IN A RECENT nationwide study by a major corporation, one of the key findings is how the family remains one of the most valued institutions in Philippine society. For the parents, their most important goal and inspiration for working hard is to send their children to school.
The children reciprocate with the desire to get jobs and care for their parents—out of gratitude for their sacrifices.
Weeks after, I came across a statement from Rogier van den Brink, World Bank Lead Economist for East Asia and the Pacific, that with the growth rate of the Philippines the past years and with key socioeconomic government programs in place, the country can eliminate poverty within one generation.
After this, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was held in Manila and many businessmen and economists were one in saying that our long-term growth and development is very much hinged on the education of our youth—relevant education leading to jobs, thus, education for the poor.
In our work with public schools, where over 90 percent of the country’s school-age children are enrolled, one of our battle cries is, paraphrasing an African Proverb: “It takes a community to educate and form its youth.”
Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, I invite you to rally behind the Filipino family, especially in providing the means to fulfill one of its deepest hopes and dreams—the opportunity for its young members to have a good education that will help them get good jobs.
The Gospel for today’s feast is the Finding in the Temple. As the narrative goes, the young Christ is separated from his parents and, after an anxious search, Christ asks: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Then we learn that “his mother kept all these things in her heart” and Christ went back home with his parents where he grew in age and wisdom.
This part of the narrative tells us one important role of the family: to love its children, the youth, into excellence.
Two points for reflection: What is love? What is excellence?
The love of family lies in providing a home for its members, especially the young, where they can grow “in age and wisdom.” It is providing all the support for their advancing in years and at the same time be formed in wisdom, values and principles and an awareness of the realities of one’s life and person.
Love is also letting them go at a certain age—the age of realization that there is a world outside of family and home; the age of understanding that one’s life is more than what is familiar.
Excellence is obedience to God’s will. Excellence, in the life journey of Christ, is loving obedience to his Father’s will, loving fidelity to his
Excellence is living a life of meaning and mission. In the end, we ask: What is meaningful? What is mission?
One young man taught me this over 20 years ago: To excel in this world, to be the best, is to do whatever makes one a more loving person.
This is what families are all about. This is what gives the Filipino family its strength and inspiration. Parents will sacrifice and give everything to give their children a good education. Children will strive, work hard, hope for good jobs so they can take care of their parents, repay them for their love.
As Ignatius of Loyola put it, “returning love for love.”
This is the great gift and grace of the Filipino family—it makes its members more loving persons.
Where there is love, there is God—the God-with-us, the Emmanuel.