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Upheaval at Philippine Sherwood Forest

(Article Published in the April 11,2013 issue of Business Mirror)

       Two great trees fell on Philippine business’ Sherwood Forest recently. First to fall, literally was Felipe B. Alfonso “Fil Alfonso” to all, a lawyer who got his Bachelor of Laws from the Ateneo de Manila law school, but better known to Philippine business as Professor Emeritus and smiling icon of the Asian Institute of Management. He had an accidental fall on Good Friday, was operated on the same day, served to recover Black Saturday, regained some consciousness on Easter Sunday, and finally went up to receive his just reward the Friday before Divine Mercy Sunday.

       Fil was preceded by Vicente R. Jayme, Ting Jayme to all, who returned to the Father on Easter Wednesday. He too is a son of Loyola, it was there at the hill at the various chapels of the Ateneo University that family friends came to say their last earthly goodbyes.

       I yield my space to what they said:

       “When I was a little girl, dad travelled a whole lot, and I remember that right up until the last time I was on face time with him, … my biggest worry in life was – ‘if dad gets on a plane, or is far from us, will I ever see him again?’ I had no idea what I would do without my hero. One way I learned to deal with this constant worry, was to make it a point to make sure that every time it was time to say goodbye, he felt and knew how much I loved him, and how I was ever ever thankful. I made him little cards, and wrote him long letters…and during the early days … he took take time to write back…with postcards from the places his visited, or actual letters in his longhand – telling me how he loved me … and that he would be home soon.

       So today, as we put dad’s remains to rest their final resting place, and as we celebrate the victory of his now being in his eternal home, I write him yet another letter. A letter up close and personal (just as my dad was) from a daughter who adored him to no end.

       Dear Dad, You of all people know how many times I’ve been heartbroken. And you’ve held my hand through each time, holding me in your arms saying, ‘I love you so much, hija.” Not once failing to reassure me that you loved me, or to remind me especially during times that I was full of self-doubt, that I was good, and beautiful and special in your eyes.

       Today, dad, I am heartbroken like I’ve never been. We, your family, all are.

       But while I could choose to dwell on the hole that now exists in the world without you…I want instead to choose to honor you as the husband, father, brother, uncle and grandfather you were to us. I want to tell you that while parts of us ache deeply inside for you, the immense love we each have received from you directs us to the spaces within ourselves that rejoice in knowing that you are now resting, peaceful and joyful in the presence of Our Heavenly Father, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph. We know for certain also that you have been embraced into the Kingdom by your many beloved family members and friends who have gone before you, … We know you are happy dad, and we rejoice with you.

       We want to thank you for leaving us with memories of a life with you that was so so full and selfless – of giving, love, of quiet waiting, enduring peace, laughter, understanding, and kindness. …”

       “Dad was really a “Man for others”. But what exactly does it mean to be a man for others. Here at the Ateneo, we know the slogan, “Man for others” as the cornerstone and the summation of what the Ateneo wants us to be as we are sent out into the world as young graduates. And to truly be a man for others, means to follow in the footsteps of Jesus our Lord and to continue his good works. What the Ateneo did for Dad was to light that candle that he has carried with him all through his life. And as he went from place to place, Dad lit the candles of everyone he met on his path, along his journey towards heaven. And his candle grew bigger and brighter till his was the torch that lit the way for many, many others.

       Following the footsteps of Christ, he sought to help the poor, defend the weak and defenseless, and correct any injustices that came across his way. And this is the lesson Dad sought to teach all of us: that we can all do good works of kindness, of charity and compassion in our own small little way, in our day to day lives. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage and strength if your convictions take you along a less traveled path. But Dad drew his strength not from himself but from above.

       Dad was not a God-fearing man, but rather, he was a God-loving man. He was a giant of man who carried a child-like trust in God. If there was what we could call the one biggest secret of Dad’s immense success in his life, it could be summed up in one word: Prayer. Everything Dad did, he lifted it up to God.”

       What seems a seamless eulogy is actually one from Fil’s family and the other from Ting’s. The lesson we bandits and insects at the forest should learn is that the family and career are not adversaries. On the contrary, it is their fusion that create great trees.