I was an achiever and a hard worker, excelling scholastically and as a campus leader. I became a proud, young man! From the University of the Philippines in 1970 during the height of the “Apocalyptic Quinquennium” I joined the activist movement, joining mass actions, doing street graffiti, hiding from arrest during Martial Law, believing that my idealism served as my shield of invincibility. When my eyes were finally opened to the realities of Machiavellian schemes of vicious and deadly power struggles within the activist ranks, I made a complete turn around and became a reformist.
I joined the growing bureaucracy of the Metro Manila Commission when Mrs. Marcos was governor, planning to reform the system from within. My initial years the MMC were very challenging and fulfilling. However, a few years later, I noticed that the MMC was becoming increasingly politicized and that the vision for a metropolitan government exemplified by technocracy had slowly metamorphosed into a bloated bureaucracy.
So after having finished a project there, I resigned and accepted a long-standing offer from the Dept. Of Finance to handle foreign-assisted projects of the Bureau of Local Government Finance. I began again my 14-hours-a-day, 6-days-a-week work schedule, a frequent source of marital quarrels and misunderstandings. I became a dedicated workaholic!
All through the years before joining the BCBP in 1990, my career and my relationship with my boss at work were of paramount importance. I would work for several days and nights without going home just to complete a job. But as I grew in the renewal after the Brotherhood’s Christian Life Program, I realized how displaced my priorities were and set about straightening them out. I finally told my boss that I could not work overtime because of family and Brotherhood activities. This created intrigues and caused a rift with my boss. I was stripped of my perks as Director and was relegated to the background doing routine activities – to me it was if I was exiled in the desert.
At first I was full of anxiety, but I sought the Lord and He led me to Psalm 102, then to Psalm 116, and I persevered in my job despite the torture of having no substantial and meaningful work. Then my prayers began to be answered. From out of nowhere I was called by the ADB to write a country paper on urban finance for the Philippines. This assignment brought material remuneration and professional acknowledgement for my work, and bolstered up my confidence level that was so low.
Not long after that came a short-term consultancy work for the World Bank to look into the urban and environmental program for Cavite and Laguna that totally fit into God’s plan, because at that time, we had just established a BCBP outreach in Lipa City. There was real joy in my heart when I accepted the job, as I could sense God’s hand at work. Subsequently other consultancy offers came from multilateral and bilateral organizations, providing the much needed morale and financial boosts I and my family needed. You see, when the multilaterals learned that I had been relegated to the “freezer”, they offered me consultancy work, and my boss gladly approved my leave of absence without pay, just so I would be out of her sight.
About two years ago, the Lord literally and figuratively invited me to the desert again, this time into a real desert. My consultancy work in Afghanistan as local government finance advisor for the UN has been a true desert experience for me. In the midst of desolation, I experienced God’s profound presence. In the midst of the seeming poverty, I found abundant generosity. In the midst of the lifeless desert, I experienced a full alive and intense romance with the Lord through Scripture and prayer at 4:00am in the morning. In the midst of this war-zone and this war-stricken country, I found safety and refuge in the shadow of God’s protection. When my tour of duty was about to end, I had mixed feelings. I was excited that I was coming home for Christmas, but at the same time, I was anxious that my romance with the Lord would come to a close, fearing it would be drowned by the noise and merriment of the Filipino Christmas season.
Then about a year ago, the Lord called us again to the desert; this time, He stripped us of our material resources that we thought would ensure our comfortable retirement. My wife Ludy had retired from the Asian Development Bank with a generous package, while I had become a free-lance international consultant allowing me to earn Euros and US dollars, tax-free. It was at this point of feeling financially secured and self-sufficient when the unexpected happened – we lost all our retirement funds and savings in a business venture of a friend we fully trusted. It was a very painful blow, causing us great anxiety as all the savings for our future was wiped out!
It was in this desert experience that God led us to a ‘Divine Discernment’, allowing us to count the blessings we normally take for granted and conveying to us a strong message that He still needs us in the marketplace, to do development work and advocacy, with the promise that He would supply our needs. As I was winding up my governance project with ADB, I received a part-time, seven-year consulting contract with the Canadian International Development Agency to promote local economic development across the country, and another multi-year contract with the USAID on Growth with Equity Project in Muslim Mindanao. Oh yes, I still have to work for the coming years to recover the loss, but I reckon that the Lord doesn’t want me to create my own comfort zone in His vineyard; He wants me to continue to be a catalyst in the marketplace.
Although I am still a bit of a workaholic, my priorities have put God and family and service in the community in the forefront. And He has taken care of my workload and my professional career so nicely even in the midst of our desert experiences. I have realized that He leads us into the desert so we will be with Him in all solitude, to purify and strengthen us, and learn how to detach ourselves from the glamour and glitter of money and wealth. And in the desert, that is where God gives us the “manna experience”, showing us the spiritual reality that we need to depend on Him for our daily provision, our daily protection and survival in this pilgrim journey. It is there that we come to see life as a series of unfolding miracles, there that we learn how to step out in faith, out of our comfort zone, and totally surrender our lives to God! To God be the Glory!
Initially posted on this website in 2009.