Serendipity, I believe, is always God’s way of showing the world His assurance. All we really need to do is discern, accept and wait for everything to come into fruition in His time. Of course, that is always easier said than done.
Two events this week made this clear to me. Many times I’ve balked at certain points in my journey, wondering why I need to face challenges and difficulties, only to find out that whenever an assignment is given, God provides not only for the present need but for the future ones, as well.
Take the case of writer and book author Raul Rodrigo, who passed away after a massive heart attack early this week at the young age of 46. His loss caught everyone by surprise—colleagues, classmates, but more importantly his wife Nancy and his two daughters, Isa, 17, who is graduating from high school; and Pia, 13, who’s graduating from elementary school.
Raul and another writer/editor, An Mercado-Alcantara, met as students at the Ateneo more than 25 years ago. Raul was the best friend of An’s boyfriend at that time. Though the relationship ended, Raul and An’s friendship did not. And what ensued was a productive 25-year partnership that spawned 12 books, seven of them about the Lopez family. It was An who had introduced Raul to the late Eugenio Lopez Jr.
In her eulogy the other night, An said, “…For most of what would eventually be 25 years that we worked together, I was Raul’s frontliner. Because he was shy, I would face people for him—ask the questions he wanted asked, negotiate for him, or just speak for him. Of course, in the later years, he learned to do all these by himself, but that’s a different story.”
Eventually, Raul would meet Oscar, Eugenio’s younger brother, who was called the “family historian.” Raul and Oscar hit it off very well, and An quoted Toni Morrison in describing the relationship between the two men—“There is a certain kind of peace that is not merely the absence of war. It is larger than that. The peace I am thinking of is not at the mercy of history’s rule, nor is it a passive surrender to the status quo. The peace I am thinking of is the dance of an open mind when it engages another equally open one…I couldn’t follow the discussion most of the time but I could see the joy of the dance.”
Raul, An said, felt like he was Oscar Lopez’s son, and that the elder Lopez was his soul father. He was very loyal to the family and An says he finished the manuscript of the last book he wrote about the Lopezes a week before his sudden death. “He did not want to let Mr. Lopez down.”
Last night at the wake, Raul’s “soul father” did not let him down, either. Raul’s daughters were graciously provided with college scholarships to the Ateneo by the Lopez family.
In another part of the city, Saturday, I met with a very bright and precocious little girl named Bronte. Bronte, her mother and father have been living in Manila, at the Mandarin Oriental, since November last year, arriving shortly before Sendong struck CDO and Iligan. Bronte’s father is the location manager for “The Bourne Legacy.”
When the tragedy struck, Bronte and her mother Megan, a children’s book author, were so moved and distressed by what had happened and wanted to do something for the children, but they did not exactly know what and how to go about helping.
A few weeks ago, while having coffee at Starbucks, Bronte’s dad found a flyer for the Thousand Bearhugs project that I, with the Black Pencil Project, had joined hands on. He brought home the flyer, gave it to Bronte, and from it, Bronte created a three-minute video on Youtube called “Bronte and Frank’s (her seven-and-a-half-year-old teddy bear) Typhoon Toy Drive” that, as of this writing, has generated 2,000 plushies from various parts of the US. View the video to better appreciate Bronte’s appeal for the children of CDO and Iligan. It’s a video she made herself.
Mandarin Oriental has run a toy drive among the hotel employees and provided the space to house the bears and other stuffed toys as they arrive. Bronte and her mother are overwhelmed by the response to Bronte’s video. Her elementary school in Beverly Hills alone has been able to gather more than 300 stuffed toys in a week. “We have bears coming from all over!” Bronte tells me.
She’s a well-traveled child, as her father’s job has taken her to exotic places such as Moscow, Budapest, Cappadocia, Milan, London, Paris.
Bubbly and bright, she reminded me of “Eloise,” who happens to be her favorite book character.
Megan and Bronte are looking at collecting 3,000 bears from all over the world. That’s thousands of bear hugs for the children of CDO and Iligan later this month.
Locally, our own Thousand Bearhugs project was able to pool 2,500 bears and plushies to be brought to CDO and Iligan on or around Valentine’s Day. We are finalizing the bears’ transport to their new owners.
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much to everyone who made this project an awesome success—it has gone far beyond what we expected.