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Friday, January 9, 2015

WHY I LIKE POPE FRANCIS & HOW WE CAN PREPARE FOR THE PAPAL VISIT


I guess the consolation of getting eliminated in a PBA conference is that I get to catch up on my other work and I get to post a new blog entry. 

I’ve been wanting to blog about this since I spoke at the Youth Rally for the Pope in Araneta Coliseum last month.

As we all know, Pope Francis will be here in a few days and many of us are really excited. The first Jesuit Pope is enjoying an approval rating that many political leaders would like to have. This is what the church needs most especially in this day and age when she is facing many long-standing challenges including dwindling church attendance and the damaged moral authority of some clergy.

The last time Pope John Paul 2 came to Manila in 1995 for the World Youth Day, I was 10 years old and I was fortunate to have caught a glimpse of him in his Pope Mobile along EDSA-Buendia. I remember my dad carried me on his shoulders so that I could see the Pope pass amidst the sea of people.

WHY I LIKE POPE FRANCIS

Personally, there are many things I like about this Pope. But if I had to choose, I would say it has to be because of his simplicity and compassion, very fitting with the theme of his Papal visit which is “Mercy & Compassion”. Right from the moment of his election, he refused the traditional red cape and opted to hop onto a bus instead of the papal limo. He kissed, served and showed compassion to the most marginalized people in society.

This reminded me of what Cardinal Tagle taught us in his keynote speech in our Charis Leadership Summit last year, “The higher we go up the organizational ladder, the lower we should go and the more we should serve”. This paradox is very true to be an effective leader because conventional thinking would excite us of the power and prestige that comes as we move up to the so-called “leadership positions”.  When in fact, the higher we go, the more we should serve.  This is what we call Servant Leadership and Pope Francis is a living example. St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, reminded us to be humble because Jesus, our role model was humble.

Pope Francis’ passion to serve has challenged the prevalent culture’s approach to leadership, how leaders live and what they value. Our culture is becoming self-absorbed and fascinated with superficial pursuits such as money, power, status and even the number of likes on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. On social media, everyone seems to have a ‘perfect’ and nice life. This is why we should be wary of what we aspire for. Are our goals going to give us lasting happiness? What will? Again, this Pope reminds us to focus not on ourselves, but rather on the poor, the sick and those marginalized. Hopefully in time, it will create a ripple effect from a culture of selfies to a culture of service. 

I think another reason why Pope Francis has become so loved is because he does not condemn those who are ‘lost’ or confused. But rather, he listens and welcomes them back home just as God extends His infinite mercy to us sinners.

PREPARING OURSELVES FOR THE PAPAL VISIT

Now, how do we prepare ourselves for the coming of the leader of the Catholic Church? Here are three very simple ways that could help us maximize and fully appreciate his visit.

#1) First is to develop a strong spiritual and prayer life. Being a Jesuit, Pope Francis himself engaged in what we call the Spiritual Exercises, this is the core of the Ignatian Spirituality and Jesuit life. It is a series of meditations that allows one to ponder on your own life, Jesus’ life and how one can follow Jesus in their own concrete circumstances.

For me, developing a spiritual plan is like creating a fitness plan. You need to integrate it to your daily life and set aside time everyday for prayer and reflection. Since I am a busy person, my spiritual director came up with a plan for me that is workable despite my chaotic schedule. I’m sure he won’t mind that I share it with you.

1)   5-minute morning prayer the moment I wake up
2)   Visit to the blessed sacrament
3)   Reading of the New Testament for 5 minutes + a short silent reflection
4)   Night time prayer with 3 Hail Marys
5)   Confession (at least once a month)

This is to be done daily. But I have to admit that many times, I’ve been a delinquent student.

Now why should we do this? When we are in silent prayer, we become detached from the daily grind of things. We speak to God and more importantly, we allow Him to speak to us. Many realizations and conversions occur during these moments of silence and solitude with our Lord. Also, I firmly believe that our consequential actions will naturally overflow from the interior peace and joy that we experience with Him. Lastly, we cannot bring others to Christ if he doesn’t reside in our hearts. Simply, we cannot give what we don’t have.

#2) Second basic way to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Pope is to take care of our academic duties or our work, for those who are working. Sounds simple right? It is. Oftentimes we take these for granted. But we forget that our schooling or our jobs are gifts to us from God. We must value them by practicing excellence, honesty and humility not just for our personal growth, but also because it is our way of contributing to nation-building. We may not see the results immediately, but our personal contributions as well as the virtues we develop will create a more visible impact to our society eventually. Our nation needs competent and virtuous leaders, or else we achieve nothing. This is also our best way to show our appreciation to our Lord for the blessing of an education and a job.

#3) Last is to do our apostolic duties. We all have an obligation to evangelize or to do “apostolate work”.  In the recent World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero, the Pope called out to the youth, “I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses, I want the noise to go out, I want the Church to go out onto the streets…”

How do we do this? It start at home, with your closest family members and friends. There are times when we want to do outreach activities to the needy or other marginalized sectors of society. This is wonderful! But we might forget that our most immediate apostolic duties start at home, by inviting them to pray or simply by being a good parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, etc. An effective way to be a light of Christ is by serving as a good example. Like they say, actions speak louder than words.

Hope this helps, not only in preparation for the coming of the Pope, but continued even afterwards until it becomes fully integrated in our lives. It might be difficult at the beginning, but the more we do it, the more it becomes 2nd nature. We may fall at times but what’s important is the constant struggle and effort to make Christ happy.

Happy weekend folks!

Chris

Saturday, September 6, 2014

An Ivy League Alum Explains How Prestige Can Destroy Lives


Hello there friends! 

It's been a while since I posted an entry on my blog. I've been preoccupied and have not had the chance to write about something. I came across this article, (which I decided to repost here) that I found interesting and I thought of sharing it with you. 

It talks about HUBRIS (defined as excessive pride) and how it can destroy our lives without us realising it. At the end of the day, we want to live a happy life. Who doesn't? But sometimes we might not be aware that our motivations are already flawed because of societal structures / norms. Hubris is a deterrent to that goal. As much as we want to 'be successful' in our respective fields, the article below is a good reflection on how we can avoid self-destructing.

Happy weekend!

Chris

How Prestige Destroys You

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by hubris. From an early age, they were persuaded that they had a talent in school, or excellence in some extracurricular activity; for that their names became lauded in school newspapers, emblazoned on certificates, or announced on podiums. The high of recognition was addictive, and began to slowly eclipse the achievements themselves.

As they grew older, they learned that within the message of empowerment, what most grown-ups mostly care about is prestige. If you wanted to make them proud, and earn the right to be proud yourself, the story of your life had to abound with names and titles – AP Merit Scholars, national finalists on the Policy Debate circuit, School Orchestra Leader — that would provoke an envious silence.

The students had learned that the only legitimate reason for being proud was being an object of jealousy. The future was a zero-sum game.
yale university
At the top they stood, their future lives well-defined: suited financiers, white-coated doctors, smile-forcing lawyers, pasty hackers, and turtle-necked entrepreneurs.

At some point, a few lucky ones realized that anyone who cared about the world they would leave behind, and worked to better it, had found something more precious than pride. Others never left the cult of prestige. They had scrambled to the leading edge of every bell-curved valley, and were rewarded at each peak with quick and pacifying hits of a drug called pride. It was an opiate that their lives had bathed them in, to pre-empt the fabled agony of “low self-esteem.” Many found that they couldn’t live without it.

When college acceptance letters came back, some of them ended up as the “lucky” ones. The next four years had a timeless, theatrical quality. Narration was provided by the voice of awed posterity, against a background of carillon bells and WASPy a-capella hymns. It was a time to plan for the important and visible postgraduate careers that they would be called upon to do.

But it wasn’t long before the high wore off, and the airy plateau gave way to a deeper valley. A friend, dressing impeccably, returned from an investment banking “networking session” in tears; she applied for the job, anyway. Seniors with return offers at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs moaned about their clients and bosses, and grouched about trying to move into the mythical “buy-side” — the same work, only with fewer hours.
man suit buildings

At the top they stood, their future lives well-defined: suited financiers, white-coated doctors, smile-forcing lawyers, pasty hackers, and turtle-necked entrepreneurs. At the bottom sat those whose young adult lives — a guest copywriter for a startup blog, for example — were a merciless anticlimax. How steep was the ascent? How long would it take? How many would enjoy life at the top? Did it matter?

For ever-smaller highs, pride set ever-higher expectations, and called for ever-greater sacrifice. What mattered was that those on the other side had MBAs and JDs and CFAs, that they lived in respectable places like SoHo or Berkeley. It would become perversely enjoyable, even, in doing what pride demanded – of martyring the self and its preferences, and building in their void an obedient engine of self-advancement. It was another sport to convince themselves that slaving over contract law and discounted cash flow models was a meaningful use of their young lives.

Yet four years is not fourteen or forty. And few have gasped amid pinging heart monitors that they should have made more people jealous. This is not to say that no one loves contract law, or that all flashy titles aren’t worn by people who were born for them. But most are born for something else – or more likely, for a few things else. And for them, scaling the wrong mountain takes a lifetime, even when trickles of pride numb the aching cold.
Most 20 year olds who want to be doctors are only a shade wiser than six year olds who want to be spies. And the six year old has a kind of wisdom that the 20 year old didn’t inherit: he wanted to be a spy because he thought he would like it.

Our current lexicon of work offers tellingly little guidance. We have “professions” just as we would “profess” to be good at anything, whether or not it’s true.

We have “careers” just as we would board any “carrier,” whether or not the destination is worth it. Conspicuously absent are “vocations” and “callings,” which sound touchy-feely, perhaps because they touch a nerve.
It is no coincidence that Dante imagined the prideful as stooped “carriers,” who haul crushing boulders past statues of the famously humble. Their sin was inverting the moral relationship between career and what is carried. In life, their careers didn’t serve them and hasten them to a better place; they had become careers. They had entered an unwitting servitude carrying someone else’s baggage and expectations. (The exemplars of humility are not just unburdened, but themselves made of stone.) It is probably no coincidence, either, that Dante put them in Purgatory, where their suffering would be only temporary. But I think he still went too far; a life spent that way is purging enough.

Withdrawing from hubris isn’t easy. So start by taking pride in the fact that your career is carrying you, that you haven’t confused approval with value, and that your life isn’t a zero-sum game because it isn’t a game at all.



Friday, December 20, 2013

TOYM Acceptance Speech 2013


The Outstanding Young Men Awarding Ceremonies
Malacanang Palace
December 19, 2013

Response from the TOYM 2013 Awardees
by Chris Tiu

His Excellency, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III; Bienvenido Tantoco III, President of the TOYM Foundation; Mrs. Judy Roxas, Chairperson of the Gerry Roxas Foundation; Jose T. Pardo, Chairman of the TOYM 2013 Board of Judges; Ryan Ravanzo, National President of JCI Philippines; Congresswoman Leni Robredo, Member of the Board of Judges; Dicky Puyod, Chairman of the TOYM 2013 Search, to my fellow TOYM 2013 honorees, to our families and special guests, good afternoon to you all!
In behalf of this year’s awardees, I want to express our utmost appreciation for citing us among the great individuals in the 54-year history of the TOYM foundation. We feel unworthy to be standing amidst such distinguished and admirable individuals when there are many other young Filipinos out there who have so selflessly dedicated their lives for the betterment of our dear country. For this, we feel truly humbled and blessed!

A CHANGING WORLD
Our world is changing. Because of global warming, we are experiencing typhoons on an unprecedented scale. We can now do virtually anything on the go, from reading the paper, to watching movies, to booking an airline ticket.
We often hear the phrase, “Iba na ang kabataan ngayon”.  If you’re guilty of saying these words before, malamang hindi ka na nabibilang sa kabataan. The youth have information and resources at their fingertips and are a creative, capable, and intelligent generation. On the other hand, this may mean na iba na rin ang value system nila. We accept as reality many things which would have been considered scandalous to older generations. Because of modern day technology, we hardly have to wait for anything anymore and therefore, there is less need to be patient and persevering.

SELF FIRST
Consumer behavior is changing. The youth have become more fashion forward, and embarrassed to repeat an outfit because your entire social network can see what you are wearing with the advent of smart phones.
Measuring of ones self worth has evolved to the number of friends, followers or LIKES that one has on ones social media sites. Thus, encouraging the user to ‘keep up’ by posting more photos of himself, who he associates with, what he buys or where he eats.
In fact, ‘selfie’ has been named the word of the year by Oxford Dictionary. Don’t worry, if you lost me or don’t have any idea as to what I am talking about, that just means you don’t belong to this generation. “Selfie”, as defined by Wikipedia, is a self-portrait photography usually taken by a camera or a camera phone.
In an article earlier this year, Time Magazine has noted some negative traits of today’s youth, such as, lazy, narcissistic, materialistic, feeling of entitlement, less concerned with community. This is a cause for concern because these so called “Millenials” will be our future leaders!
This is why, in its 54-year history, the TOYM foundation, with its theme of “Inspiring a Nation of Heroes”, plays an even more important role today. By using modern day tools, it can reach out to our youth and propagate its core values of excellence, integrity and most importantly, a deep sense of service to community

SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
Despite the many changes we have witnessed throughout the decades, from climate change, technology, buying habits, to our attitudes and behavior, there are some things that remain and SHOULD remain constant. And these are the timeless values that the TOYM Foundation espouses – excellence, honesty, humility, simplicity, sacrifice, and charity just to name a few. Regardless of age, gender, social class, race or religion, these principles serve as guiding pillars for human conduct that are proven to have enduring and permanent value.
In order for our country to progress, we cannot accept the “pwede na” attitude. Pursuing excellence cannot be learned overnight. It involves a process and tremendous commitment. Once it develops into a habit, it becomes a lifestyle. This is what we call virtue! The foundation of heroism in the Ignatian Spirituality is Magis, which means “more”, - being more, doing more! However, this simple motto requires a higher spirit for it to attain its fullness, which means that our motivation must transcend our own causes for a greater, higher being.
One of the world’s greatest leaders, the late Nelson Mandela constantly reminded his people that: “We should always be patient even if things are going bad, because great things will happen”. He also said, “what truly matters is the small acts of kindness towards others”. These words are very appropriate for our modern world where “selfies” are the in thing and everything has become so convenient that we need not bother to go out of our way for the good of others.

ROLE MODELS
We, too, have Mandelas in our midst.
             Emerson Atanacio, in Social Entrepreneurship
             Dr. Nicole Curato, for Sociology
             Dr. Custer Deocaris, for Science Communication
             Former Gov. Miguel Dominguez, in Government and Public Service
             Dr. Alonzo Gabriel, in Food Science and Technology
             June Cabal-Revilla, for Community Development
             Dr. Karl Reyes and Dr. Paolo Silva, in Medicine.
There is no question that the youth are constantly looking for role models, people they can emulate. Mainstream media and Hollywood do not often provide us with the best models, we know that. On the other hand, the most powerful influencers are those who are ‘real’, those we can interact with in our everyday lives, those who are one of us. Whenever we meet people who inspire us, we feel a sense of relief, that there is hope for the future! And even more, a force of motivation giving us that second, third, and fourth wind, to do more ourselves. Most of the time, our heroes don’t even know the magnitude of the impact they have on others. They just do what they do best, in their respective fields, with utmost excellence, integrity and service to the community.
Hence, I would like to thank our dearest family and friends who have served as our personal heroes. Your example and your faith in us inspire us to serve!
I would also like to thank our Lord for this blessing. To God be all the glory! We are merely His instruments.
Last Sunday, the priest gave a beautiful homily about real joy. He said “joy is not in receiving. But rather, it is when we give, that we receive.” We are immensely honored to be given the TOYM distinction and we are even more inspired to continue giving by living a life of virtue, discipline and other-centeredness. It will take some courage to relay this message in today’s world, but like Mandela and St. Ignatius, we need to go against the wind!
This year’s theme is “Inspiring a Nation of Heroes”. But heroes need heroes too. And heroism starts within each one of us.
Thank you!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Zamboanga - A Day Full of Hope!


Last June 14, I visited Zamboanga for the first time.  The one-day visit was arranged primarily by the National Youth Commission, who I’ve partnered with a couple of times, to do community work for the people of Layag Layag in connection with the 25th anniversary of the NYC. In order to maximize my trip, I figured it would be best to do campus visits to the schools in Zamboanga to propagate our anti-bullying campaign, which has been given much attention lately. During that same trip, We were also able to have a productive meeting with the regional youth board of Zamboanga as well as a live guesting with Sir Ron on TV5 Mindanao to talk about bullying and other relevant issues of the youth.

My friend Oliver and I took the early Cebu Pacific flight that departed Manila at 545am. Upon touchdown, we were met by Commissioner Early of the NYC and immediately had breakfast at the Garden Orchid hotel and met with the rest of the group, composed of NYC Chairman Flores, DepEd representatives and volunteers of the Yellow Boat project headed by Dr. Anton Lim, who became known internationally for his contribution in saving the life of hero dog Kabang.

 NYC Chairman Flores speaking to the very well-behaved kids of Ateneo de Zamboanga during our Anti-Bullying & Anti-Drug abuse symposium
 Students signing the pledge that they will not be bullies, they will report bullies & they will help the bullied
This time, here I am addressing the less-behaved Western Mindanao State University students and faculty, hehe!

Charis Foundation Exec. Director, Oliver Tuason, giving a short seminar on virtues to local administrators


THE JOURNEY

We drove about 15 minutes to get to the eastern tip of the mainland where we had to walk and maneuver our way through the muddy ponds, which used to be salt ponds. It was a wrong move to wear flip flops because they ended up sinking in the mud so I just walked barefoot and watched out for the sharp rocks. We then boarded two yellow boats, which were made possible by the Yellow Boat group of Dr. Anton, and sailed towards the Layag Layag community which was located around 2.5 kilometers away. It was a very scenic and serene ride through the mangroves. This boat ride was only possible as it was still high tide. The bigger boats cannot sail during the low tide.  At one point we could actually see the silhouette of Basilan already. The water was surprisingly clean and clear, allowing you to see the floor bed.



 Executive Director of Charis Foundation, Oliver, and a cute local friend
Beautiful mangroves leading to Layag-Layag

Finally we arrived at the community. I was amused! They literally lived on stilts. And the boats were their primarily mode of transportation. Potable drinking water was delivered twice a day. Electrical wires were tapped from the mainland. I felt like we were already at the end of the country already where all you could see was water surrounding us. Apparently, when I checked my location using google maps on my mobile, we were literally on the southwestern most tip of the country.




Some houses even had TVs and it was flattering to find out that they enjoy watching iBilib on GMA7! Some of them also patronize the PBA and my team Rain or Shine. I was amazed to see they had a basketball rim hung on one of the houses BUT it could only be played when it was low tide.  I initially thought they could play ball on boats when high tide, but no! That would have been interesting to see! Since they were predominantly Muslims, there was a floating Mosque nearby where they would pray several times daily. 

It wasn’t very easy loading and unloading the boat because it would sway once someone stands or unloads. We did our gift giving at the day care center, which was donated by the Tzu Chi foundation and this was physically connected to the sari-sari store only by three bamboo sticks which we had to use to cross.  Incidentally, our goodie bags contained Master facial wash among other Unilever products.




Check out these eco-friendly makeshift light bulbs. Recycle your plastic 1.5L or 2L bottles, fill it with water and add some zonrox or bleach, then you have a natural source of light that’s essentially free and eco-friendly.

KIDS TRAVELING TO SCHOOL

The one thing that alarmed me and caught my attention was how the kids travelled to school and back.  The nearest public school was Talon-Talon public school, which is located in the mainland. If it was low tide, these poor little kids have to place their school uniforms in sealed plastic bags and wade or for the smaller ones, swim to the mainland which was around 2-3 kilometers away, so that their uniforms will not get soaked. Remember, these are kids as young as 6 or 7 years old. If the tide would permit, they would take their own boats and paddle their way to the mainland. Some are lucky enough to be ‘paddled’ by their fathers before they head to work.



Upon getting to the mainland, they dock their boats on tree stems and bring their paddle to school. After class, they walk back to their boats, untie them, and paddle back home. I’ve never seen kids so independent and fearless!

LIVELIHOOD

The reason why this community chooses to live on water is because of their livelihood. The main produce in Layag Layag is seaweed. They plant and harvest these seaweeds just outside of their houses. Sadly, many of the young boys have to stop schooling as early as high school in order to help their families make a living.



Here’s a photo of myself with the ‘seaweed’ boys! Always cheerful and positive.

Another thing that got my attention was the average number of people per household. Moms had anywhere between 4 to 8 kids despite having such low-income levels. Some of them were fathers even before 20 years old. For the women, because of the lack of opportunities, education and absence of aspirations, they decide to marry early and have kids.

SO PERSEVERING, SO SIMPLE, YET SO HAPPY

After a few hours, we headed back to the city, I hope we were able to bring smiles to this uniquely persevering community! Paradoxically, I was the one really moved after witnessing their persistent and such simple lifestyles. Yet, they remain so detached and so happy with whatever it is that they have – mostly I would say is the company of their families and loved ones!

This experience made me reflect. Many times, we fail to realize how blessed we are because we are pre-occupied with our fast paced lives. And with this consumeristic environment we live in, we tend to want more, more and more, never content with what the Lord has already given us. I think one way to escape this viscous trap is to practice self-giving and detachment before it’s too late. It won’t happen overnight, we will need to do it one small step at a time. With God's grace, it can be done!

The Yellow Boat project is a huge blessing for the people of Layag Layag! Through the generosity of various individuals and institutions, these boats allow the kids, at the very least, to go to school. More so, they are used by the locals to make a living by planting, harvesting then selling the seaweeds in the markets. But more than its pragmatic function, for me, when I see these yellow boats in the community, I see HOPE! I see persevering individuals trying to survive in life! I see selfless Filipinos who care for their fellow people. This is one type of fever we won’t mind spreading – the Yellow Boat fever!