Tuesdays with Alran

Dr. Alran Bengzon was the most unlikely appointee to be Dean of a Business School. He is a Doctor of Medicine, a neurologists at that. He just finished his stint as Secretary of Health but has never really been an educator nor a businessman. There were those in the main university who had their druthers, not only about the man but also about the institution itself. And it turned out he was cut out for such problematic situations. He built on what was perceived as the weakness of the school and transformed it into the leading business school in the country, moving the campus from a cramped location in the heart of the Makati Business District into a spanking and modern new site and facilities at the elite, original Rockwell Business Center.

We were, I am not ashamed to declare it, his minions. Every Tuesday afternoon, he would hold court at the Board room and paint for us his dreams and vision for the Business School. It would always be a heady flight of fancy, full of what seemed to be impossible dreams, with hardly any resources but our guts and grit, driven blind by the mesmerizing vision before us. And by golly, we did it! We accomplished what he said we sould do and could do. We achieved what to others were  but quixotic dreams. We built a world-class business school for workplace-based and experienced-driven adult students run, managed, and operated by hard-nosed and battle-hardened veterans from the trenches.

Those were exhilarating days; and like all good things, they had to come to an end. I left to pursue my own dreams; but I never really lost touch with the team. We would meet every now and then. But for many years, I did not see the good doctor. I heard of the challenges he had had to face in recent times; but never really got around to talking to him. Till yesterday. One of the minions, the main one, organized a get-together. And it was like Tuesdays again with Alran, although it was a Thursday.

I am happy that the man still has his dreams. He is still driven by his values and principles. There is still a passion burning within him in spite of what he has been through. And it seemed to me, he is a much stronger person, a more beautiful soul and much fuller human being than I last remember of him. He still speaks with sapientia et eloquentia. We were hanging on to every word he said, we hardly noticed the passing of time until it was time for the fancy restaurant we were in to close.

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Being Transformed by Faith


God created us in his image and likeness.
There is often the danger and temptation of creating God in my own image and likeness, of wanting to lead a life according to my own script.
And just when I think I know God or when my life is going as I believe it should, something happens to shake me out of my delusion that I am in control.
During such times, my faith gets shaken and I have my doubts.
I am back to realizing that God is in control.
One thing I have been learning these days is that a faith untested is a weak faith.
Like muscles, if one does not use his faith , one is likely to lose it.
If one does not ‘use’ his soul or spirit, one loses it.
I do not pray for God to take away pain and suffering in my life.
I should welcome the heartaches I go through.
Most of them are minor, some major;
some are self-inflicted, others are burdens I have to carry for other;
some are physical, others are emotional and still others are spiritual.
I pray instead for the grace of the courage to face them,
strength to bear them and the perseverance in my faith
that God is continuing work of creation in me,
fashioning me in His image and likeness
by transforming me into someone better
as a blacksmith forges iron through fire
and hammer to transform it into steel.

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My Childish Faith


Christ often held up children as examples of true and trusting faith.
Today, he bemoans the people of his times as having a childish faith.They are like children: “To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace . . . . ,
given to whining, complaining, and tantrums,
very self-centered and totally engrossed in the feelings of the moment,
behaving according to their impulses and believing whatever they wanted to believe:

John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

My faith is also very often childish and infantile.
I want God to adjust to my will and whims,
rather than I seeking and doing His will.
I would recreate God into my image and likeness
and the universe to unfold according to my wishes and desires.

Instead, I should be fill with humility and gratitude
for the gift of life I have freely received,
seeking and following God’s will and plan for me
in the unfolding of the universe, of my life.

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From Nature, Into My Heart




I am always amazed whenever I looked up at the skies.
I am at a loss for words when I stare out at the heavens on a clear night
and see all those billions of stars and the occasional meteor streaking across the sky.
I am simply awed when I stand before a grand and majestic scene of nature,
be it the wide expanse of the open seas,
the grand vista of the mountains,
the soothing calm of a colorful sunset,
or the wild explosion of colors in a spring meadow.
Sure, I don’t need to be a believer to see and appreciate all that beauty and grandeur.
But my faith does give me a deeper appreciation of it all.
Knowing who created all that beauty and grandeur
and knowing why he did it fills my heart
with deep feelings of gratitude, wonder, humility, hope, joy and love
for myself, for the world and for all the others I share this world with.

There is a lot of beauty and order in my life and in the world
for me to be happy and thankful for:
in nature, in my relationships with friends and family,
in the efforts of people and nations to become better.
But this beauty and order is often blemished by imperfections, failures and disasters such as brought about by human frailty, selfishness, greed, fear, anger and hate.
During such times, I wonder if there is any future for us men.
We seem to be doomed to fail.
I remembered always being challenged to think out of the box
when faced with challenged and difficulties
I can see now that the Christian message is about thinking
(as well as believing and doing) outside of the box.
Christ did not do away pain and suffering.
He showed us that the failures and imperfections in our lives are necessary ingredients to out journey towards salvation and perfection.

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Tatang was of peasant stock and he worked in the fields in his youth.
It was a long journey for him from the fields of Dau to the bungalow in Marisol.
And it has also been a long and rather circuitous journey for me from Angeles to Quezon. Looking back at both my life and Tatang,
I am filled with gratitude and humility for the wonderful adventure our lives have been, full of many unexpected turns, some of them very difficult.
But still in all, I am full of joy and happiness at the unbelievable events in our lives
and the wonderful people we have shared these with.
I love my family and friends with whom I have lived through these moments.
If the past is any indication, the future will be even brighter and more awesome.
The best is yet to come, usually reserved for last.
But this has not come about easy.
Being good is a constant struggle.
It is not easy being good.
It takes some doing. Doing what is good.
The struggle, effort and difficulty is the fare we pay for a happy and fruitful journey
and service to others is the rent we pay for our stay on earth.

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Feeling Like the Dutiful Son, Behaving Like the Prodigal One


I have lost count of the many time I have heard or read the story of the prodigal son. And I must admit there are quite a number of times, I end up feeling like the dutiful son. I would fault the father for fawning over the prodigal son. Like the dutiful son, I feel offended that the prodigal son is treated so royally by the father. At the very least, there should have been some punishment or “making up” on the part of the scoundrel son.

In my own life, I have behaved both like the dutiful son and the prodigal son. As the dutiful son, I do feel the feelings of unfairness from the father. As a prodigal son, I want the tender mercies of the father. And to be honest, I have behaved more often like the prodigal rather than the dutiful son. And I know I deserve justice more than mercy from the father.

A good friend sent me this reminder this morning: “God has already taken into account the wrong turns, the mistakes in your life. Quit beating yourself up and accept His tender mercy.” And if I look back, it has indeed been the story of my life. I live more out of the love and mercy of God, rather than from his justice and justification. For if indeed God meted out what is truly die to us, who would survive?

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The Cross


There can be no salvation with the cross.
There can be no resurrection without the crucifixion.
Christianity without the cross in not Christianity.

Yet, there are many who would take the cross out of Christianity,
preaching a blatant and selfish gospel of prosperity.
Pain and suffering have always been part and parcel of the human lot.
Man teachers have taught people how to avoid or do away with these twin demons.
Christ alone taught us to embrace and accept them as the portals to a new life.
Pain and suffering are our birth pangs to a new life – our rebirth into eternity.

In the evening of my life, I become more aware of the crosses in my life.
When I was younger, I thought I had learned how to deal with the crosses in my life.
And I did my best to also help others carry their crosses.
Now, in my old age, I would not want to be a cross to others.
But there are times, I get afraid and anxious of the crosses that are to come.
I am afraid, I will falter in the last stages and give up.
I am anxious that I will burden others, specially my loved ones, with my crosses,
which may seem petty to them.

I cling to my faith and Christ’s promise and guarantee that
in the cross, is my life and salvation.

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