Ligoys Grand Reunion
Jing Alampay’s sharing on the topic COURAGE & AUDACITY
Dear Fellow Ligoys,
Good morning. Reunions are always happy occasions when family and friends get together – and all the more joyous when the circle is as wide and colorful and irreverent as the brother Ligoys we all saw and heard last night. I am doubly pleased that our reunion is held here in St. Clements where I started my Ligourian journey in 1962 as a 12 year old boy from Antique. Moreover, it was here where I had the great fortune of first meeting Fr. Ramon, a beloved mentor, whose kindness I will always treasure and whose wisdom and holiness we Ligoys obviously failed to follow. I am sure that our collective affection and admiration for Fr. Ramon is really what brought us together here today. So let me start by first saying thank you, Fr. Ramon, for all that you have done and continue to do for us fallen angels.
Quite frankly, I was looking forward to a relaxing and easy weekend with all of you. However, a few weeks ago, I was asked by my cardiologist, who also happens to be the top Ligoy and organizer of this reunion, to give one of the talks for this gathering. Because I was terrified that he might now start charging me next time I see him, or deliberately give me a wrong prescription if I turned him down, I reluctantly agreed to the request of Eugene Ramos to talk about courage and audacity. According to Eugene, these are two leadership qualities essential to success….but in my case, speaking to you today about courage and audacity is a matter of personal survival.
Courage is often defined as doing something one is afraid to do, and the simplest example of this is doing precisely what Eugene asked me – to speak before my fellow dropouts, many of whom I have not met before and a few whom I unfortunately met almost 50 years ago in St. Alphonsus. As for example of audacity- daring to do what seems impossible- this would be to presume that I can say something wise that you don’t already know or say something inspiring to a mixed -or mixed up – group who a long time ago thought, felt, or were persuaded they had the calling to become Redemptorists.
As the oldest Ligoy here among you, confirmed during the roll call last night, one naturally expects to hear the footsteps of time a lot closer and louder – but truly , in the midst of this gathering, what I really hear and sense is how truly blessed I have been to be a Ligoy. In truth, I did not always see it this way. In fact for some years after I left the Novitiate in 1969, for me it was a silent badge of failure. Why? Ever since I was a young boy, the priesthood was held up as the highest state of calling, the noblest life of service every man of purpose ought to aspire for. My conviction grew and was reinforced during the times I served as an altar boy in the missions conducted by the Mill Hill and Redemptorist Fathers in Antique. Thus, being an ex- Redemptorist seminarian- a Ligoy, although this name was not coined then- was a burden I silently carried for some time, and something I wished others did not ask me or talk about.
In some ways, I believe that part of courage and audacity is to confront not only the unknown that lies ahead, but also what we left behind- not only the small victories we have achieved, but specially the fears, the doubts, and even the failures we have kept to ourselves along the way. This is perhaps why- by design or by pure coincidence, our reunion has provided these four talks so that among brothers, in humility and candor, our gathering today can hopefully be liberating and inspiring.
So for the next few minutes, I hope you will allow me to briefly share my journey of exploration and discovery and struggle through the years , during and after leaving the seminary, and the long road that brought me to where I am today. Your kind indulgence could hopefully be rewarded because you might recognize similar incidents of courage and audacity- as well as foolishness and pride- success and failure- all recurring signposts in every man’s life journey. And if by chance you find these mirrored in your own life, this may lead you to understand and agree with me how fitting it is that we celebrate life and friendship- and share a meal or two- as Ligoys. My Liguorian Journey
In 1962, I entered St. Clement’s straight out of elementary in the mission school in San Jose, Antique run by the Assumption sisters. San Jose, the provincial capital, is actually less than 100 kilometers from here, but at that time, St. Clements seemed to me a completely different world. The separation from my family, the newness of sleeping in my own bed, eating and living in the dorm, the availability of electricity and daily shower, having white fathers from Ireland as teachers, playing in covered basketball courts, occasional movies, and mixing daily with about 100 pumped up high school boys, several mestizos, a few delinquent juveniles, and still many others for whom money seemed to ooze so freely. This was the unique setting and at times exciting mix I found myself in for four years, together with a handful of other Redemptorist aspirants.
I was too young then to make sense of all that was around me, but St Clements was my first clear exposure to the contrasting temporal world, where one side had plenty and the other side with hardly any. I, of course, belonged to the latter group. St Clements afforded me a peek into the worldly kind that existed outside the college gates. I truly admire Fr. Ramon for the wise and patient way he guided our Juvenist minority, for assuring us that we belonged in there, for understanding and supporting our needs without making us feel that we were a charity case.
Subconsciously perhaps, my gradual awareness of the contrasting social classes and lifestyles motivated me to excel in both academics and sports as the means to be accepted and recognized. Modesty aside, I was head of my class in all my four years there and I made it to the school varsity team during my junior year. I honestly believe that the high school experience, education, and exposure to many talents and competition we received in St. Clements and in St. Alphonsus slowly prepared us to be men of character, commitment and compassion.
Our transfer from Iloilo to Cebu in 1966 led into a more consistent and predictable world of young men striving to become Redemptorists . Fr Ramon assigned me as Capo, both a challenging and fulfilling job. I guess I did not do a good job in leading or modelling the Alphonsian spirit because no one became inspired enough to pursue the long road to ordination. Instead, we produced characters like Joe Perez, Daryl Beaniza,Rey Javellana, Oscar Aguilar, and Gilbert Saravia. It was only during the last Ligoy reunion in Cebu that I pleasantly learned that the quality of students at SAS actually improved after I left . That said, I think our generation took the most satisfaction in beating San Carlos seminary in basketball during our time.
In 1968, I was invited to join the Novitiate in Lipa. During the months of quiet discernment, I grew troubled by the perceived Redemptorist ideal of a monastic missionary life dedicated solely to saving souls in the midst of enormous poverty and great social injustice in the country. At the end of our novitiate year, with mixed feelings and doubts about my true calling and relevance of the Redemptorist vocation, I ended my Liguorian journey….and unofficially became a Ligoy.
My initial goal was to finish schooling. I decided to study at La Salle in Bacolod a quiet small campus close to home that would allow me some space to clear up questions in my mind and discover how I could be relevant in the new world I was in.. I decided to take up Economics to better understand what drives the world and why there is so much inequity in the distribution of wealth. In my senior year, I ran for president of the Student Council but lost a close contest to the candidate of the growing radical student movement that would soon after force Marcos to declare martial law. Upon graduation in 1972, I won a scholarship at Asian Institute of Management, touted as the Harvard of Asia, and two years later I received my Masters degree, and was ready to step into the world as a professional.
My first job offer out of AIM was surprisingly to tryout for one of the commercial teams that would shortly form Asia’s first professional league or the Philippine Basketball Association. However appealing and exciting it seemed, I felt I was meant for something higher and more significant than basketball and so I responded instead to an ad from Bancom, at that time the top investment bank in the country and who was looking for bright, adventurous, and perhaps foolish young men willing to take a two year assignment in Indonesia. Funnily enough, I got the job because the vice president who interviewed me loved basketball and also believed that good basketball players possessed a dependable heart and a strong mind. When the time came for me to leave for the Indonesian assignment, I was sorely tempted to back out because I had just met a lovely young girl whom I saw as my future wife. But since I had already accepted and committed to this overseas posting, I kept my word and just prayed that two years would go by quickly and that she would wait for me. This decision turned out well because I was given big project responsibilities that I would have never received staying at home. I quickly rose in rank , completed my initial stint, promptly married my girl who just finished college, and signed on for a few more years in Jakarta.
My 8th year in Indonesia without doubt was the most trying time for me . Our parent company in the Philippines suddenly closed down due to earlier poor decisions that left it unable to weather a severe banking crisis that swept the country in 1981. We were asked to return home . However, since I had always wanted to build my own company, I saw this as the right time to attempt it- in a foreign land , at age 30 with 2 young kids, with limited experience and resources, and armed only with the ambition and the optimism of youth. In partnership with some locals and family members, I borrowed half a million dollars from a small Hongkong bank to put up a quarrying operation in an Indonesian island and supply the construction boom in neighboring Singapore. However, a few months into the project and as we were ready to make our first shipments, after having sunk our entire capital into mine development, our site was suddenly declared by the government as part of a protected forest reserve and therefore had to be closed.
It was an unexpected crippling blow for which I had no answer or solution. I was very scared because I had no means to support my family, but I knew I could not show how frightened and helpless I felt. None of our friends in Jakarta even knew the extent of the deep problem I was in as I carried on a seemingly casual life. However, there is a big difference in pretending to be what you are not- and showing up each day in what you have to be. Courage, it is said, is often not heard as a roar but a quiet resolution each morning to get up and try again. I failed badly in this first try as an entrepreneur and I fell back on free lance business consulting and deal making to support the family. My wife willingly shared my burden by learning to bake and sell specialty cakes. Interestingly, her home business flourished and when we finally left Jakarta, a friend offered to take over the business and pay her a small royalty until today.
This painful episode taught me many valuable lessons in life. These are:
- My understanding of courage, fortitude, humility, patience, tenacity, and my capacity to endure
- A deep appreciation and gratitude for the unconditional love and unwavering support of my wife and family.
- The value of acceptance and encouragement of true friends
Above all , I learned firsthand about the Lord’s unfailing love, wisdom, and providence. The clearest example of this was the time when I was at the end of my rope with no means whatsoever to repay our crippling bank loan. I prayed hard daily for God to give me the chance to pay back the bank and keep my reputation. For five long years it seemed that He was not listening, but finally the Lord showed me that His solution was far wiser and loving than I had asked for – the bank failed and closed down, and in the process erased our debt. Much like each time when we return to Him, God always wipes the slate clean. Soon after, I returned full time to corporate life and worked for almost 7 years as business development director in one of the largest Indonesian groups. I enjoyed my new work and the security of good pay that allowed me to buy our first home and raise our 5 children in relative comfort. As my influence with the Filipino community expanded, I helped spearhead the formation of the Alaala Foundation, a non-profit organization of caring Filipinos in Indonesia, which mobilized aid for the Philippines that was then battered by the Pinatubo eruption and several severe quakes and typhoons.
As the two elders of my 5 children started growing into young adults, my wife and I felt strongly that they should discover and acquire their Filipino roots. So in 1996, our family moved back permanently to Manila, despite the uncertainties in finding work at age 45 and being away for over 20 years. However, God always sent my way new opportunities each time the need came and I got a steady business advisory work for European and Indonesian companies to keep me going. Seven years after returning home, we finally moved into our new home as well as into our first real parish community in Christ the King Green Meadows where our entire family were blessed with the opportunity to serve in various parish ministries.
In 2006, I ventured again into entrepreneurship together with my eldest son to participate in the growing Business Process Outsourcing industry. We created a service outsourcing company called Digiscript Philippines, initially providing medical transcription services to US hospitals, and 2D CAD encoding services to foreign architects and engineers. In less than 2 years, the market for our two services suddenly disappeared due to cut throat competition in transcription from India which slashed prices by more than 50%, and the global economic crisis of 2008 which triggered the collapse of new construction activities worldwide. The perilous situation forced us to revise our service and market strategies, and in order to distinguish ourselves from competition, we upgraded our service offerings into 3D visualization, 3D modeling solutions, and high definition laser scanning. I took up new loans to finance the required capex, to stay afloat and keep our staff. We were in the red for three years running before our service niche finally turned in a profit. Today, our company is uniquely positioned and a clear leader in the 3D as built survey and modelling solutions.
So the above is a short recap of my journey of nearly 64 years, shaped by blessings and tested by adversity, but always in the hands of Him who created and started it all . As for the remaining time that may be gifted to me, I do not intend to spend it in retirement but to be led quietly by His grace to wherever it leads. I aim to keep reviewing my priorities to ensure that I walk in the right direction and that I travel light on the way. I now realize that I will not be able to achieve all I set out to do when I was a young dreamer and that I will not be able to change in my lifetime the many ills of the world and our society that tugged at my heart when I was a Liguorian… But this too I know, that in His eyes, it is still alright.. and that this Ligoy , as with all of you, will always be in the palm of the Father who promised in Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Thank you very much.