At age 70, Virgilio “Gil” Yuzon has a social network to rival that of an avid Facebook user. This, despite the fact that he doesn’t subscribe to any networking website and, to this writer’s chagrin, could not be Googled easily.
Yuzon’s work and personal undertakings alone could create a kilometric entry on Wikipedia.
Advertising executive for nearly four decades. Founder of the agency now known as Hemisphere-Leo Burnett. Former chair of state-owned TV station NBN4. Honors graduate of Ateneo de Manila University. Bemedalled runner. Tennis, golf, and practical shooting enthusiast. The list could go on.
How then does he manage the low profile? “I’m kind of private,” he answered.
“I’m tech-savvy for my age, but I don’t spend too much time on my laptop because I want to be creating rather than just interfacing with too many people.”
“Looking at God 70 Ways,” a collection of brief personal insights and renderings of and about God, is the latest product of how Yuzon spends his time. It took only two weeks to put together, but the author said it has been in the making for 20 years.
Yuzon has fostered a longtime interest in the spiritual, cosmology (“without the influence of institutional religion”), natural theology and philosophy.
The inspirational tome shows what has resonated strongly with the writer from among the countless books and materials he has pored over. It features quotes from ancient Greek philosophers and major influences in 20th-century philosophy, New Age gurus such as Deepak Chopra, and texts from the Bible and Hinduism.
Just as thought-provoking are Yuzon’s own words, which are interspersed with striking images of nature, people, and the cosmos.
Consider the following:
for the oft-forgotten things
For if we ever forget
that You are,
we may still find Divinity
in a stray wild flower on the hill.”
“The mystery of God is that,
while men attribute to Him
all the qualities of perfection,
He is, by His very nature, simple.
“The Great Lover is forever in love
with every being He brings into existence.
To Him every created thing
“True worship is actually a two-way
conversation with the Divine.
We can start either by glorifying God
in prayer, or by keeping still
so we can hear Him whisper
in our hearts.”
Poetry in his blood
Creative writing runs in Yuzon’s blood, in fact. His father Amado, an orator and prolific writer who became an established poet before World War II, founded United Poets Laureate International.
The organization, which is now managed by Yuzon’s brother who lives in the US, has about 1,000 delegates who meet in a world congress every two years.
During the course of his studies, Yuzon wrote for literary magazines in school and gained membership in the Poetry Society of Great Britain.
Local and foreign publications continued to print his work after he had graduated. Among the most memorable, said Yuzon, was a piece in Filipino which he had written for the 10th death anniversary of his cousin Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino.
In 2001, Yuzon released his first book of poetry, “Glimpses of Love, Life and Beyond.” Considering the poet’s educational and work background—an Economics graduate who ended up in advertising—it was a feat to have been published as much as he has.
It turned out writing is just one among Yuzon’s many interests and hobbies. He is also into sports and daredevilish pursuits, such as martial arts and motorcycling, taking up the latter at age 63. Having a well-rounded personality has also helped him befriend people from all levels of the social spectrum.
Fraternizing with hoodlums
“In school we’re trained to be the complete person, to develop intellectually, physically, and in all other aspects,” he said.
“I don’t want to be just a nerd or athletic. I think people are meant to—when they have the opportunity—develop themselves holistically. I just like to do many things and live life to the full.”
And he has, even if it involved breaking five ribs in a near-fatal accident as he rode his bike to Leyte, or fraternizing with hoodlums in a martial arts dojo at Leveriza in Pasay. After all, his motto is “Carpe diem, quam minimum credulapostero—or, seize the day and trust tomorrow as little as possible.”
These days may no longer be hectic for the retired ad man, but he busies himself with, among other things, the VA Yuzon Foundation, which he and his family established in 1995.
The foundation offers scholarships at any school level to deserving individuals who would otherwise have no access to good education. What makes the scholarships unique is that beneficiaries are asked to “pay it forward,” so to speak.
Each one has to give a commitment to sponsor at least one other scholar when he or she is able to do so. The cycle continues with the new scholars to perpetuate the foundation’s program over time.
“I don’t have a big foundation or sponsors,” Yuzon said. “It’s all from my own income. Sometimes I get funds from projects such as my latest book, which I gave out during my 70th birthday. I told my guests, ‘You can contribute to the foundation if you want, but the book is free.’”
That night, the foundation received a total contribution of P200,000.
“My philosophy now is if somebody needs help and I can help, I won’t turn anybody down as much as possible,” Yuzon said of his philanthropic efforts. Not exactly poetry, but definitely the words of a man divinely inspired.