Friday, July 29, 2011

Cheers for SFU Alumni: World-class Pinoys

Harvesting gold and silver.

That's what some Southville Foreign University alumni have been up to recently as more and more of our graduates choose to finish their final college year in Southville's prestigious partner universities' campuses overseas.

Congratulations to two of my former Marketing students Jean Marie Baldado and Denesse Cajulis, and twin brothers (the cutest twin of all!) Jonas and Julius Mangahas---all 2010 SFU graduates who won top honors in three UK universities.

Jean Marie, graduating with a BS Business Management degree, romped off as Summa Cum Laude at Oxford Brookes University.

Denesse also finished Summa Cum Laude, BS Business Marketing, at London Metropolitan University.

Jonas and Julius share Magna Cum Laude honors from the University of Bedfordshire. Jonas took up BS Information Systems while Julius finished BS Computer Science.

What could have been the key to these four students' outstanding performance in such a competitive world-class environment?

Let me share with you some of my thoughts.

Impressed. That's my reaction when I first met Jean during the school's College Preparatory Program, a two-week long skills-honing course for SFU's incoming first year students before they wade waist-deep into college life.

She exuded confidence, spoke good English. I was floored when she shared that her dream was to help her family get out of poverty. So young yet so dead-set serious!

Yes, Jean came to SFU as a scholar. As she and I got acquainted in the coming months (she was never in my Marketing class but I asked her to join the Marketing team which competed in the Philippine Marketing Association's [PMA] Strategic Marketing derby), she would from time to time ask for mentoring, on school and some personal concerns.

She felt people misunderstood her. But the bottom-line was that she needed to focus and not be sidelined by things that would hamper her desire---and her timetable---to help her mother and siblings. (Jean's father died when she was very young.) She surprised us even more when we learned that her last year in college would be spent in London---under a scholarship!

Denesse, the fashionista! Under this facade of glamor and love for frilly things is a young lady with heaps of common sense and maturity. She worked relentlessly to get Merit and Distinction descriptors. She often checked with her teachers to make sure she always made the grade.

Denesse's strength, I believe, is her ability to relate well with others. A people-person surely has insight and empathy hard-wired into her psyche.

Jonas and Julius have never been in any of my classes, but I know their parents and their family as a whole. We attend the same church, Citygate Christian Ministries. Bojie and Rose have brought up their kids in the fear and instruction and the excellence of the Lord. So I am not surprised.

Rose has successfully grown her once-playschool to an outstanding Christian educational institution called Creative Middle School; and Bojie is a successful entrepreneur. Their material success nothwithstanding, Rose and Bodjie have remained humble and shown themselves faithful in their church service.

Southville Foreign University must truly be proud of its outstanding alumni. And there are many more of them---young people who, having come fresh from high school, soon discover that they have to swim in a sea of essays, assignments, research work and workshop sessions.

"I did not expect this," some would say, horrified that they are soon struggling through endless reading, paperwork and sleepless nights because of their Edexcel assignments.

"Thank you, SFU!" someone said on Facebook recently. She soon realized that her SFU curriculum gave her the discipline, focus and the ability to think for herself so much so that other pursuits after that become peanuts.

Jean Marie, Denesse, Jonas and Julius. They're the proof of the pudding. Yum!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Right There!

I frantically searched for my reading glasses.

Hmm, not there on the dinner table. Neither on the ref top, nor the piano top, nor the computer table, nor the phone table---places where I would normally park them.

Neither was the pair inside the toilet where it would usually be stacked with my books and magazines.

Cora, our trusted kasambahay, naturally joined the search.

"It's right there!" she exclaimed when we bumped into each other after we frantically became a search crew of two. We blurted out laughing.

It was not on my head, silly. (I knew you'd think that.)

The spectacles were right there hanging on my shirt---under my very nose!

How could I even survive the day without my trusty reading glasses, especially when most of what I do involves reading or writing.

I heard it said that when you reach 40---and I'm almost two decades over that---your arms would be longer. I went through that "youth-where-art-thou?" period of denial. I stretched and stretched and stretched some more till the arm had no more room to stretch. So to reading glasses I succumbed. And it had been pure dependency from then on.

This morning, I chanced upon my favorite bible teacher Charles Stanley on TV. He was explaining one of the photos he shot---a magnificent-looking cave.

"It was pitch-black when we arrived," he said. "You couldn't even see your hand up close."
So his companion said it best to leave. But Dr. Stanley insisted on staying.

"The most incredible thing happened," he added. As soon as the sun shone through the holes and cracks, that cave was bathed in the most beautiful colors and shades and shapes. The light revealed the splendor of the place.

He concluded his message by saying that once the light of God comes in, our eyes are opened. Then we see the solution or the answer or whatever it is we're looking for.

And just like my reading glasses---right under my very nose, I know that whatever it is you're looking for is right there.

Or you probably just need to open your eyes and realize it had been there all along. That cave and its magnificence had been there for ages. But it takes light to see its awesomeness.

That's what the Word of God assures us. He remains the same. He continues to provide: Wisdom in confusion. Peace during turmoil. Assurance in spite of crisis. Life even in death. Freedom from bondage. Wholeness in brokenness. His mighty powerful hand not letting you go even when you feel like you're falling.

If, and it's a big if---IF we turn to Him TO BE OUR SOLUTION. Jesus is the Answer.

No wonder He said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Jesus wants us to be totally dependent on Him, and not just in desperate times.

Everything that we seek is in Him. I may stretch my arm till it hurts, but unless I seek His wisdom and obey Him, I will just continue to hurt and injure myself, and not enjoy the wonderful life He promised to give me.

"In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:4-5)

It's funny how we often are in denial---in denial of the presence and active role God wants to play in our lives. He can open our eyes to see, and realize that what we're looking for is just under our very nose.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Stuff of Life

Death is a topic we'd rather not talk about.

Well, because it's a sad subject, much like disease. But these two Ds are the stuff of life. Too!

Babies are born, thus starting the long or short journey to their death---birth and death being the bookends to an existence peppered with either sadness or gladness, triumphs or victories, winning or failing, laughter or crying, sitting or standing, learning or unlearning, crouching or jumping, haughtiness or humbling, falling or rising. The story of our lives.

So we are in-betweeners, you and I.

Now that we're still burping or farting and pooing or peeing and eating or drinking whatever we desire, means that our taste buds are still rosy and our tummies still processing all the stuff we plunk in there.

Thank God we're alive and healthy. For now.

But as I write, four of my close relations are either in the hospital or receiving treatment for cancer, the complications of diabetes and advanced Parkinson's disease.

And it's been painful. For the patients who suffer through caches of medicines---most of them with serious side effects, failing organs, and life-support systems which are not even a guarantee they will get better. For their immediate families who wait in either hopeful desperation or desperate hopefulness. And for their pocketbooks which have been raked so deep there's almost nothing left to spare for the coming days.

It's in these experiences where I've seen stick-to-it-iveness and sacrificial love and caring at their very best---all possible treatments and solutions exhausted by their families to extend their loved ones' lives.

And the prayers? They've never ceased either.

The bible says that prayer offered in faith He will surely answer.

Matthew 9:22---"Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you," Jesus assured the woman who because of desperation bravely sought Him and managed to just touch His cloak. She was instantly healed! And she had been hemorrhaging for 12 long years.

So why has the healing, or even the glimmer of it, not come? Has God turned a deaf ear? Didn't He say, "Believe!" and it will be done to us according to our faith?

But here's the other side of the coin: God is sovereign. His ways are higher than our ways.

Part of our prayer should also be: "Lord you know us, you created us and because you know us more than we know ourselves, let your will be done."

Because the other miracle is this: In Him, we have eternal life! In Jesus no one loses.

Life surrendered to Him means spending eternity with Him. That's why the apostle Paul confidently exclaimed, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!"

I believe in Jesus. He listens to our prayers. He can heal our loved ones in the same way that He healed so many when He was on earth. He sits today at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

But see, His answer is not always what we want to hear. But it is for our best. He sees the bigger picture. That's why we can trust that His answer is always for our good.

In this life we have tribulations, He said. But take heart, Jesus has overcome the world.

He endured the cross for us. He died to give us life abundant. But He rose again to welcome us to where He is now. We are just passing through and our destination is Him! A glorious place where there's no pain or suffering or tears!

Oh, that we would be comforted by that even as we believe Jesus for His miracle for our loved ones.