN, promised to us by our GOD. It is a land where problems can be solved, relationships renewed and conflicts ended. The barren and parched desert that we crossed is once again teeming with springs of Living Water. And just like Joshua in the twilight of his life when he called his elders and leaders (Joshua 24:14-15) “Now therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the river and in Egypt and serve the LORD. If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today…” Hedy and I now proclaim “ As for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”