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The call to a lifestyle of compassion by Pope Benedict XVI–the untold stories

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LAWYER Romy and Mila Macalintal of theMGMFoundation and their scholars after watching “The Sound of Music” at ResortsWorld Manila

DR. CECILIO Kwok Pedro

This Oct. 27 is the 2nd Asian Apostolic Congress on Mercy (AACOM) to be held in Bangkok, Thailand. It is a three-day congress, with the theme: “Mercy: Compassion, a way of life among the people of Asia.”

AACOM’s work is to assert what is essential and reveal the common thread of all religion: to teach us to be compassionate.

Rt. Rev. Msgr. Josefino S.  Ramirez, the continental coordinator of the World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Asia, connects us to the lives of some who have been leading a life centered on compassion.

These people with stories to tell have achieved their true purpose while balancing work and family life. From different walks of life and with various religious orientations, they help others and thus find a higher and most meaningful purpose in their lives.

The word compassion is from the Latin patiri and the Greek pathein, meaning “to suffer, undergo or experience.” So compassion means to endure something with another person or to enter as equals into the pain of others just like Florence Nightingale, Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II. One must be willing “to enter” the chaos of another person, not just adopt an advocacy for one night or donate money.

Hapee-ness

Before meeting the owner of Lamoiyan Corp. (Hapee brand), one assumed he’d be a serious and intimidating businessman. Though he was obviously very busy, I realized later that it was no less than a miracle that he was able to give us a full hour.

A slogan greets the visitors: “Making the difference for the glory of God.”

Recognized by organizations for the culture of compassion he has engendered in his company, Dr. Cecilio Kwok Pedro remains grounded and driven to commit to causes.

He is involved in 18 organizations, even as he runs the family business and is a father. He says, “It’s really up to you to line up your priorities… I divide my life into stages and at this stage, giving back is the priority.”

He shares that the secret to his ability to handle so much, so efficiently is to: “Hire good people on your team so you have the time to do work outside to help others.”

He credits his grandmother (after whom the Lamoiyan Corp. is named) for introducing the family into the Christian life. He grew up witnessing and practicing acts of charity as his mother, a nurse, attended to the neighbors.

To his education at Ateneo, he attributes the value of being a man for others. A member of the United Evangelist Church of the Philippines, he remembers his calling came one day when he heard a mission worker speak about receiving the miracle of having his hearing restored.

He channeled his desire to help by focusing on the deaf and mute population. Only 10 percent of them receive formal education in the Philippines. Establishing the Deaf Evangelistic Alliance Foundation, they have given opportunities to those with disabilities to get an education, be trained and become teachers themselves.

In his company, Dr. Pedro hires workers who are deaf and mute. Employees are encouraged to learn and practice their sign language skills and attend regular bible study groups for spiritual formation. He credits the strength and longevity of his company to their strong commitment to put faith at the heart of the company.

“If you put your money in the wrong places, you may be poor tomorrow, but if you invest your money in people and in the Kingdom, blessings come back in so many ways,” he says.

He recalls how the company managed to stay afloat despite the economic meltdowns in 1997 and 2008. “People have said we won’t be able to compete with other giant companies but we’re still here… I’d like to think it’s because He is looking out for us and affirms our purpose.”

At a time where the notion of advocacy is simply a requirement in the workplace and opportunities come in one-day events, he challenges companies to take it a step higher and truly make the workplace operate and be centered on compassion.

It is going beyond profit-driven principles and prioritizing caring for the environment, the government and the people.

“I challenge more businessmen to allocate their time and prioritize achieving social responsibility.

“You can’t take your material wealth when you die…but if you aim to be Christlike and prioritize making a difference in someone’s life and you see someone’s sadness turn into a smile, that’s something money cannot buy.”

 

‘Tinimbang…’

 

For the family of lawyer Romy and Mila Macalintal, doing charitable acts has been a tradition.

It was during one of their children’s birthday parties in the ‘90s that they observed that majority of the children in the depressed areas were undernourished and did not reach the desired weight. They were then inspired to create a 90-day feeding program titled “Tinimbang Ka, Ngunit Kulang.”

Its goal was to educate families about health and nutrition, to achieve the healthy weight of those children.

After the success of the feeding program, the call to do more became greater. It was then that they inquired in their parish how they could start a financial assistance program to help underprivileged kids who want to attend school.

Mila’s aim was to find 12 children from grade school to high school, who belong to the poorest communities. She wanted to defray their everyday costs of going to school and their food allowance.

More important than the financial help, the program aimed to forge a partnership between the parish and the funding program.

The vision is to impart spiritual sustenance through Basic Catholic Catechism given both the scholar and the parents. This was to instill moral and spiritual values in both the family and the scholar.

In 2000, The Parish Educational Assistance Program (PEAP) was formed—a team effort of the parish committee and the Mission Guided by Mary Foundation (MGM).

The Macalintal family established the MGM Foundation to monitor and meet the financial needs of scholars. Steadily, the number of scholars grew, from 12 to 70, each year expanding the reach of the financial and spiritual blessing to deserving students in the country.

This year, the PEAP and MGM Foundation support 560 students and aims to sponsor 1,000 students in two years.

“It is a seed. It should grow. We should be stewards and whatever we have—we must share,” Mrs. Macalintal says.

The next dream is to schedule a visit with the bishops to get them involved and to encourage parishes to launch this program as a proactive way to beat the effects of poverty.

“Poverty can be addicting. Some people do not like to change,” Mrs. Macalintal says. “But with education, you are more informed and your knowledge cannot be taken away from you…you will then know how and have the courage to fight.”

They calculate that upon their retirement, their savings could sustain the operation of the MGM Foundation for 10 years. Their budget covers five children. Running the operation is Mrs. Macalintal’s full-time job—it is not easy to sustain a P3-million-a-year operating cost.

She credits her husband’s radio program, “The Law of the Heart is Love” (DWBR 104.3, Saturdays, 8-9 p.m.), as a vehicle to reach many who want a cause to support.

She says: “Some people are just waiting for the right program to support… There’s goodness in every heart. It’s just a matter of inspiring it.”


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    The spirituality of every Filipino must be fully activated.  With the grace of God, nothing is impossible, and facts like the ones described in this article prove it.  The will to do service for others, so that they can develop as full human beings, grounded in compassion and mercy, buoyed by the goodness of God, the capacity of the human spirit to soar above selfishness, lack of discipline and abstinence and temperance, indeed the practice of truly human virtues like prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, are really within reach and achievable. 

    In a country gone mad and agog with artificial contraception, drug use and failure to appreciate the basic value of human life, we turn to lawlessness, recklessness, and impatience, losing eternal perspectives that would define our earthly existence.  The examples cited here all go to prove that in everyman, no matter how small the spark, the capacity to become a “light of the earth” would enable us, as candles in the dark, for others in emptinesss and pain.  The human spirit is stronger than the problems around us and we could conquer fatalism, greed, despair, pride and the lethargy to do good and what is right.  Of course, we must be vigilant; for, the seeds of corruption may choke us so that our efforts initially done with sincerity, may lead us to materialism, false sense of freedom and liberty without moral responsibility, and to forget the source of our life and strength. 

    The example of the martyrs who have followed Christ to the way of the cross and death, like St. Pedro Calungsod, should also inspire us. As St. Paul, expressing the sentiments of those who have found “the way” exclaimed: ”I live now, not I, but Christ who lives in me.”



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