Let me begin by thanking God for my 32 years of marriage, and the BCBP for the 20 years wherein I have learned my responsibility in giving joy to my wife. My testimony touches on how the BCBP has helped me mature as a husband and father, as well as my journey in faithfulness and trust in God as I accept responsibilities in the Lord’s service in the BCBP despite the trials we face.
FAMILY BACKGROUND AND BEGINNINGS
My father, Emmanuel Neri Pelaez, was a public servant for 45 years and a member of the BCBP Alabang Chapter. He taught me the virtues of Honesty and Integrity in all my dealings. My father’s business principle was “BUY PEACE” if you are in the financial advantage. Your rights become secondary. One example of this BUY PEACE principle was when we were building our house in 1988. There were 3 occupants inside the property. We relocated them at a cost of Php 100,000, an amount that at that time could already build a low-cost house. The Buy Peace was equivalent to Php 200 per square meter of the property occupied by the intruders. The present value of the property is Php 10,000/sq.m.
My mother, Edith Neri Fabella, was a full time housewife and mother for us nine siblings. She taught me the virtues of Prudence, Humility, and Simplicity. My mother taught us the values of hand-me-down grade school uniforms from my two other older brothers, 10 and 8 years older than me. We practiced ukay-ukay in the family. I would also accompany her to the public market in San Juan and in Cagayan de Oro; I carried her market basket.
Sirach 44:10-12 tells us that such virtues are the wealth that remains in the family, and “their heritage with their descendants; through God’s covenant with them (godly men) their family endures, their posterity for their sake.” Aside from Honesty, Integrity, Prudence, Humility, and Simplicity, I have my faith and covenant with Jesus as a legacy that I can pass on to my children and grandchildren; it is the heritage that will endure forever.
My eldest grandson at 11 years old, good looking with two dimples and a cleft chin, told me a few days ago of his desire to join the priesthood. I know it’s too early for such a decision but I can already see a relationship between him and Jesus. My youngest daughter, 10 years ago in her first year high school, invited me to go with her to the 6:30am Mass before dropping her off to school. This continued for four years. She wanted to be a nun but probably changed her mind when I told her that I had not seen a nun in a bikini!
LIFE WITHOUT THE LORD AND THE BCBP
From 1979 to 1991 as a husband and father, I was always busy working for the family and for my personal businesses in three different locations. I am a farmer and a rural banker. Aside from these, I was involved in the farmers’ cooperative, the Chamber of Commerce and Jaycee activities. My family placed third in my list of priorities.
I delegated the task of raising the children and their education plus the Parents Teachers Association meetings solely to my wife. I was not involved in these supposed-to-be shared responsibilities; I was a provider and a carefree husband, NOT a caring husband or a loving father. Now that I am with the BCBP, I realize that I did not have a relationship of faithfulness to my wife or a relationship of shared parenting to my children.
JOINING THE BCBP
In 1991 my close friends in the Cagayan de Oro Jaycees and their spouses joined the BCBP’s Christian Life Program (BCLP) #1 in January and #2 in June. I immediately noticed something different in their behavior … no more drinking at cultural shows exclusively for men, no more late nights out, massage parlors or disco bar brawls. The devil kept on telling me: “look at your Jaycee friends in the BCBP, raising hands and swaying in prayer, “parang bakla. Macho Ka!” Your Sunday Mass is enough. You do not need to join the BCBP.” And yet I was drawn to my barkada’s instant, almost unbelievable transformation. They were joyful, peaceful and serene. I began to envy them.
My feelings of emptiness and being abandoned by my barkada were intense. I had to make a major decision to correct my wrong notion of the charismatic group and decided to accept the free breakfast invitation. This was followed by more breakfasts; in October of that same year my wife and I finally joined CDO BCBP’s Christian Life Program #3. In February the following year 1002 we joined the BCBP’s Marriage Retreat where I learned the importance of my role as a Christian husband and father, that 1 + 1 = 1 in body, mind, and spirit. I began to understand the importance of raising a Christian family.
I assumed my new role as head of the family and led the family in prayer. We have a family prayer that we memorized in 1992 and still pray together today that goes like this:
Lord, bless our family with openness to real communication, in sharing our joys and sorrows, with freedom to let each other grow, with understanding the gifts each has to give, and of course with love, no matter what and no matter when. Amen.
This family prayer emphasizes our Lord’s Blessing our openness, sharing, growing, understanding, and loving at all costs. My married daughter and son have passed on this family prayer to their children. It is now our official family prayer. I have expanded and applied this family prayer in the BCBP culture and teachings also in my workplace and other areas of responsibilities.
SERVING THE LORD DESPITE TRIALS ALONG THE WAY
Throughout my 20 years in the BCBP I have dedicated my service to the Lord as AGL (Action Group Leader), Unit Leader, BCLP Course Leader, Outreach Coordinator, and Chapter Head, then as a member of the BCBP’s Board of Trustees (2003), now as outgoing Regional Council Director (RCD) for Northern Mindanao, and as incoming Chairman of the Board of Trustees (2021-2014).
My years of service in the BCBP have not been trial-free but with each problem I have experienced in new and loving ways the concern and care always given freely by BCBP brothers and sisters clearly demonstrating the BCBP’s Core Value of Care and Concern for each other.
Briefly, when my 16-yr-old son was discovered taking shabu in 1997, it was the BCBP brothers who called it to my attention so that I could take proper disciplinary action. In 1999 when we held a Catholic marriage ceremony for my son (who had been previously married by a Presbyerian minister in Surigao City), it was the BCBP brothers and sisters who volunteered to decorate the church, be the choir, and even emcee at the reception – all for free!
When I was serving as Chapter Head in 2000, my younger brother was kidnapped. Two days after the incident, immediately after the Men’s Breakfast, I asked the BCBP brothers to pray over me without telling them what had happened. During the pray-over I cried with no inhibitions and felt the love and assurance that Father God would find a solution. Prayers continued, and 52 days after that my brother was freed with no ransom payment. I can only thank God for this answered prayer.
There have been other trials and troubling incidents since then, but I always run to the Lord in prayer for His direction, grace and help. Then with full trust in Him, I obey His guidance and take the necessary action. In my prayer I claim the Assurance of Answered Prayer in 1 John 5:14-15: “We have courage in God’s presence, because we are sure that He hears us; if we ask Him for anything that is according to His will, He hears us whenever we ask him; and since we know this is true, we know also that He gives us what we ask from Him.”
PRAYER TIME IN THE WORKPLACE
At 8am in the mornings, our employees at the Rural Bank of Medina start their morning prayer using the Gospel read for the day. Each one is scheduled to lead as prayer leader. I have witnessed the growing spiritual maturity in their relationship with our Lord as they share their written reflections from their Scriptural Diaries. Aside from the daily Bible Sharing format, we also hold a free breakfast every third Friday of the month with one of the staff being the breakfast sharer. The result is a better understanding and appreciation of the sharer’s background and “unpredictable” behavior.
Prayers have made us grow spiritually as well as in bank assets. Last month, we opened our first Branch Office in Gingoog City and next year with God’s blessing, we will open a second one in Cagayan de Oro City. I attribute all these blessings to God’s love for us and His faithfulness as we grow stronger in our commitment, trust, and obedience to Him.
ACCEPTING THE BCBP CHALLENGE
I am now 61 years old and officially a Senior Active Citizen of the Philippines. I would like to challenge BCBP members in their senior years to give back their wealth of business and professional experience to their respective communities. Age is just a number. We can never retire from our experiences, from our service to the Lord. As God’s children we must share, with the same love and understanding that Christ gave us on the Cross, what we have learned with others.
Perhaps my most important learning is that I can only do my best when I am faithful in my prayer time, in reading the WORD, and in my seeking to know Him even more intimately. I have come to recognize my role as a steward of His abundance; everything I have is HIS. I have learned to develop my listening ears to hear His voice and Divine Wisdom.
Let me close my testimony by encouraging you to open your Bible to Colossians 2:6-8, to read and reflect on God’s message for you personally as He tells you how to live a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. May He bless us all in our walk with Him in the BCBP!