I recently came across the story of Sabsy Ongkiko, a graduate of the Ateneo University, who gave up better job offers to become a public school teacher. Hers is a very inspiring story. And the heartening thing about her story is that it is not an isolated nor one of a kind incident. I read a lot of stories these days about young Filipinos devoting their lives and careers in the service of others, specially the poor, the dispossessed and the marginalized. I think of our own Macky and Lani who have decided to stay and practice medicine in the Philippines even though they have the easy option of going and practicing abroad.
I have been blessed to have spent most of my life knowing and working with many such people who take their faith seriously, devoting time, talent and treasure to love and serve others. I have been blessed with a successful career I never dreamed of nor imagined. But in all those years, I walked some corridors of power and dealt with some very important people; I was always nagged by the feeling that I did not belong there. I felt more at home in simple and austere surroundings. And I was always driven by the desire to serve and do good for others. There are times I have felt good for the good I have done. There are also times I felt I could have done better or could have given just a little bit more.
Oh, the blandishments of wealth, power and fame are very seductive. And I would be lying if I said I did not enjoy them nor miss them now. But I know in my heart of hearts that these are not the answers to the questions that keep burning in people’s souls. God did not need wealth, power nor fame to create the world. Jesus repeatedly eschewed these during his time on earth. Instead, he hanged out with the poor, the sick, the sinners and those who had no wealth, no power, no fame. He knew how to deal with those who had wealth, power and fame. But he was never in the pocket of any one of them, even when it meant saving his skin.
The Philippines is at the threshold of a new era in her history. While trying to build a better nation for our people, I pray that it will not only be wealth, power and fame that will drive this effort; but more importantly – love, service and caring for others.
After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:27-32