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Thursday, March 21, 2019

XAVIER SCHOOL GRADUATION SPEECH 2019


XAVIER SCHOOL GRADE SCHOOL GRADUATION CEREMONIES
San Juan, Metro Manila
March 20, 2019
Grade School Sports Center
By: Chris Tiu (XS Batch 2003)

Fr. Aristotle Dy, Mrs. Jane Cacacho, Mrs. Flora Ann Alfonso, Ms. Joanne Pusta, families, faculty and staff, a shout out to my former teachers and last but definitely not the least, to our dearest graduates, good morning to you all!
Firstly, a big congratulations to our graduates! Thank you for having me this morning. What an honor and privilege it is to be speaking to you. I must admit, I have been to a few of these gatherings before, but it is always special coming home to my alma matter, Xavier School.  Being part of the “outside world” as you would call it, I have really developed a great appreciation of being a Xaverian. As students, we sometimes take for granted the privilege it is to be a part of the Xavier community. Many outsiders aspire to have the level of education, esteemed faculty, religious formation, and unique brotherhood that we have as Xaverians. I for a fact know that it is some of my friends’ dream to send their boys to Xavier School, because of the camaraderie they see amongst us. So always remember that each of you are ambassadors of this esteemed institution, and that your actions reflect not just yourselves, but on our community as a whole.
GO OUT AND EXPLORE!
Since you are graduating from grade school, it’s customary for me to offer some form of wisdom or advice. I was told I only have 8 minutes, so let me get right into it. The first thing I would advise is to explore! Try out new things even if it means going out of your comfort zones, even if it scares you a bit.
When I was in Grade 3, I loved playing basketball with my friends during recess and lunch breaks. Every time the bell sounded, we would literally sprint through the corridors and down the stairs just to be able to reserve a basketball court in the quadrangle. The coach of the SBP team, Mr. Ronnie Mutuc, saw me play and asked if I wanted to try-out for the school team. I said I’d ask my moms permission. So I asked my mom and she said NO, since she didn’t want my grades to be compromised. Truth be told, I was kinda relieved because I also didn’t want to go through the try-outs since those things really make me nervous. So I told that to Coach Mutuc. The next thing I knew, the Prefect of Discipline was calling my house, wanting to speak to my mom. Gosh, I was so worried. Later on I learned that the Prefect of Discipline, who also happened to be Mr. Mutuc called the house to convince my mom to allow me to try-out for the school team. With his persistence, and since there are no guarantees anyway, my mom finally agreed. Sure enough, I did make the team. But I spent most of my time warming the bench and only got a few minutes of playing time, just because the rule was that each player had to play. And today, the rest of that story is history.
So a word to both you and your parents, take chances and opportunities – whether it be in the arts, music, community service, or sports – you never know where you might be good at, or better yet, you never know where you will find your purpose in life.
THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS TO SUCCESS
Secondly, I’d like to tell you that there are no shortcuts to success. You must learn to endure the difficult road. Modern technology certainly makes life easier and more convenient. We get used to this. And many times, we parents tend to overly protect our kids, without us even realizing it.
In my first few years in college playing for the Ateneo Blue Eagles, I was again sitting on the bench most of the time. I was frustrated as I was training so hard every single day, making so many sacrifices and yet I would hardly set foot on the court. Finally I was given a chance to play in an Ateneo vs La Salle match in the UAAP, a game every player dreamed of playing. And to my horror, I embarrassed myself on national television by missing a crucial wide open layup which caused us the game. I became known as the “choker”. I wanted to hibernate, and it only reinforced my feeling of quitting basketball altogether. I took a year off, and with the encouragement of my coaches, family and friends, I decided to dig deep and give it another shot. And I’m glad I did.
That experience humbled me. It made me a stronger person and I gained wisdom from it. But more importantly, it made me more courageous. I became unafraid to face pressure-packed situations where stakes are high. Imagine if I took the short-cut and quit, maybe I wouldn’t be standing in front of you guys today.
Media often champions these 20 or 30-something year old tech billionaires, overnight Youtube stars with millions of followers, young athletes with huge contracts, and the like, and make it seem that there are fast and easy routes to becoming accomplished.  But let’s not forget that to get where we want to go, it requires a lot of patience, perseverance and sacrifice.
FOLLOW JESUS AND PUT GOD IN THE CENTER OF YOUR LIVES
My last advise or reminder for you guys is to always put God in the center of your lives and try your best to be like Jesus, kind and forgiving but also holding on to your values in this modern world.
I am not sure if you are aware of the name Fr. Jean Desautels. He is a French-Canadian Jesuit who was expelled from Communist China and came to the Philippines instead to put up a Catholic Chinese-Filipino school. Fr. Desautels founded Xavier school in 1955. I was fortunate to have spent some time with him just a few days before he passed away in 2002. I was a senior HS student then. I still vividly remember what he said: “Grow up, but don’t grow old”. It took me a while to figure it out. What he meant was that we should grow up to become good men. But still remain like a child, completely dependent on and trusting in God our Father, just like a child relies on his parents.
I’m sure most of you know me not as a basketball player, a tv host or a businessman, but rather as that guy in the classroom in the anti-bullying poster. The truth is, I agreed to be the face of the anti-bullying campaign because I was once bullied. I know what it feels like to be cornered, isolated and down. For one, it taught me to stand up and defend myself. But it also taught me a valuable lesson – that I never wanted to be a bully, and that it takes much more of a man to be kind to others, whether it be our classmates, teachers, school and household staff or family members.  Bullies may feel powerful and mighty, but this kind of power is fleeting and meaningless. Just like in the outside world, success is often measured by the size of your bank account, the number of followers you have on social media, or being recognized by others. But the true measure of success is doing the ordinary things with a lot of love, with integrity, seeking excellence, and in service of others. I think it is timely that yesterday was the feast day of Saint Joseph – a very ordinary man who dedicated his life to serving and protecting Jesus and Mary. Without him, we would not have the Catholic Church. THAT is MAGIS.
I consider these really, the most important things to remember, as you enter a new phase in your lives. Go explore to find your purpose, put in a lot of love and hard work into it, and don’t forget to offer it all up to God. He will make our ordinary lives extraordinary. Take it from me, that when we are guided by Him, our lives will be filled with so much meaning.
Once again, congratulations to all the graduates and your families who have been with you throughout this journey. Good luck and Luceat Lux!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Memoir of a Retiring Basketball Wife

Allow me to share the sweetest letter I've received in my life that moved me to tears. Happy Valentine's Day everyone :)


Memoir of a Retiring Basketball Wife
an [open] letter to my husband 
By Clarisse Tiu
November 3, 2018
As I look through the clips of messages from past coaches and teammates, videos of game winning shots, pictures of wonderful memories made, I’m suddenly getting cold feet. Many times we scoffed at Christmas day games and grueling practices taking precedence over family events. But in this moment, I asked myself, “Is this the right time to retire? Will you have regrets, leaving at the top of your game? Are we ready for this career change, financially? Emotionally?” I was afraid for you to stay but anxious to leave at the same time. 
I look back on the past 20 years I’ve known you, and basketball is all you’ve known. You’ve been playing competitively since you were 10. Being in a long relationship, I had the benefit and burden of seeing you through almost all your playing years. I guess you could say that the only other thing that has outlived our relationship, save for your family, is basketball. The sport was your first love, and your longest running love story to date. It’s given you your share of heartbreaks and joys, just like any other love story. Allow me to recount a few… 
I sometimes imagine you as a small and skinny boy, running out of a room full of players, to pray the rosary, so as not to commit sin. It made me cry when you mentioned it during your commencement speech at Xavier because I silently hoped we would have a son like you. Basketball gave you opportunities to choose to be good, even at an early age.   
You recently told me a story of how at 10 years old, your team was forced to ride a ferry boat back to Manila in a storm, and how you were throwing up seasick the whole way home, having no one but your older teammates to look after you. You also played a lot of out of town games throughout your career, sometimes even sleeping on classroom floors, without ever a single complaint. I think that basketball taught you resilience. You never made a big deal of personal comforts, despite growing up in a well to do family
I remember how in your Ateneo years, you once bore the humiliation missing a wide open layup against your school’s Arch rivals to hand them the victory, and how you could not raise your head in school the next day. Basketball taught you humility – that even a most prized recruit could fall and fail badly.
 
The 2008 season your team won the Ateneo championship, you were dubbed the “King Eagle” and it seemed the weight of the world was on your shoulders. You would worry about the Ateneo community and how you wanted so much to give them the championship they longed for and deserved. I recall receiving calls from you at 3 or 4:00am after games, just wanting someone to listen to your thoughts on the loss, or just be there on the other line. Looking back, we often say how serendipitous it was that you skipped a playing year to do your JTA, so that you could come back to play that one more year under Coach Norman, and finally win the championship against La Salle. Basketball taught you not to crumble under the weight of the world, and that if you stay strong and work patiently, great things will happen.  
In Wuhan, I had the privilege of supporting you as a national athlete in the Olympic qualifier. And when your team fell short vs Korea in the battle for 3rd, you described it to me as your heart breaking “into a million pieces”. You took weeks or even months to get over that loss. Basketball taught you that no matter how much you want something, if it’s not meant for you, you accept, and find the strength to move on. 
In your PBA career, you weren’t the always the top scorer or captain ball. You took to the statistics to motivate yourself, “Plus-minus”, you said, “It’s how many points your team is winning or losing by when you’re on the court. It’s the intangibles.” You prided yourself in the fact that you could make a difference in the small things, even if no one took notice. Basketball taught you to be a role player, take a back seat, and keep working hard, even if it goes unnoticed.  
When you had struggles with your Coach, you spoke passionately about it almost daily to me, dreading the mood at practice, not needing the stress, and wanting to quit. In time, you both managed to turn around the situation and built an even better relationship through trust. You also saw many things happening on the sidelines, which sparked betrayal and made us both frustrated and cynical about the sport. And when you went down hard on the floor when Malcolm White got you clean, and you suffered one of the worst injuries of your life, I told myself the PBA would not have been worth it if the injury was any worse! But it taught us both to be humble, adjust and keep on giving your best, regardless of the odds and even if not everybody was honorable.  
In your team, you would always share with me stories of unsung heroes like your teammate Dexter, whose child was born blind, but still commutes 3 hours each way from Pampanga to practice and was equally hard working each day despite the sorrow and hardship. Another one was your ball boy whose only son passed away suddenly from a bout of pneumonia, and yet absented himself only to bury his son, and promptly appeared at practice the next day. And then you humanized your imports who were sometimes commoditized, being just as good as their last game. You told me their stories about their families, their past, and how hard they worked despite being away from home and their loved ones. I think basketball taught you count your blessings, and helped you develop an understanding and fondness of people who did not grow up like you.
 
As one of your past teammates, Jvee Casio, said about you, you do things with much love, and that’s what sets you apart from others. It is not your height, skill, or athleticism, but rather your love and generosity in sharing yourself that does. They say, how one treats those who have nothing to offer them, shows you how a person really is. If you wonder why people care so much about you, it’s because you somehow show them you care. You don’t choose who deserves your generosity, be it the event security at the arena, to the ticketing ladies, to the fans, ball boys, your teammates, coaching staff or management.
The sport opened doors for you unlike any of your other contemporary players. You used basketball to your advantage, socially and financially, but never abused its benefits. You only used it for good things. I would like to believe that you carried yourself in a fashion befitting of an instrument of God. In return, God was very good to you. You asked and received, the most incredible final game that you could have asked for. A Career high, 30 points. Best player and Amanda being able to sit on your lap in the post game interview. All your fans and teammates were so supportive of you, sincerely wanting you to succeed.  I don’t think there could be any better memory of your last game. My only regret is that our children will not have seen what a great ball player you are. 
As you end your career, it is obvious that your family and I are beyond proud of what you have achieved. I have so much gratitude for the life we have, thanks to this sport. The game has seen you through childhood, puberty, bachelorhood, marriage, and now fatherhood. It has taught you valuable lessons that no person or academic degree can ever replicate. It’s been one hell of a ride, alongside you in every sleepless night, enduring your aches and pains, mourning your losses, fighting your battles, and celebrating your sweetest victories with you. Our hearts ached when yours ached and jumped for joy when yours did too. I will surely miss the pre-game routine of you lifting at the gym 48 hours before, getting your steak protein fix 24 hours before – always medium rare, Air Relax before bedtime, and only pasta, “no-touch” policy on game day. But then again, I don’t think it will be the end of your love affair with the game. I look forward to the ways that you will continue to grow and give back, to the sport that has given us so much. Congrats on a career well done and I love you very much!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My Final Ride (by Chris Tiu)


I will always cherish the memory of my last game in the PBA. After a less than stellar performance of our team this season, I honestly thought of just sitting out the last game, being able to already hit my career-high score twice in the last 3 games. At least I could take some pride in that, and not end my basketball career on a low note. That was the plan. But I guess God sometimes has other plans for us – most of the time, even better than the plans we have for ourselves.

It wasn’t so much about the number of points I scored that day, but really it was the appreciation shown by my wonderful teammates and coaches. The feeling of them wanting me to exit on a high note really moved me. I had intended to announce my retirement immediately after the game, through my friends from the press. But I thought it was better to postpone it until I had spoken to our team owners, as boss Raymond Yu and Terry Que politely asked me to stay on.

In all honesty, I took to heart their words and seriously reconsidered playing another season or at least just one conference. The messages of encouragement and even an open letter I received, thereafter, from friends, colleagues, and basketball fans to continue playing certainly made me feel appreciated. Several tributes were written detailing every phase of my career, even as early as my grade school days in Xavier School and these made me emotional. I tried to personally reach out and thank each of those writers, not really for the praise, but more so because they shared my story and the values I espouse as an athlete. I felt like somehow my efforts to serve as a sort of inspiration, especially to the youth, were not futile.

I am immensely grateful to our Lord for my basketball journey, 4 years as a member of the Gilas Pilipinas pioneer team, 6 years with Rain or Shine in the PBA. That’s 10 years as a professional and 5 years in college basketball. There were certain turns of events which landed me at the 7th pick with ROS in the PBA draft. For several years, I learned to accept my new role playing as back up to Paul Lee and tried to contribute to the cause of the team by doing the little things. In spite of that, I feel I could not have asked for a better team to spend my PBA career with. What struck me most about Rain or Shine was the sense of family within the organization, which allowed us to enjoy playing the game even more. Another is its simplicity, giving proof that an underdog can stay competitive, even without the glamour.

BASKETBALL IS LIFE

Basketball was my life. I fell in love with it watching Michael Jordan when I was 5 years old. It is also a metaphor of life. The championships, won games, best player awards are definitely rewarding. But more often than not, we fall short and get frustrated. Until today, I don’t take losses well and lose sleep. Over time, I’ve learned to just enjoy the journey regardless of result or circumstance and used the opportunity to always learn something new – partly about basketball, but more so about life and people! Despite the emotional and physical drain, I am grateful for these challenges because they taught me the value of perseverance, among others.

No doubt basketball has opened many doors for me and allowed me to make so many new friends, meet individuals from all walks of life, including my idols. The most memorable I have to say was meeting Pope Francis, when I was invited to give a talk about sports in the Vatican. I also got the chance to meet and compete with our NBA idols (and I can one day brag to my kids that I beat them in 3 point shoot-outs)!

Basketball also served as a powerful platform to communicate my advocacies, from youth leadership & formation, sports & fitness, to education, to being kind to the environment, pure love, and even anti-bullying. In fact, that was one of the deciding factors for me to pursue a career in the pros.

One of the things I will miss the most about being a basketball player in the Philippines is having that unique ability to be able to bring joy and happiness to the fans, most especially the youth, the sick, those with special needs and the marginalized who look up to us athletes, even just through a selfie or a short conversation.

MOVING ON…

To be honest, I think I have at least 1 or 2 more productive PBA seasons left in me. But at the same time, I want to channel my current energy and enthusiasm into other projects that are sustainable and have positive impact to the community, some new and some which we have started years ago. I believe it’s about time I start a career as a full-fledged businessman and live up to my commitment to the family. At the same time, we have an infant and a toddler who are growing incredibly fast. I want to cherish every moment with them and give them my full attention while I can, which is very challenging to do with basketball where I am overly particular with my training and resting routine.

THANK YOUs

There are so many people I want to thank. I’ve had the privilege of working with world-class coaches and mentors, who have molded me and my leadership style (I will pay tribute to them in my Instagram page in the next few days). I’ve had so many teammates over the years with different personalities, some have become great friends and I’m happy to see our families growing together. I’ve learned a lot from each of them! I’ve worked with many utility and support staff who can barely make ends meet and rely on us for won game bonuses, yet are so committed. Utmost appreciation goes to the various team owners, sports benefactors and leaders who have trusted and supported me. Thank you for keeping Philippine basketball alive and competitive. To my very accommodating doctors and hardworking PTs who I have to call at the oddest hours, we’ve become friends and you guys are behind-the-scenes heroes. To the Ateneo, Gilas Pilipinas and Rain or Shine supporters, you encourage me to keep pursuing excellence day in and day out. To fellow basketball enthusiasts, I salute your passion for the sport! To my beloved Tiunatics, more than serving as my cheerleaders and inspiration, what makes me happiest is when I see many new friendships among you guys created over the years. To my critics, thank you for challenging me to constantly improve! To fellow PBA players, it was an honor competing against you guys! Never take for granted this blessing, stay healthy and all the best in your careers. To my friends in media, thank you for making Philippine basketball accessible and entertaining to the fans!

To my family and friends, thank you for sharing my triumphs and sorrows in sports and outside, as well as being understanding when I am absent in gatherings. To my loving parents, for allowing me to pursue my passions and always making sure that the backend is taken care of so that I can focus on my jobs and my family. More importantly, thank you for constantly instilling in us important values and always setting good examples.

To my wife Cla who has shared my basketball journey with me for around 18 years now, since we were in high school. She shared all my emotions and this retirement is her retirement as well. She holds the fort at home and makes sure the kids are well taken care of despite holding a fulltime job and being an entrepreneur. She makes sure I get my 9 hours of sleep on game days (plus a short nap) and personally prepares my pasta diet so I don’t feel heavy during games. (I will share her beautiful letter to me separately) And to my two daughters Amanda and Mari, who bring so much joy and meaning to my life, they will just have to watch me play next time on YouTube. I love you all so much! J

THE DIVINE HAND

By nature, I sometimes want to control situations, and thought it is possible to be in the driver’s seat of my life. But basketball has taught me to let go and trust in God’s plan. We get frustrated with tough breaks and losses. But what I learned from successful individuals is we should simply work hard and always give our best, irrespective of the circumstances.

And just like in my last PBA game on November 3, 2018 vs NLEX, I poured out everything, and God really did the rest. What transpired that day, and at every step of the way in my career for that matter, was certainly a result of His divine plan. He surprised even me, and gave me more than I hoped for in a final appearance. To top it all off, I was honored with the chance to represent the National Team once more in the recent Asian Games after 6 long years away from the Pilipinas jersey. This has always been my dream. If that isn’t full circle, I don’t know what is. So truly, I could not have asked for a more beautiful journey and ending.

Thank you Lord, and thank you all for your support! AMDG! 

Chris T
Posted Jan 9, 2019

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Who is John Tiu Ka Cho?


Below are some excerpts of my keynote address for the first Grade 6 graduation ceremonies of Xavier School Nuvali held at the John Tiu Ka Cho Multi-purpose Center.

Keynote Speech
1st Grade 6 Graduation Ceremonies
John Tiu Ka Cho Multi-purpose Center
Xavier School Nuvali
March 19, 2016

By Chris Tiu (XS ’03)

Fr. Ari Dy, Mrs. Arlene Choo, dearest Xavier administrators, faculty, staff, families & graduates, good morning to you all!

It is my greatest honor to be invited as the Keynote Speaker for the first ever Grade 6 Closing Ceremonies of Xavier School Nuvali.  

To be honest, it has been a while since I was in your place, seated as a grade school graduate and looking forward to a new adventure in high school and beyond.  So seeing as I have just a few years of experience ahead of you all, let me tell you a few things that I wish I had known back when I was your age.

Live out the spirit of MAGIS. What is magis?

Let me share with you the story of an individual who has served as an inspiration to me and many others who knew him. He is not a celebrity but he has certainly let his light shine through his ordinary life. So although I’m sure most of you have heard of his name, you probably do not know his story.

He was born in the Philippines and lived a very difficult childhood. When World War 2 broke out, life became even harsher for this poor teenager and his family. They barely had anything to eat and he was forced to stop his schooling. But instead of letting fate dictate his future, he started selling cigarettes, newspapers and anything that he could get hold of at the ground floor of their tiny house in Alonso St. in Binondo, Manila. He eventually managed to finish high school through his own hard-earned money from his simple business, then later finished college as well by working during the day and going to school at night.

He got married, had six lovely children then, nightmare happened. His wife passed away at the age of 32. Their eldest child was 11 years old while their youngest was only 2 years old.

By this time, he had opened a successful hardare store in Binondo. He was working at least 6 days a week, sometimes even 7. His kids feared him but had the greatest respect for him.

This man’s business sense was impeccable. He was a stern disciplinarian. His kids didn’t get to experience the typical summer break because he required them to work in the store. Being late for appointments was a big ‘no no’. If someone gave his phone number, you’d have to memorize it without repetition. He was sharp and unstoppable.

With the success of his first hardware store, he had built several buildings and factories all over the city. He became known as the self-made Taipan from Alonso. Then just when he was growing his mini-empire, another tragedy struck.  He was suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer and in a short time, in less than a year, at the young age of 62, he passed away, leaving behind a wife, 9 kids and his legacy.

This man’s name is John Tiu Ka Cho and he is my grandfather.

Sadly, I do not have any vivid memories of my ‘kong-kong’ or my lolo because he passed away when I was barely 3 years old. He was a very simple man, he wore no branded clothes and always traveled in economy class, only until he had to undergo medical treatment in the U.S. for his cancer did he ever travel on business class. As told from his story, he greatly valued education and he always said that, ‘knowledge is power’. In fact, all his sons and most of his grandsons had studied and graduated from Xavier School. He was a very compassionate and generous man. If he were still around today, I’m sure he would not have wanted his name to be displayed on the wall of this very hall.

JTKC was a true man for others. Not only did he provide livelihood to thousands of people, but he quietly donated to many causes and people in need! I can say that he is truly rich, not rich with money, but rich in graces from God, which is what ultimately matters anyway– because it is in giving that we truly receive. He always strove for excellence in whatever he did, whether as a businessman or a family man, never settling for mediocrity. In other words, bawal ang ‘pwede na’ attitude. This is what we call, Magis.

Instead of making excuses, he worked hard to turn his life around and get back on his feet – a major challenge for us in today’s world of convenience.


… In today’s modern world, I know that we sometimes feel pressured to do as others do, have as others have, dress, act, and be as others are. Social media also has a way making other people’s lives appear glamorous and fun! It has a way of making us feel entitled, that “I deserve this… I deserve that….”, a better pair of shoes, a better vacation, a better cellphone, in short, a better life.

But let me fill you in on a secret that you will learn as you grow up. Those things are only for show and will not lead us to a fulfilling and happy life. At the end of the day, our goal is to be happy, the long and lasting type of happiness. Just remember the things we learned today: Live out the spirit of Magis, keep learning, live simply, be honest to yourself and to God, be a man and woman for others.

Today we celebrate a milestone for all of you. Let’s never take for granted how blessed and lucky we are. And the best way we can thank God and our parents is by always doing our best and always doing what is right. Congratulations once again! Let your light shine. Luceat Lux.














Saturday, October 3, 2015

My Experience of a Lifetime


Last May 13, 2015, I had the experience of a lifetime. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever dream of coming close to a Pope! My closest encounter with any Pope was in 1995 during the World Youth Day in Manila. My dad carried me on his shoulders along the corner of Buendia and EDSA and I was able to catch a glimpse of Pope John Paul 2 in his Pope mobile for a good 3 seconds from a distance.

I flew to Rome for 3 days because I had been invited by the Pontifical Council of the Laity, one of the key arms of the Vatican, to speak in the Seminar for Sport 2015. The theme of the conference was "Coaching the Coach". I posted my speech in a previous entry in this blog. Here's the link to my testimonial.

It happened during the elimination round of the 3rd conference of the PBA. Thankfully, the Rain or Shine management and Coach Yeng were very understanding to allow me to miss some games and to take part in this rare invitation.

Anyhow, I had no idea that I was going to have the opportunity to meet Pope Francis.

What happened was actually a blessing in disguise. On the day I was scheduled to leave Manila for Rome, I decided (at the last moment) to change my flight to an earlier one, which was scheduled to arrive Rome at 7 am, an hour earlier than my previous flight. As soon as I landed in Rome, a friend of the organizer, Luciano (who you can see on my right) picked me up from the airport and told me to hurry up because we need to be in St. Peter's square by 830am for the Papal audience or else the gates will close. So I changed into my suit inside his tiny car, along the highway.

At this point, all I knew was that they had given us access to a special section where we could see the Pope closer than the thousands of other visitors of the weekly Papal audience. Our car went inside the walled Vatican city and we walked from the inside to get to the stage, which was guarded by the Swiss guards and other security members. We were led to the VIP section to the left of the stage where the Pope would be siting. We arrived just before 9am and after 5 mins, the gates closed, the band played and the Pope appeared and did his rounds through the thousands who came to the square. If I had not taken that earlier flight at the last minute, I would have not been allowed to enter! Whew!

I was so excited because we had reserved seats in the first row and we were just about 10 meters away from the Pope's chair. After he did his rounds, he walked up the stage and walked right in front of me maybe 3 meters away, waving and smiling pleasantly. Then he took his seat. I was thinking, this is unreal!!

What truly amazed me is his patience and sincerity in meeting and blessing the common people. He is 78 years old and still took time to get off his vehicle and touch the babies in the audience in the scorching summer heat.

After the 2-hour audience, he then began to make his rounds again until he came to our section, slowly shaking hands and talking to each single individual in our VIP section by the stage. As he kept getting closer to me, I was already getting nervous and rattled. I didn't know what I would say or do.

Finally after approaching like 50 people, it was my turn to meet him. I shook his hand and touched his ring and said, "Hello Holy Father, I am from the Philippines where you just visited. I am also an athlete" Honestly, I don't know why I had to say that haha! He never stopped smiling and to my amazement he said, "Please pray for me!" Then, he gave me a rosary.

I totally didn't expect this encounter, otherwise I would have prepared. Maybe I would have given him a gift, brought a rosary to be blessed or perhaps ask him to sign my jersey! Oh well...

That encounter really hit me. It was like meeting a living Saint. It was a different 'high' feeling. Deep inside I was thinking to myself, this person is so genuine and so humble, who am I to pray for him?

What an inspiring moment for me. Definitely one of the highlights of my life :) Up until today, I keep reflecting, what does God want of me? Why did he make this happen for me?

Let's all pray for our dearest Pope Francis and his mission. May his message of love, mercy and service be propagated to all ends of the world.

Chris

P.S. I kept my camera video rolling the entire time as you can see in the photos. But these photos were taken by Fotografia Felici, the official photographers of the Vatican. I just went online to select my photos and went to their store just outside the Vatican to receive the high resolution files. I paid 6 euros for each of them so I might as well post them here! Right? So pardon me for the bombarding of pics. hehe

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My response to questions re retirement

Sorry if I caused confusion with my tweets. I sent this statement to the journalists/writers who have been calling and texting asking about my possible retirement from basketball. Thanks for all your support!! :)

To those asking about my PBA status, first of all, we have to ask the ROS management if they are still interested to renew/extend my contract. I cannot just assume that they will keep me. We haven't spoken yet.

I initially intended to play in the PBA for just one contract period but now I'm reconsidering because I never thought I would still enjoy playing basketball this much at this level.
1) My teammates are just fun to be with and they are amazing players as well.
2) The owners and management are very easy to deal with and they are like family, no nonsense politics.
3) I like Coach Yeng's style of running a team & his basketball philosophy. I've been learning a lot and it is only recently that I've really been able to adjust and get my confidence and rhythm going, somewhat.
4) The ROS fans are the best!

As much as playing professional ball is enjoyable, it is also taxing physically, mentally & emotionally, which may compromise my quality of work for my other commitments.

At the end of the day, I am truly grateful to the Lord, the team, the fans and the support of my family. Basketball has been a great platform to promote my advocacies. I trust in God's plan and I pray that I will do what He wants of me.

Salamat sa lahat ng dasal at suporta!

Chris

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Veritas, Integritas, Justitia. (SERVIAM Conference for Servant Leadership. Crown Plaza. July 3, 2015).


This post contains my challenge speech to 700+ government officials, employees who attended the SERVIAM Conference for Servant Leadership, chaired by Cardinal Chito Tagle, which was held at the Grand Ballroom of Crowne Plaza in Ortigas on July 2-3. I was representing the youth sector in our panel with Mike Enriquez (Media), Riza Mantaring of Sunlife (Business) & Mrs. Juanich (marginalized sector). Congratulations to the entire Serviam team for a very successful event and may you continue to inspire and move our leaders to become true servant leaders!


I would also like to thank my friends Joren & my Baboy group (Dani, Charles, Joni, Kira, Carms, Moe, etc.) who gave me brilliant insights that helped me compose this speech.


Veritas,  Integritas, Justitia

A friend of mine told me a story of three rooms in a well-known school. 

The first room was a small audio-visual room, with less than 100 seats. It was used primarily for small classes that needed a venue for watching videos, displaying Powerpoint presentations, and affairs that required face-to-face activity. Meetings were often held in that room.

The second room was mostly an office, a center for publication and scholastic activity. It was dedicated to a great alumnus of the school. It was a place of solitude and silence. 

The third room was the grandest of the three, with at least 200 seats and tables. It was large and wide, and was the most coveted room of any class that wanted to have a big event. Lectures of very important guests were often held in it. It was almost an amphitheatre, though instead of a stage you had a big judges’ bench for mock trial play.

The names of these three rooms are, Veritas, Integritas, and Justitia, respectively. And the school involved is the Ateneo Law School. 

My friend told me that while the rooms were simply named after a virtue, he always believed that the purpose and the usage of the rooms gave more meaning to the name than the students thought otherwise.

Veritas

We all know what Veritas commonly means. It means truth. The root is “verus,” which means “true,”.
Aptly enough, the first room that I mentioned, that was used for intense discussion and video was named after Truth. It was a room for organizational meetings, wherein leaders and members hashed out their objectives and methodology for the school year, debating with each other and engaging ideas head-on, face-to-face.  

This was a room that encouraged one to learn, to be educated, to form an opinion with basis and defend it if necessary. 

Hindi ba yan naman dapat yun pangunahing adhikain ng mga eskwelahan? Para matuto at maunawaan ang ibig sabihin ng “truth” or “totoo”?

As someone represeting the youth sector so jaded by the past and present, but still clinging to the HOPE promised by the future, it seems to me that the leaders of today and tomorrow have to show a desire for the Truth, Veritas. Not only for their own knowledge but also to inspire others to walk the Path of Truth.

Ano ibig sabihin nito? Dapat alam natin ang katotohanan at isinasabuhay natin ito. We want leaders who practice attentive leadership, with eyes wide open to see the joys, sorrows, desires, needs and dreams of the common man and woman. See it in the streets. Feel it. And please, do something about it. 

Meron akong kakilala na nagsabi sa akin na gusto niya magtrabaho sa gobyerno. Tanong ko, “Bakit?”. Sabi niya, “pangarap ko yun para makaahon ang pamilya ko, mabigyan ko sila ng makakainan at mapaaral ko sila.” Nag-isip isip ako. Tama nga naman siya. Walang problema run. 

Meron naman akong isa pang kakilala na nag-sabi sa akin na gumagastos siya ng daan-libo hanggang milyun-miyong piso para mangampanya upang maging konsehal sa isang siyudad. Tinanong ko “Bakit ang laki ng ginagastos mo?” Ang sabi sa akin, “alam mo parang investment lang yan sa negyosyo. Puhunan ito. Pag nanalo ako, ROI na or balik na pera ko.” Kamot ako ng ulo. Lumubog ang loob ko at talagang nalungkot ako. Ano ba klaseng mga public officials ang meron tayo?

Kaya nga tayong tinatawag na “public servants”, kasi tayo ay dapat mag-serbisyo para sa taong-bayan bago ang lahat. Hindi para tayo ay makinabang sa resources at kapangyarihan na mayroon pag nasa posisyon. Parang marami na nga ang nakalimot sa tunay na kahulugan ng “public service”.

Maganda ang sinabi ni Cardinal Tagle sa isa sa mga Leadership Seminars na ginawa ng Charis Foundation, at hinding-hindi ko ito makalimutan. Sabi niya, “the higher you go up the organizational ladder, all the more we should lower ourselves and serve more.” Imbis na gumaganda ang kotse, dumadami ang alalay, puro utos ng tao, dapat lalo tayong mag-serbisyo habang tayo ay umaangat. That is the irony of servant leadership. Jesus himself was a leader and king, but he served the people, he even washed their feet and even died on the cross. Yan ang totoong leader. 

Integritas

Integritas comes from the root word “integer,” which refers to something whole, complete, perfect. We often know this word as “integrity.” Put simply, integrity is the result of having character, of knowing, saying, and acting with just one moral compass. 

The room Integritas was designed for solitude and self-reflection, which I think is an ideal setting for building one’s character. Character is designed internally, after all. But once designed, it must be published and expressed to the world.

I think that integrity is something that the youth hunger for so much in our leaders. We have seen time and again politicians go back on their word, come up short on their promises, and overall swing from one side of the political fence to the other just because of a power-shift. We have seen officials compromise principles they have sworn oaths to defend because of greed or fear. If there is anything the youth cannot stand, it is hypocrisy, dishonesty, corruption.

Kapag ang isang tao ay honest or hindi nangungurakot, ito ay hindi ibig sabihin na mayroon na siyang integridad. Incompetence is also a form of corruption. It is corruption of the will. Part of Integritas is excellence, not having a “pwede na” attitude. 

For instance, there is a study on the speed of doing business across Asia, and we are one of the lowest. Then finally now, we have a test case that it can be done in 15 days only. Kaya naman pala eh! Keep it up! Pero bakit ngayon lang? Bakit parang kapag sa private sector parating mas mabilis ang pag proseso ng mga bagay bagay? Kapag privately funded ang isang national sports team, nakakakuha ng gold medal sa international competitions. Kung kaya ng private sector, siguro kaya rin natin.

Only a person of integrity will have the credibility to tell his/ her underlings to work hard and honestly. Parang sa basketball lang yan, kapag tamad o makasarili ang coach o team captain, ano kayang klaseng kultura ang lalaganap sa koponan?

I hope you do not see our demands as too harsh, but we youth are easily discouraged. When we see rules being flouted, being bent by our elders, we lose respect for both the rules and our elders. Do not create in us cynics.

We have a great deal of respect for leaders who continue to educate themselves. We also have a great deal of respect for leaders who are honest and cannot be corrupted. Combine that, and the respect we can give will know no limits. 

Justitia

There’s a famous Roman saying: “fiat justitia, ruat caelum” or “let justice be done, though the heavens fall.” This is such a dramatic line, of course, but resonates with a very human need: fairness. In a land of fairness, people are willing to be patient, to persevere through hardship, because they know that their suffering and pain will somehow be fairly compensated, be it through excellent services, an increase in jobs, and societal stability. 

I think we need to get rid of some notions that justice means an equal result for anyone. It does not. Alam niyo, naintindihan namin na mahirap talaga maging public official. Imagine, ang baba na nga ng sweldo and you are serving the people every single day but then you never get enough credit for it. Ang sasabihin pa sayo, “eh kasi trabaho niyo naman talaga yan eh, dapat lang!” Unfair diba? Well, even if we don’t get recognized for it, ok lang. Kahit mababa pa rin ang sweldo, idaan sa legislative o sa executive branch. It is definitely not an excuse to be corrupt or inefficient.

Remember the Justita room? Engrande ito at puno ng litrato ng mga alumni ng Ateneo Law na naging Supreme Court Justice. Pero sa kwarto rin na ito, makikita sa bintana ang kahirapan at ang nakakalungkot na kalagayan ng mga bahay sa Makati at Mandaluyong. From there, you see the people who need justice and mercy. We need to provide hope for the marginalized by giving them shelter, education, by treating them with dignity, respect and love. That is mercy and justice. 

Conclusion

Before I end, I just want to say that many of us decry the seemingly degrading morality of the youth today. We cite TV, social media, games, and simple laziness as something so prevalent among the youth. I agree with you. But let me ask you, are you a role model to the youth around you? I urge you to please be Knights of Honour, Knights of truth and face the dragons of our time. And we, the youth, will follow you. Sasabihin ko sa inyo na ang kabataan ay parating naghahanap ng idolo o ehemplo. The youth is hungry for role models. And we will not often find the right ones in Hollywood or on TV. Pero sana, sana naman ay makakahanap sila dito sa atin.

Alam niyo ba na ang Time magazine ay tinawag kaming mga kabataan na makasarili, tamad at entitled, lagi na lang “I deserve this and that”, pero ayaw mag trabaho. Siguro may konting katotohanan. But on the flipside, we are also very idealistic, very tech-savvy, creative and passionate. Do you agree? We dream of a better world. We are passionate about so many things. Sports, music, arts, video games, movie stars, our careers, our social life. 

My challenge to you is… how do you channel this idealism, creativity and passion to productive use for the betterment of the individual and the nation? How do we promote a culture of sacrifice, service and giving instead of always receiving?

I urge all of you who are here today to see if you mirror a faithful follower of Christ, to see if you are being an instrument of Christ. Nothing I have told you will sway the youth from cynicism if they remain words. We are a frightfully energetic lot, but we are also prone to depression if we see our world run by those without a conscience. 

And in everything, love. Love will push us to do more for our country than we ever thought possible. Love will let us conquer our enemies and even our own weaknesses, because someone who loves has no true enemies. Love allows us to live out our 3 pillars. Veritas, Integritas and Justitia. 

Let love define our leadership. That is our challenge. Remember the words of Jesus: “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21)

Maraming salamat po!

Chris